Open letter to the people of Vancouver from a Dine Out widow

Dec 20 2017, 3:47 am

Submitted by a reader for Vancity Buzz

Dear Vancouver:

Dine Out Vancouver is once again upon us bringing a world of culinary options available to us all with reasonable prix fixe menus available across this great city. The food scene in Vancouver is extraordinary and this three-week period provides an opportunity for diners to go out and try new venues and cuisines knowing there wont be any unexpected bills to contend with. It also gives restaurants a much needed boost during a historically slow month after the Christmas parties have ended and before Valentine’s Day sends couples flocking to two-tops everywhere. It is a win-win.

That said, there is a dark side to Dine Out that only those in the industry or those privy to its secrets know. For the last three weeks, my husband, who is a sous chef at one of Vancouver’s well-known restaurants that also participates in Dine Out, has been preparing. He and his colleagues have been preparing tray after tray of partially prepared appies, mountains of mise en place, kilos of prepped and trimmed proteins, planning menus that can be executed with factory-like speed and precision while girding their loins for the onslaught of unrelenting orders of the same three dishes that they will prepare ad nauseum for the next three weeks to come. The front of house staff have been preparing themselves too for customers who order lemon water to keep the (already low) bill down and whose tips are the lowest these servers will see all year.


During Dine Out, restaurants are pushed to and beyond their functional capacity and this wears on restaurant staff. It also wears on those close to restaurant workers. On a single shift day, it is not unusual for my husband to show up at work around noon and return home around 1 or 2 AM. He then repeats this for the next two days, followed by two days of double shifts where he works from 9 AM to 1 or 2 AM. On his days off, he sleeps. In short, I will not see my husband (awake) for about a month because of Dine Out. I am a Dine Out Widow. And I am not alone.

The food industry is hurting for talented and trained chefs and cooks, which means that most of Vancouver’s restaurants are making do with smaller staffs. Wages for this work are largely stagnant, and for those on salary, the work and hours that come with Dine Out simply mean more work for the same amount of pay. Because of the lower average bills per table, the only way the restaurant, and thus its workers who rely on tips, can break even during this insane month, is by turning over as many tables as quickly and frequently as humanly possible, largely through the consumption of copious amounts of Red Bull. So much Red Bull.

So I say to you citizen foodie, as you go forth and enjoy the offerings made available at this year’s Dine Out Vancouver Festival, by all means please enjoy your meals and I hope that you try something new while also visiting old favourites, but also, remember that the people who are serving you and making your food and drinks are being run off their feet. If there is a hiccup with your meal or service, be kind and give them the benefit of the doubt. Take the opportunity to enjoy a nice beverage with your meal and make the night special. And above all, if you receive good service, or even if you don’t, please tip as if life depended on it, because for most of the people you see being run off their feet, and their temporarily abandoned loved ones at home, it usually does.

So if you see my husband, he’s the one in the chef’s jacket that looks a little delirious and perhaps even a little deranged from excess caffeine consumption, please say hi for me, because you’ve just seen more of him in a semi awake state than I will until February. Finally on behalf of Vancouver’s Dine Out Widows, Widowers and Orphans, I wish you bon appetit.

Mrs. Sous Chef


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