When it comes to bribery in restaurants, we all suspect it happens. But one maitre d' in an upscale Washington, D.C. restaurant isn't trying to hide it.
Eater DC interviewed Marcel's longtime maitre d' Adnane Kebaier last week, and he openly admitted to accepting bribes:
Eater: Going back to what you said about getting money to help people get seats, I'm curious, is there a dollar amount? What's the minimum you would accept to get someone a table? Would you do it for a $20?
Whatever they give me. I don't look at the money. Whatever they give me, I put in my pocket and I help. Sometimes it's $5. Whatever they give me, I don't care. Even if they don't give me, I always help. If they're nice people and they look good, I help them. Cause then they become a story, we become friends and then they become regulars.
In the same interview, Kebaier also revealed he didn't like to seat African Americans together, nor Chinese or Japanese guests. His reasoning? To "have the balance in the dining room."
Responses in the comment section have been predictably appalled. "Even if true why would you say anything about this to the press?" wrote one anonymous commenter. Wrote another: "I've got years in the restaurant business and a number of those at a phenomenal hotel. This kind of interview would have landed me a pink slip, immediately."
Still, others say Kebaier's actions are hardly beyond the norm. According to one commenter, who claims to be a restaurateur:
Though quite candid, nothing in this interview is out of the norm. . Its no different at any fine dining restaurant in DC or any ither major city. Adnane is one of the best Maitre D's in DC and I would hire him in a second were he to become available.
So how widespread is bribing in restaurants? Back in May, New York restaurateur Joe Bastianich wrote in his memoir, Restaurant Man, that bribing is the quickest way to get a table in a crowded restaurant.
A $50 bill might get you noticed. Depending on the restaurant, they might even take a 20. For an Upper East Side rip-off joint or a busy Midtown steakhouse a hundie [$100] should get you in the game.
There obviously aren't any statistics that tell us how widespread this practice actually is, but these reports tell us it's far more common than we'd like to believe.