Paul's Passing Thoughts

Life Lessons from Demeaning Experience at The Pine Club in Dayton, Ohio

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on July 23, 2022

The Pine Club in Dayton, Ohio is, according to its website, “An iconic institution of the Dayton community since 1947, The Pine Club is considered one of the great steakhouses in the United States.” The restaurant has changed ownership in 1954, 1979 (bought by David Hulme), and was purchased from David Hulme by an anonymous investor in 2019. Though some of my family members have dined there over the years, my first time was 7/23/22, and my total meal consisted of one piece of bread.

My wife Susan, and I, have been caring for my mother for 13 years, and my mother has experienced a significant decline during the past three years. Along with Susan and me being in healthcare and education careers, this has resulted in a three-year drought regarding a night out together. That is, until my brother and sister-in-law, who live in Texas, made special arrangements for us to have a night out together. This included dinner at The Pine Club, our first time there.

We arrived at opening time, 4 p.m., and were surprised to see a line for several feet on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant. We were stopped for a red light in front of the restaurant and were visually unable to locate a parking lot. Susan suggested that I exit the car and get in line while she parked the car. While Susan was parking the car, the line started moving quickly into the restaurant. Once inside the door, people were greeted by an efficient staff. A lady approached me and asked, “How many are in your party?” I held up two fingers, and replied, “two.”

Let’s pause because there is something to keep in mind here. If the lady who approached me would have said, “Sir, we only seat full parties; if you would have a seat at the bar, we will seat you when your wife arrives at the first available booth,” I would have had no problem with that whatsoever. Instead, she seated me, as anyone would expect.

As I sat in the booth, still basking in the glow of finally being out with my wife, I started eating a piece of bread from a basket on the table. Susan and I had abstained from eating all day in anticipation of the “special” dinner. Right then, an older lady approached the table and stated, “I am going to have to ask you to have a seat at the bar until the next table is available; we only seat full parties.” I was stunned, and replied, “My wife is parking the car,” to which she replied, “Her and everyone else in here.” I got up, and walked over to the bar area, and to tell you the truth, the experience was so unexpected and surreal, I was in a state of mental confusion; sort of like, “Did that just really happen?”

I met my wife outside and explained what had happened, and we both agreed that it would be hard to enjoy our meal there after the experience. I returned inside and informed the lady who removed me from our table that we would never patronize their establishment in the future. She apologized and stated, “I was just trying to be fair to the other customers.” Of course, that statement made the situation worse because it implied that I had done something wrong that was unfair to the other patrons, which was indicative of her demeanor towards me originally. I suspect, maybe, that there is an assumption that everyone who eats there is a regular customer and aware of their unposted policies. Regardless, what she did was grossly unprofessional and outright malicious.

Yes, I am going to send a letter to the management with a copy of this post and payment for the piece of bread I ate, but being angry and vindictive towards an establishment like The Pine Club is counterproductive. Instead, we must take a lesson from the experience to make ourselves wiser and better people.

The first thing we learn follows: We should be good at what we do for our own self-esteem, but also, the benefit of others. If it is only for ourselves, it becomes an ego issue. Sure, I returned inside and gave the culprit a piece of my mind, but in this case, it was a total waste of time. You see, establishments like The Pine Club turn their success into a twisted mentality that thinks they are doing humanity a favor for being in business. In essence, eating at The Pine Club is a privilege; that’s why the lady deemed it necessary to teach me a lesson for allowing myself to be seated. How durst I behave uncomely in what they perceive to be the only steakhouse worth eating at in the Dayton area (Actually, we took my brother’s gift and went to an Outback Steakhouse, and it was exceptional). In regard to this point, it would seem others would agree:

Reviewed January 9, 2014

Outrageous Conduct by Owner

We will never return again after experiencing the rude, crude and totally outrageous conduct of the owner. Upon seeking clarification of our $120 bill for 2 dinners, the owner retorted with profanities and actions, taking offense that someone would question the restaurant’s service and billing procedures. He demonstrated total disregard of our concerns, and could care less that we had been a frequent customer over the past 40 years. A once classic restaurant, the establishment now serves over-priced, mediocre food. Customer service is totally absent due in large part to the culture that Hulme has created. Too bad. The Pine Club’s owner appears to be interested only in two things: Money….and the preservation of his inflated ego.

Date of visit: January 2014

There is a saying in healthcare that goes like this: “Don’t be that nurse.” Yes, there are nurses that are nurses for the sake of their own egos. However, this concern applies to every job including serving steak.

Secondly, this experience teaches us that every job is important because every job involves interacting with others, and you never know what is going on in the lives of others. Perhaps if the lady at The Pine Club knew what that night meant to Susan and me, she would have reacted differently. But, the point here follows: you don’t know, so consider what your interactions with people may mean to them. Showing respect to others overall is a good coverage for what you don’t know.

And lastly, ego-driven establishments and people should cause us to reflect on how disrespect makes us feel, so we can treat others the way we want to be treated. Do your job for yourself AND others. Always show respect, because you do not know what is going on in the lives of others. Thirdly, treat others the way you would want to be treated.

In conclusion, and in addition, never waste time correcting ego-driven people. Rather, study what they do, and…

…don’t be that person.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s