Ask The Salty Waitress: Should I Let A Restaurant Know That I'm Celebrating A Special Occasion?

Hi Salty, Most online reservation systems (OpenTable, Resy, etc) have a box to check if your reservation is for a special occasion. Is there any reason to click this? Am I going to get a free dessert out of it? Where's the line with what's a special occasion (Anniversary? Promotion at work? The pants you've been waiting on are finally back in stock?).

—Frequently Celebrating

Dear Happy Person,

Your letter just gave me flashbacks to my early waitressing years at the Olive Garden when I had to sing that birthday song almost every damned day, and that is why I hate humanity. Except for you, you buoyant balloon of happiness. It's my job—and the job of all servers—to make your celebrations more celebratory, and that's why some fancy restaurants keep the champagne buckets lined up the way the Golden Corral lines up high chairs.

So by all means check the special occasion box. Even if it's just because your pants are back in stock. A good pair of pants that fits properly is a rare and beautiful thing, almost as rare as true love. Of course, what you get depends on the restaurant, so manage your expectations accordingly. You could get a discount on your check based on how old you are. You could get a slice of a multilayer chocolate truffle cake. You could get a single lousy macaron on a plate with a candle in it. You could get a bunch of waiters singing an earworm of a song off-key. (Depending on the restaurant and the time of year, you could hear it several times during your meal.) You could get diddly squat. But what birthday would be complete without a few surprises? Unless you're going to one of those especially diligent places that calls you up in advance to confirm the nature of your celebration and the degree to which you want them to celebrate it.

I could go on. But then I'll start singing "Celebrate" by Kool and the Gang and I've got napkin and silverware bundles to roll.

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