Top Restaurants Use Codes to Label Regulars, Says New Book

© Klaus Vedfelt / Getty Images

By Mike Pomranz Posted March 31, 2017

Are you a PX or an HWC?

At times, I’ve been known to repeatedly frequent the same bars and restaurants. Eventually the bartender will clue into my love of pale ales; maybe the sommelier figures out I always lean towards Burgundies. It’s nice to go somewhere, as Cheers famously put it, “where everybody knows your name.” But at some high-end eateries, everybody knows a lot more than just your name: They know whether you’re a big spender or big into wine, whether you’re cool AF or a rowdy drunk – because these restaurants are printing notes about their regulars right on their tickets, using secret code you might be happy that you don’t understand.

Earlier this week, author Bianca Bosker released her new book Cork Dork, a look at her life in the wine world. In discussing the new publication, The New York Post was especially keen on dishing about the time Bosker spend shadowing a master sommelier at New York City’s two Michelin-starred restaurant Marea. “Marea keeps files on its guests — their pet peeves, personal quirks, dining histories, and importance to the restaurant — and communicates the information to the staff via . . . paper tickets that print as soon as a table is seated, so everyone on duty knows how to treat the group,” she reportedly writes.

Bosker explains that “PX” is the highest honor a guest can achieve. Short for “personne extraordinaire,” these two letters are reserved for “big spenders, owners’ friends, high-rolling regulars, and special guests.” So what kind of treatment can you expect at PX status? “They are to be coddled, spoiled, humored and upsold at all costs,” Bosker writes. Such a status even gives you a green light for bad behavior. “One PX, a regular and regular drunk, had, on previous occasions thrown up in the dining room, stuffed a whole fish down his shirt, and entertained himself by whispering obscene come-ons to the female staff,” Bosker explains. “He wasn’t banned, he was just banned from having female servers.” Though in cases like this, you might also get your ticket branded with something like “HWC” – short for “handle with care,” says Bosker.

Though Bosker’s experience was at Marea, she says similar systems are used at many restaurants. Hell, you might already be a PX and not even know it. 

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