Ask The Salty Waitress: What Can I Do About A Really Cold Restaurant?

Dear Salty, I'm one of those people who's more sensitive to cold than other people, so if my friends think a restaurant is a little chilly, I'm completely freezing. Now that it's November, this marks the dreaded start of Cold Restaurant Season. No matter how many layers I wear, I always encounter at least one restaurant each winter that is just uncomfortably cold for me. What can I do once I'm already seated, beyond sit and shiver? How much can I reasonably expect the restaurant to do? I'd rather not wear my down winter coat while eating dinner.

Thanks, Icy In Illinois

Hey Icy,

I'll assume you've ruled out a medical condition (like Raynaud's, which my girl friend has), and that you're just One Of Those Cold People. Short of praying for serious menopausal hot flashes, you can do a couple things to make your dinner more comfortable.

Here's a big ol' caveat before we get started though: Your definition of cold isn't everyone's definition of cold. You said so yourself. If the other people at your table think the temperature is fine, you're going to have a hard time convincing the restaurant to turn up the heat. If you're always much colder than everyone you're out with, I'm sorry to say it but: That sounds like a you problem. It wouldn't be fair to ask the restaurant to turn up the heat and make everyone too warm, right? I've dealt with my share of elderly guests who, bless them, complain that they're cold all the time. I'm sweating like a whore in mass and they're dramatically pulling their sweaters around themselves and asking if I couldn't just turn it up a little? They're not happy until the next table over faints with heat stroke.

But if your friends are all in agreement that yes, it's like a damn catacomb in there, then there's a few things you can do.

  1. Say something to your server. If I heard a couple tables complain about the heat, I'd realize it's not just one whiny person and would probably turn up the thermostat.
  2. Ask to change tables. Maybe you're seated next to a drafty window, or a door that keeps opening, or you're under a weird vent or something. It might not always work, but you could ask to be moved to a warmer spot or a table near the kitchen, which is usually warmer.
  3. Ask for a heater. We had space heaters at the restaurant where I worked previously. The building was historic—with an HVAC system to match—so we kept a couple small space heaters in a closet for guests that were really uncomfortable in the winter.
  4. Order accordingly. I've had a customer complain of being cold, then ask for ice water. What? Instead, wouldn't it be a good time to try the soup? Or perhaps a gallon of red wine?
  5. Leave. Take your time before ordering as you wait to see whether you warm up. (It could just be the walk from the car to the door that made you cold, right?) If you're still uncomfortable 20 minutes later, you might just have to cut your losses and find another restaurant—maybe one in Death Valley.

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