by Dale Connelly, 10/15/99
DC: Manners watchers are increasingly alarmed to see how casual
our dress has become at what were once "formal" occasions, such as a
night out at the opera or a dinner in a fine restaurant. Americans seem to be
rebelling against the notion of formal dress, preferring casual attire in all
things. Jeans. Sweatshirts. T-shirts and running shoes are the rule now, rather
than the exception.
And at one fine restaurant, a sort of "reverse dress code" has been
Len Pepper is the "greeter" at "Casual Fridays" and he joins
us on the line.
Len: (phone) How many? 3? Ok ... Sasha will seat you in a moment. Hello?
DC: Mr. Pepper, tell us about your dress code.
Len: The dress code is casual. We insist on jeans, but we'll accept a casual slack
like a Dockers or something like that. Shorts are good. Sandals work. If someone's
got a shine on their shoes, I'll ask if I can scuff them up a bit. I've got a
special scuffer upper.
DC: What if they say "no?"
Len: To the scuffer upper? I've got a full selection of dingy, smelly footwear
.. running shoes and the like. If they won't change, then I have to turn them
DC: You actually refuse to seat people who are dressed too nicely?
Len: Oh yes. Our other diners are uncomfortable if they look to one side and see
a fellow there in a nice shirt and tie, a fine jacket ... or a woman in an expensive
dress with matching shoes. We don't want our customers to feel out of place so
we insist everyone dress down. Hang on. (off a bit) How many, maam? Ten? Do you
have a reservation? No? How wonderful. Would you like to sit on the kitchen floor?
ON the floor, that's right. It's a new thing we're trying out ... it's very popular.
Sometimes the chef drops something and that's a fun surprise. OK ... Daniel will
seat you in a moment.
DC: You let people sit on the kitchen floor?
Len: You were listening?
DC: Sorry ... but yes.
Len: How rude.
DC: Well you were right there on the phone it wasn't hard to hear what you were
Len: Don't make excuses. That's ugly.
DC: Sorry. I know it was wrong but ...
Len: Don't apologize. It's demeaning. You've got no manners. Accept it.
DC: All right. What about the kitchen floor thing? What's that about?
Len: We have some pillows in there.
DC: It's very casual.
Len: That's what our customers like.
DC: You were telling me what you do if someone comes in and they're over dressed.
Len: We have some worn, filthy dinner jackets the gentlemen can put on over what
they're wearing ... and for the ladies some moth eaten sweaters.
DC: What if someone doesn't want to wear those things.
Len: We have to ask them to leave.
DC: Is that ever a problem?
Len: OH no. Dressy people would never make a scene. After the fact, we get our
share of terse, carefully worded letters, but ... (laughs) We throw them away.
DC: Anyone ever come in who couldn't get casual enough? I mean, they tried, but
didn't have it in them to be casual?
Len: Anyone can be casual. I've never met anyone I couldn't downgrade enough to
fit in our restaurant. It's challenging sometimes, but getting people to put on
these horrible garments, or ruining the clothes they already have on ... It's
part of the entertainment here. Everybody wants to sit by the door to see the
DC: Len Pepper is the "greeter" at "Casual Fridays" a restaurant
with a casual dress code.
Len: And don't bring your high end credit cards either. We take money orders and
Dale Connelly Reporting Home