by: Melissa A. Kay
I get it. It is an absolute privilege to be able to afford the luxury of dining out at a nice (or even not-so-nice) restaurant. I don't take that for granted and I appreciate every morsel and moment. Well, except for these moments below. You see, dining out being a treat and all, one would expect the experience to be worth every hard-earned penny. The food should be delicious, the service spot-on, and the ambiance superb. But no matter my high expectations, the following situations seem to play out time and time again.
Irritating and annoying, I simply can't wrap my head around why these things happen in the first place. A restaurant is a business, and isn't there someone on the team who can help the staff get it right? Practice makes perfect, and unless I am the only one who is being used as a guinea pig, it doesn't seem like the practice effort is being enforced well enough to achieve a stellar Yelp review.
Naturally, nobody is perfect, and unfortunate stuff happens to us all, but the following bothersome restaurant occurrences are not "mistakes," but seemingly lack of care or respect for the customers. I am sure I am not alone in thinking these incidents and instances are irritating, and I am offering my two-cents and opinions for those who are putting up with these dining downers.
Restaurant owners, for the sake of having repeat customers, lend an ear. We love your restaurants and wish to continue to visit. We also want to fully enjoy what we're about to pay for. Do you agree that these things are unacceptable or at least not the greatest? Here's the menu…
"Are you still working on it?"
The course or meal seems to be coming to an end and I hold my breath hoping the waiter or busser doesn't utter the 6 words that are not only in poor taste, but don't make much sense either. They are obviously asking if I'm finished with my food and if they can take the dishes away, but "Are you still working on it?" comes out instead.
Is working synonymous with eating? I've never made the connection. I may be working if I am preparing a meal at home, but the eating part of the program is the enjoyment, not the work. And worse than "Are you still working on it?"… "Are you still picking?" Something about this question is a real turn off. The simple "Are you finished?" or "May I clear your plate?" are far better options. I'd even take, "Are you still eating that?" over "Are you still working on it?" any day of the week. Ok, I'm done "working" on this irritating dining dread.
Bringing the second course too soon
I understand some people may be in a rush and want their food to come out from the kitchen as soon as it is ready. But as I see it, if the restaurant offers more than one course, why would they bring out the second course while you're still enjoying (not "working on") the first?
A. The food will get cold. B. There's no place to put it. C. Just why? Unless someone specifically asks for the food to come to the table as soon as it is ready, the staff ought to keep an eye on the table, see when course #1 is complete, remove those plates, and then bring on the next course. It seems like common sense to me, but this happens time and time again at restaurants… a matter of course, some may say.
Spilling your drink on the way to the table
Accidents happen and that is not what this gripe is about. I'm talking about a few things here. 1. The bartender splashes the drink all over the place while preparing it and liquid is all over the outside of the glass. Sticky and wet. Who wants to deal with such a glass? 2. The server tries to carry a too-full beverage to the table either in hand or by tray, splattering the drink all over the place, resulting in a mess upon arrival. 3. The server pours your drink at the table and misses, resulting in dribbling down the glass, making handling it an unpleasant experience.
I complain about this issue because drinks are far from cheap, particularly wines and cocktails. If I'm spending umpteen dollars for one drink, it should be presented perfectly. Can I get a "cheers" to that?
Wait staff banging into your chair
Thud. Bunk. Crash. All meal long, someone is knocking into my chair. It is aggravating and sometimes jarring. Some restaurants are quite small and they are trying to fit as many tables and chairs into the space as possible. Makes sense money-wise, but for the diners, this clunking and whacking is no way to enjoy a meal out.
If the space is so tight that the staff and other patrons can't make it around the tables without alarmingly banging someone's chair someone mid-swallow, then a reconfiguration is in order, or at least a solid effort by the staff to weave gracefully between tables without smashing into their customers. If I'm constantly thwacked, I won't be back.
Debris and gunk on the table
Be it the last patron's crumbs, crayons from a kid who couldn't sit still, dirt, hair (ugh), or something else that has gross-out potential, if I see it on the table, I'm not taking a seat. Restaurant workers must understand that the venue is designed to seat one group, then a brand new one afterwards. The new people want a fresh experience; they are paying for the ambiance well as the food.
It only takes mere moments to get rid of the debris from the previous diners and make things nice for the next party. Dirty silverware and napkins fall into this category as well. Oh, and wiping off the chairs would be lovely too. The fella who sat there before me may not be a neat eater, which is fine for him, but I don't have the inclination to sit on a glop of meat sauce.
Comments about how much or little you've eaten
Please do not give commentary about the amount one has consumed. Judgement about how much or little one has eaten is not necessary or part of the job. A waiter can easily make a person feel uncomfortable or insecure by remarking on the quantity they've ingested.
Perhaps this person was ravenous having not eaten all day. Maybe the diner is dieting or isn't very hungry. It is possible they are not feeling well. Could be the food was exceptional. Or on the other hand, it tasted like crap. Unless the diner brings up the topic, the server or busser should keep their thoughts to themselves. Your customers are not your children. And even if they don't eat all their vegetables, they are still allowed to have dessert.
Not writing down the order then bringing the wrong food
I remember a time when the waiter would ask what you'd like to have, and discreetly jot it down on a tiny pad to make sure they got it right before putting in the order back in the kitchen. These days, as part of some sort of trend to be sophisticated or some other unknown reason, the waiter will work on their memorization skills using your party's order as a test of their brainpower.
Now if everything arrives as ordered, kudos to them, but when you are served the split pea soup rather than the clam chowder you wanted, and your food contains cheese when you specifically mentioned your severe lactose intolerance, this no-writing-down policy is a real bummer.
Why is this approach so widely accepted? With all the mess-ups I've seen, I'd rather the waiter make sure they got it right rather than hoping nothing distracts them while on their path away from the table. Who ordered the Caesar salad? Not me.