Back in October, New York City restaurateur Keith McNally made waves by publicly banning James Corden from Balthazar. The alleged charges were typical of an 86’d guest: He’d been “nasty to the server,” sent food back repeatedly, demanded free drinks, even threatened to post a bad Yelp review. McNally subsequently rescinded the ban after Corden reportedly called and apologized. He praised Corden for addressing it on his talk show, where he apologized again, and then possibly — it’s unclear — rebanned Corden because he told The Times of London he “never screamed at anyone” and mused about the story, “How is this remotely a thing?”

McNally shared his staff’s account on social media, making this private hospitality issue a newsworthy and public problem, or as Corden would call it, “a thing.” McNally’s original Instagram post quoted from his managers’ end-of-shift reports and detailed the poor behavior the talk show host exhibited to the staff of Balthazar. Corden was undeniably rude, but for most people who work in the service industry, his behavior was unsurprising and nothing new. Restaurants and bars have always had VIPs and will continue to have them, but not all VIPs are made so because of their benevolence and good humor. What the Corden-McNally spectacle brings to light is an age-old issue in hospitality that some might argue should be done away with once and for all.

What Makes a VIP a VIP?

If you’re wondering what might earn someone VIP status in a bar or restaurant these days, the simplest — and maybe most cynical — answer is money. Regulars are VIPs because their continued patronship is, as anyone in service knows, the lifeblood of profit (think of the hot dog vendor who followed Homer Simpson around because, as he tells Marge, “Lady, he’s putting my kids through college!”). In many instances, an establishment’s relationship with a regular will last for years, and that kind of patronage is highly valued because of its loyalty, and, in most cases, decent tipping.

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Service industry workers — those who work in other bars and restaurants themselves — are also often treated as VIPs for various reasons, but primarily because all industry people tend to tip well. If you’ve been deep in the weeds yourself, you can empathize.

And celebrities are VIPs, of course, because they bring a level of esteem and panache to an establishment. While a celebrity patron usually means paparazzi photographing them entering or exiting, which is something of a nuisance, it ultimately draws attention and desirability, which translates to business. In September of this year, Leonardo DiCaprio and Gigi Hadid were seen and photographed at Casa Cipriani, and the photographs made their way to Page Six. What better way to get people to pay the $3,900 yearly membership fee (with a $2,000 initiation fee) for your swanky club than with an Oscar-winning actor and his model girlfriend among your members? (As Hadid is under 30, however, her yearly fee would be $2,500, initiation fee $1,000.)

But do celebrities themselves actually spend money? In my experience, the answer is, it depends. At Casa Cipriani, I’m sure everyone is spending exorbitantly; they already paid a hefty lump sum to get in the door. Same goes for Keith McNally’s restaurants. Though not members-only, the menus are designed to build up a bill, and places like Balthazar and Minetta Tavern are known to be expensive. But that’s not always the case.

In 2007, I was a server at Pastis, another McNally flagship, and waited on countless celebrities. Some were regulars and were treated as casually and friendly as any other regular. Others felt the need to be known, and it could be distracting but harmless. Every breakfast shift I worked guaranteed I’d see a famous American fashion designer who ordered, simply, an espresso and toast, burnt to a crisp. On one occasion, the artist Julian Schnabel came in for breakfast in his signature pajamas and drew a caricature of my coworker on a napkin because he liked his hair. Schnabel signed his drawing and gave it to my fellow server, and my initial thought upon seeing him hand over a signed piece of art was the potential value of it. I hope my coworker held onto it to one day bring to an appraiser, to explain the provenance of “I was working at Pastis when an artist in pajamas came in, drew the attention of the room, then drew a picture of me.”

When VIPs Become VBPs — Very Bad People

But for every 10 decent encounters, there are a few terrors like James Corden. On my 23rd birthday I was working a breakfast-and-lunch shift at Pastis, in at 6:45 a.m. Around 2 p.m., I was supposed to clock out, but a celebrity sat in my section. The floor manager came over and told me I had to keep her table to the end. She had a reputation for being ill-tempered with servers she felt weren’t paying her attention or getting her what she wanted quickly enough. The celebrity was waiting for someone else, but she ordered a side of fries. She said, “Tout suite.” No please or thank you. “Fries, tout suite.” Her friend showed up and they ate oysters and drank Muscadet, and they left without any complaint at 5 p.m. It had ruined my birthday plans, but was otherwise, luckily, uneventful. She sat for several hours and had fries, a dozen oysters, and a couple glasses of wine. It was easily the type of table I would have transferred away, but because she was a celebrity, I had to make a concession.

At Minetta Tavern, as one former bartender told me recently, many celebrities expected those concessions and would sit at the few bar seats for hours on end without ordering much. It prevented the bartenders from getting bills down and new parties seated. “Some were great guests,” he says, but some were awfully inconsiderate, including a Grammy- and Oscar-winning musician who would regularly come in at the end of the night, order “some stupid sangria concoction that wasn’t on the menu,” and then sit at the bar after they had closed, keeping the bartenders there for hours, then tip “like 10 percent.”

In Michael Cecchi-Azzolina’s new book, “Your Table Is Ready,” the former Le Coucou maître d’ documents the service life in New York over the past several decades. Cecchi-Azzolina tells of a demanding and “absolutely horrid” Anna Wintour, and details a story about Meghan Markle’s handler having a conniption at Le Coucou after arriving half an hour early, having to wait at the bar, and not having a private table. When she demanded a private table from him, he shared with Dave Davies in a recent Fresh Air interview, Cecchi-Azzolina had to explain that “it’s a public restaurant, and people come here to dine and to be seen. If your guest doesn’t want to be seen, I suggest perhaps this is not the best place for you.” They eventually obliged, and they waited at the bar for half an hour for their table to be ready where, he says, “No one knew who they were. Nor did anyone care.”

To VIP or Not to VIP?

I got my first restaurant job in 2005 at a small place in the East Village. I was a back server, a glorified busser, and had been on the opening staff. The restaurant was chef-owned and the manager was his friend who had been a hotshot bartender; I was learning everything about service from the manager and everything about food from the chef. Early in the life of the restaurant, on a busy weekend night, the manager sat a VIP at a table and sent me back to the kitchen to let the chef know. I told him, “Table one is a VIP.” He was hovering over the grill, sweating into the bandana that covered his bald head. Without looking up from the food he was cooking, he said, “Every table is a VIP.”

It was his ethos — everyone was paying for his food, and everyone would get the best food he could cook. It was both capitalist (they are paying) and egalitarian (and their money is as good as anyone’s).

And this is the best solution, in my opinion: Treat everyone as though their patronship of your establishment can make or break it, as though they are a restaurant critic, social media maven, or an A-list celebrity. Because everyone is paying to have a great meal, great service, a great bottle of wine, no matter the price point. And even those who garner awards, fame, celebrity, and money are not guaranteed to be any better than anyone else. If you treat everyone like a VIP, then when a famous person acts the way James Corden did, you can ban them like you would anyone else, and it won’t be remotely a thing.