Did we cause loss of trade?

Written by Suraj Shah.

Were we the cause of lost trade for a local businessman?

After we crossed over the river Salzach late one night on our way home from an evening out in Salzburg, home to Mozart’s place of birth and the Sound of Music, my wife and I popped into an Italian restaurant to find out whether their pizza bases have any dairy or eggs.

All holiday, we had been enquiring in various restaurants whether the foods offered may be vegan-friendly.

We were delighted to hear from the charismatic owner that they only use flour and water in their bases. So our mind was set – we would go there the next day for lunch!

Pizza for lunch

The next morning rolled along and we walked around the beautiful city of Salzburg and made our way to the pizzeria for lunch, as planned. The owner greeted us warmly as he recognised us from the previous night, and found us a table in a popular spot, outside on the walkway but in the shade, on this unusually hot day.

It was a great spot for people watching, with locals and visitors walking past, looking in the shops and enjoying their ice cream.

Heena and I ordered our food and drinks and patiently waited for the meal to arrive. The pizza was to be prepared on an organic wholemeal base, by the way – superb!

Playing cards while waiting for food to arrive

The restaurant was busy, so we got out our deck of cards and played a few games of blackjack. Something fun to do while the food was being prepared. Something we had done when we had travelled together in the past to St Lucia, or Marrakech, or Zanzibar.

After some time, the drinks and soup arrived, and moments later the pizza was brought to the table. We halted the game and dived into our lunch. The soup was boiling hot, but the pizza was just right, so we polished off the pizza, put the soup to the side to let it cool and continued our game of cards.

Within five minutes of recommencing our game, while Heena was still gradually getting through the soup, the owner abruptly approached us and asked if we would like to order anything else. We were content with our meal, and so asked for the bill while we finished the soup.

Playing cards at the table is “nicht guut”

As we were paying for the meal, the owner, attempting to speak English said “this is not good…”, pointing to the cards. He added “Don’t mind, but you don’t spiel (German for play) at the table… this is not good”, again pointing to the cards.

I tried explaining that we were only playing while waiting for the soup to cool down. But we could see he was getting more and more frustrated, so we simply settled the bill, packed away the cards, finished the soup and promptly left the restaurant.

It wasn’t like it was an upmarket restaurant. It was a casual environment, and I thought we had a good rapport with the staff there. But alas, it appeared we had done something wrong.

Were we responsible for the restaurant owner’s frustration?

The question was this: “What led to his frustration?”

Heena and I deduced that it could have been any of the following:

  • It was a busy lunchtime and he was worked off his feet.
  • We ordered a soup, a pizza, a sparkling water and a tap water – perhaps it wasn’t enough to make it worth his while.
  • While we were finishing the soup, all he could see was that we were playing cards, and therefore he couldn’t seat more customers – a loss of trade.
  • He may have seen our card playing as an insult to the ‘class’ and reputation of his establishment.
  • Playing cards at the table while waiting for food may not be socially acceptable in Austria.

So did our presence there really cause him a loss of trade and ‘class’? Should we restrict our card playing to places other than bars and cafes?

Perhaps more importantly, why were we playing cards in the first place? Why did we choose that to fill the time in such a way? What happened to good old-fashioned meal-time conversation at the dinner table between two people who adore each other?

(Photo courtesy of Erin Kohlenberg)