Hannah Raskin, the veteran waitress and writer, writes in today's Slashfood.com that she sometimes questions her own responsibility as a server.
"When should the server say no?" she wonders, and illustrates as follows:
"...I once served a woman who was so obese that we had to scrounge up an armless chair for her. She ordered a salad, which seemed like a worthy stab at healthy eating habits. But she then asked me to add bacon. And blue cheese crumbles. And three sides of ranch dressing. Serving her the fat-laden dish felt about as thoughtful as shooting heroin into the arm of a junkie too weak to do it himself."
Yes. Well. First off, about that chair. We happen to have nerves of steel, so we don't mind asking anyone, anywhere, for a larger chair, or a chair instead of a booth, or whatever we need (within reason) to feel more comfortable. We have never had any trouble finding such a chair. And we feel that, since we are not (by far) even the fattest person we have seen today, that the problem is with chairs rather than with the people who sit in them.
Second, to answer Ms. Raskin's serious question (and to ignore those little winces which we can't avoid upon reading words like "worthy" and "fat-laden" and "junkie"): No, of course it isn't the server's responsibility (or business) to "cut off" the customer who, in the server's opinion, has ordered inappropriately.
Reasons? First of all, you can't compare alcohol consumption to food consumption. Enough alcohol will IMMEDIATELY make almost anyone drive like a fool, and/or become belligerent, and/or become vulnerable to theft or attack or exploitation.
Enough food might do the same amount of damage, but not IMMEDIATELY. And, while it can be legally proved that those last five martinis at Joe's led to John Smith wrapping his car around a tree on the way home, it cannot be legally proved that those last two pork chops at The Artisan Sow led to Bill Smith's coronary two years later.
So of course servers and restaurants are not legally responsible to cut customers off. How about morally?Not, not that either. A moral decision is deeply personal; to make sure that the "moral" person is making a fair judgment of the behavior, that person must know all of the objective facts. And one thing Raskin did not know, in serving her obese customer, was whether or not the lady was on Atkins. In which case, Raskin should only have been allowed to limit the customer's croutons.
(If you are nodding your approval of the last sentence, please stop. NOW.)
To sum the thing up: a server is supposed to be, above all things, polite (unless you are one of those people who thinks a rude waiter equals a good meal, which is something you should only think once you are in the grip of a bad waiter and cannot get away). Making an ignorant value judgment on another person's choice is, above all things, extremely rude. So don't do it.
Glad we could help.