Jan Norris: Food and Florida

Food, Restaurants, Recipes and Pre-Disney Florida

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Friday’s Grin: Valeting the Walkers

March 13th, 2009 · 2 Comments

“I live in a land where the restaurants valet the walkers.” – Jan Norris

That off-the-cuff one-liner that made a local restaurant owner laugh isn’t a joke — it’s true!

I actually know of several restaurants that hand out little claim tickets for the walkers they fold up and store against a wall after their owners are seated — presumably for the Early Bird (state bird of Florida…) dinner. All the better to prevent future walker-needers, one supposes.

Wonder which restaurant owner was the first to bring on an “early bird” dinner to attract diners to the restaurant during the Dead Zone. (Early Bird dinners are also known around here as the Nearly Dead Zone…). Wonder if other restaurateurs want to shoot him now.


I won’t pick on the old folks too much — it’s like shooting dead fish in a barrel.

But the eatery owners have stories to tell that are too unbelieveable to make up generally about early birders, but others as well.

“I’ve seen fist-fights and some of the worst language in the world come out of little old blue-haired ladies who are fighting to be in line by 5:30 so they are sure of a seat,” one said.

At most early-birds, there’s a sign that says your whole party must be seated by 5:45 or whatever to get the specially priced meal. Every restaurant has a story about this trick — including a chair being pulled out from under a diner about to sit so they can have their butt cheeks on a seat while in line. The “whole party” line is particularly troublesome; there are guys who’ve punched out other old guys for being late and making them miss the early dinner…hot-head types, these.


Then there’s the other kind of “walker”- the ones who walk out with restaurant belongings. The diner owner whose plant containers (4-foot ones) are screwed into the floor explains: “They’d walk out the door with ’em like party favors!”

Or the zillions of restaurants here and particularly St. Pete that require servers to carry straws and sweeteners in their pockets and set out one napkin and bring salt and pepper in little packets — because if they put them on the table, they’d go out of business from theft.

Or the others who ban “large purses and tote bags” from the buffets in giant signage- because the women would line them with zip-top plastic bags and carry out their own soups, salads and entrees when they thought no one was looking…or lift whole loaves of rolls and breads or empty out salad dressing pots into their purses.


With the economy in the toilet, and Medoff stealing everyone’s retirement and nursing home funds, those days of food theft that had dwindled are reappearing, according to some restaurateurs.

One put owner said he always figured in a 10 percent theft margin but will have to bump it up now – the increase is closer to 20 percent, he said. “I’m rethinking all the napkin dispensers, ketchup bottles and salt and pepper shakers on the tables.”

Servingware and even bathroom soaps and toilet paper are also problematic losses. “Oh, yeah. They take the toilet paper — that’s why you see those giant dispensers in bathrooms — it’s not just so we don’t have to refill them that often or that they’re cheaper; it’s because they’re much harder to steal!” one restaurant owner said.

But I shouldn’t lay it all on the elderly — let’s face it: It would be tricky to maneuver that giant roll of TP and try to push a walker at the same time.

Tags: Florida! · Talking Tables

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 ksteinhoff // Mar 13, 2009 at 8:55 pm

    Miz Jan, Mam,

    I hate to tell you, but you are rapidly approaching geezerdom yourself.

    The guy next to me in the barbershop last week was celebrating his 94th birthday.

    I remember when 94 sounded old.

  • 2 jordan // Mar 14, 2009 at 11:13 am

    Jan – very funny article. I remember when I was a small child, my grandparents would tell me all about their wealthy friends who ALWAYS used to steal stuff from the cafe in their retirement community. The toilet paper always got me – who would want scratchy industrial toilet paper at home?

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