Barack and Michelle Obama love to eat out, but how do restaurants handle a presidential visit? David Hagedorn of the Washington Post asked chefs around town, and found that the key is to remain calm. “We are in the business of creating perceptions,” says one general manager. “We can’t freak out, and we can’t put all our energy into that one person.” Still the evening is decidedly upended when the president’s massive motorcade rolls in.
The Secret Service will generally swing by earlier that day for a walk-through. By the time the first family arrives, 20 to 30 agents will be there to wand anyone coming in after them. Another agent—a trained chef—watches as the Obamas’ food is prepared. When the president dines, his staff will sometimes insist he be surrounded by diners, but the Secret Service will try to provide more privacy if Michelle, Sasha, and Malia are dining. The Obamas tend to order the chef’s choice, tip well but not outrageously, and insist on paying for everything. And they’re good for business—as word of a presidential visit gets out, mobs swarm the restaurant, and reservations increase afterward.