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Fake Plants & Dust Bunnies

May 7, 2015

Here’s a question that’s been bugging me lately. Are fake plants ever okay?

I’m not talking in your grandmother’s home. She’s the mother of your mother or father, and she can do what she wants. But in restaurants. And maybe they are okay in some restaurants but not others. And if that’s the case, where do you draw the line?

Is it chains versus non-chains? Denny’s can have fake plants, but a real diner needs to be able to support life? Or is it based on categories of restaurants, so that red checked tablecloth Italian-American restaurants can have fake plants, whereas it would be out of line for a French bistro. Perhaps it’s best determined by price, so that a place with entrees under $10 can get away with the low maintenance decor, but an establishment with higher aspirations and plates $20 and up need to cough up for the real deal?

Not too long ago I honed in on one fake plant and now I’m seeing them everywhere.

We may need to back up for a moment and ask the question behind the question. What’s the role of flowers in the context of a restaurant? Obviously they are pretty to look at. So let’s put down “enhancing the beauty of the physical space” for that answer. It’s as good a starting point as any.

I’m not sure fake flowers do the same thing. But there’s more to a fresh flower display too. Because flowers wilt, and having a fresh flower arrangement is a visual commitment to the idea of freshness and vibrancy. Of course it’s also about craft and composition. There can also be an element about sourcing the exotic demonstrated in the choice of stems.

A flower display can be simple or it can be opulent. But whatever the display, it sends a message to the restaurant’s patrons, whether they know it or not.

At fancier restaurants, those flower displays are also expensive, to be sure. However, that’s just one of those things which justifies the higher prices at fine dining establishments. High priced food robbed of the trimmings, feels like a half hearted effort to make an extra buck, instead of providing people with more value for their money.

All of this started when I was at a tavern and saw a misbehaving child standing up on a booth and pulling on a fake plant above the table. Instead of controlling their kid, the customers asked the waiter to remove the plant. But here’s the kicker. The fake plant had been there so long that when the child pulled on its leaves, it rained a shower of dust all over the food on their table.

Still, they continued to eat. It was gross on many, many levels.

Dust is a problem. Especially in this freezing climate with our forced heating systems. Fighting the dust in my own house always seems like a losing battle. But I’m not trying to run a restaurant.

Once you have an eye for dust bunnies, you see them almost everywhere. They torment me at home, and I notice them almost everywhere I go. Hanging from chandeliers, clinging to wall sconces, and of course, caked onto fake plants.

Things with nooks and crannies that are in high up spaces are ridiculously hard to clean. I don’t know what kind of jerk thought it would be a good idea to install popcorn ceilings in my house, but I hate that person. And I’m betting as we’re now coming out of the winter, restaurant owners are looking towards their own ceilings and cursing the designer who told them it would be a good idea to hang all that bric-a-brak for visual appeal.

These observations aren’t academic. They’ve all been noted in the past few weeks around the Capital Region. They are small nits to be sure, and it wouldn’t be terribly ambassadorial for me to call out these local businesses by name.

But all it takes is a keen pair of eyes, and I’m sure you’ll see what I’m talking about in some of the most unexpected places. And it always makes me wonder: if this is the care and cleanliness a business is giving to the area its customers can see, how clean are they keeping things behind closed doors.

By the same token, if the flowers are fake, what else may not be as it seems?

3 Comments leave one →
  1. May 7, 2015 9:46 am

    Go to the Latham ’76 diner. It is where fake plants go to die. There must be thousands. I have pictures somewhere, I’ll try to dig them up…

  2. May 7, 2015 10:01 am

    There is nothing inherently wrong with fake plants, the bigger issue is the cleaning routine of these restaurants. If there is a plant near a table, it needs to be dusted daily. I’d much prefer my restaurant worry about their food quality than whether or not the plant at table 8 needs any water.

  3. May 11, 2015 1:44 pm

    You shouldn’t be calling out specific places because EVERYONE should be looking at those plants and keeping them looking clean. Let everyone worry about it just a little bit and we’ll all be the better for it.

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