Unwelcome at Stoddard’s Pub, Boston

By | October 12, 2012
To: Jamie Walsh, Manager, Stoddard’s Pub
Subject: Poor experience at Stoddard’s

Dear Jamie,

I dined at Stoddard’s last night with six of my coworkers. It was not a positive experience.

Our outing to Stoddard’s was one of our regular team dinners, which are about much more than just eating and drinking. They are about solidifying relationships so that we can do our jobs better and be successful as a company. Being at these dinners is therefore important both to my own career and to my company’s success.

However, I maintain a strictly Kosher diet for religious reasons, so I can’t eat any of the food that Stoddard’s serves, or for that matter any of the food served by any of the restaurants where we eat.

In the more than two decades I’ve been a working professional, I’ve attended many such dinners; I’ve brought my own food to most of them; and it has never been a problem — in fact, no employee of any restaurant has ever said a single word to me about it — until last night.

Halfway through our meal, our server informed me that the restaurant could not allow any outside food to be consumed on the premises. She claimed that this was due to “health regulations, because we can’t guarantee that outside food is contaminated.” She also threw the terms “FDA” and “HAACP” into the conversation for good measure. I explained that I had my own food because I keep Kosher and had done this many other times at other restaurants without any trouble, but she insisted; frankly, I don’t think she was paying any attention to what I was saying. Not wishing to make a scene, I put my food away and spent the rest of the meal watching my coworkers eat.

Later, while I was away from the table, one of my coworkers explained to her, again, that I keep Kosher and could not eat any of the food served by the restaurant, and she relented and said that I would be allowed to bring in my own food in the future if I explained the situation to the server.

This morning, I emailed Boston ISD and asked what regulations, if any, there are about bringing outside food into restaurants. I received the following response: “There is no Health regulation prohibiting bringing food in from the outside by a customer. This is strictly the restaurants own Management policy on the particular issue.”

There are certainly circumstances in which it would be appropriate for Stoddard’s to ask a customer not to eat his own food. For example, it would be rather unreasonable for a lone diner to sidle up to the bar and take out a sandwich to eat with his beer. But that’s not what we’re discussing here. We’re discussing a party of seven people, six of whom ordered full meals, along with several appetizers, and drinks for everyone including me, sitting in a corner of the restaurant where few people were likely to notice, let alone care, that one of them was eating a deli sandwich instead of a platter of rabbit-stuffed bacon.

Aside from the fact that it was silly that anything was said about my food at all, the way it was done was rude and offensive.

  • I don’t know whether our server came up with the line about “health regulations… possibly contaminated… FDA… HAACP” on her own or was told to say that by management. Either way, lying to customers instead of taking ownership and responsibility for your policy is entirely unacceptable.
  • All the unpleasantness could have been avoided if the server had asked why I was eating my own food and listened to my explanation, rather than leading off with “you can’t eat that food here.”
  • The fact that she was so intent on making me put my food away that she didn’t listen when I explained why I had it was highly unfortunate.
  • After my coworker explained the situation in my absence and she relented, she offered me no apology.

Stoddard’s is, of course, free to have any policies you wish about people bringing in food, and you are free to enforce those policies in whatever manner you see fit. We, in turn, are free to enjoy our team dinners elsewhere in the future.


Jonathan Kamens

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One thought on “Unwelcome at Stoddard’s Pub, Boston

  1. Andrew Greene

    That reminds me of the time I was in Chicago at an XSL Working Group meeting, and the host company took us all out to a Greek restaurant for a team dinner…. and when the food came, the waiter asked “And who ordered the kosher Chinese takeout?” which our hosts had graciously ordered and had delivered to the Greek restaurant for me.


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