There is a comedy bit I heard recently (video below) about Internet dating that compares the relative perils for men and women. If you use your imagination, you can likely envision some fairly dangerous scenarios for women which men don’t have to endure.
A restaurant in England seems particularly tuned into these dangers and have offered relief for women on bad Tinder dates. The premise is straight forward: Feel like your date is going wrong? We can help.
But it begs a bigger question… is it our place?
After spending 25+ years managing, operating and owning bars, I have seen an alarming array of bad behavior. When it comes to unwanted attention, affection and interaction, do we have a responsibility to create and maintain a safe environment for our guests? This is a serious question, so let’s break it down into some parts.
First, how do you know if there is a problem?
If you are a hands-on manager, you can probably pick out the interactions between folks that are familiar with one another and those that are new. The new ones are made obvious by a bit of awkwardness, distance between the parties and a general lack of physical contact. And when there is physical contact, a little observation will tell you if it is unwelcome.
Second, what can you do?
This is the trickiest of the queries. Morally, you would think it’s an easy thing to insert yourself in if you thought someone was in a bad situation. However, all of us are prone to our own biases and can mistake the awkwardness of a new interaction seem like distress, if that’s what we want to see.
I would discourage anyone from getting involved in a circumstance that wasn’t obviously a problem. If a guest is clear in her signals that she wants support, then offer it. Check in with the service staff that have been attending them to get more intelligence.
Only insert yourself when you are completely sure there is a need. As long as the guest is in your sight, she is safe and you don’t have to rush in and be a hero. Remember, you are a restaurant operator, not a counselor. There are limits to what you can and should do.
Third, is it really your problem?
It’s a bit like someone slipping and falling in your parking lot. You are liable if you could have foreseen the danger and did nothing to correct it. Now, that’s a big if!
It gets dicey pretty fast if you are blatantly offering help — as The Brickyard Bar clearly does with their Tinder Date inspired bathroom sign. Honestly, I think they are asking for trouble even if their intentions are pure or they’re just being cheeky. By volunteering your support, you now assume responsibility for all dates gone wrong in your business.
Back to the original question, is it our place?
The whole mission of your business is inviting people to your establishment. In fact, your primary goal is to make your operation a vibrant and attractive place for people to meet, mingle and make connections. If you are seeing a large number of first dates, then you are likely doing that very well. But, in doing that well, you don’t take on the role of chief protector of all dates gone wrong.
In my opinion, your responsibility to women (and men, for that matter) starts and ends with your existing role in managing your business. Doing a great job insuring you don’t overserve someone, maintaining a watchful eye on all interactions that occur in your facility and taking steps to make the area around your building is well lighted and safe.
Beyond that you may be better served to mind your own business, unless you are asked for help or it’s so clear there is a problem that ignoring would be immoral. This is one of the less attractive aspects of the human interaction that occurs in your establishments, but it’s also a reality. So, run your business well, be vigilant in observing the behavior of your guests and respond with appropriate care when called upon. If you do, you will won’t need a bathroom sign to prove to your guests that you care about their well being.