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Rosie

Restaurant/Bar Annoyances

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What drives you crazy in a restaurant? Is it specials recited without the prices? Your plate being removed while everyone is still eating? Your plate not being removed when you are finished eating? Silverware not being replaced? Chefs who won't make changes on the dish? Waiters who say "excellent" after you have ordered?

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Tables too close together and the next table are smoking, totaly ruins a meal for me. I have mostly stopped going to Conran restaurants and MPWs places in London for this reason. You can't even get a slim waiter between the tables for 2 at The Mirabelle. Why do they have to be so close? Surely the loss of 1 or 2 tables to gain some reasonable space is not going to hurt the profits that much. La Trompette in Chiswick is pretty bad as well for space.

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Patrons with ill behaved children that are allowed to run around playing tag with each other, while the parents either ignore them or beam at them like they're just the cutest little things...

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Yeah I've got a pet peeve.  A bunch of them in fact but for now I'll limit myself to the one that tends to make me most peevish.

It's the infernal policy of restaurants everywhere that requires servers to stop by, 5 minutes into the meal, to ask, "Is everything OK" or some similar querry.

First, like a dog with a steak bone, I tend to growl and occasionally snap at anyone who interupts my meal.

Second, I will summon a server if there is a problem worth mentioning.  If not, I hate having a gratuitous "Everything's fine" dragged out of me.

Third, most times the question is totally perfunctory.  Servers could care less, they just have to ask because the manager told them to ask.  

Finally, because waitrons resent being forced into any additional communication with dinetrons than truly necessary, they will take their revenge on the diner, not the restaurant, by waiting until the diner's mouth is full before posing the question.

I once did a column on this subject suggesting that waiters should maintain eye contact with their customers rather than walking the dining room as if they were cast in "Night of the Living Dead," oblivious to all in their trek from kitchen to tables to kitchen.  I will signal if I need them.

Later that week my favorite waiter at Jack's Firehouse assured me that the service team there had taken my column to heart and spent the entire afternoon practicing eye contact.

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"Is everything OK" or some similar querry." My experience has been that for the most part the waitstaff doesn't want to hear that everything is not OK. Have you ever left a restaurant and had this question asked? When we have had problems and it is asked and I tell what I didn't like I find the manager to just stand there dumbfounded!

However, when we were at The French Laundry when I didn't finish everything on my plate the waiter would come over and ask if the dish was ok. The runner must report on dishes that are not finished.

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Presenting the menu without prices to the female diner.  I'm a fan of tradition and chivalry but this practice should be retired or modified to reflect the fact that one can no longer assume that the host of the meal is male.

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I haven't seen a menu without prices presented to the female in quite a while. Where do they do this? But it does bring up the subject of who gets the check. The waiter shouldn't presume that the man is paying the bill. If the waiter doesn't know who is paying the bill and he is leaving the check without it being asked for-- then the check should be left in the middle of the table.

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Quote: from Rosie on 11:19 am on Aug. 15, 2001

If the waiter doesn't know who is paying the bill and he is leaving the check without it being asked for-- then the check should be left in the middle of the table.

it's even better when the woman gives the check/credit card to the waitperson, and the waitperson returns it to the man.  not only is it rude, but it's also a sign that the waitperson just ain't too smart.  

to put it in the words of a friend of mine and great sage:  "there goes your tip bub."

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My pet peeve is the "table turn" so called fine dining places that expect you to have the table back to them in under two hours.  The record is the much mentioned and much more to be mentioned ( in my small minded attempt to drive the sucker out of business - I loathe him that much ) Mirabelle, where MPW's people informed us we could have the table if we turned up at 7.15 but they wanted it back by 8.30 and " by the way that will be £85 of your English pounds per head for the privilege, sir"

Gordon "scots git" Ramsay's places are little better.

I now make it a habit of asking if they specify a time by which you have to leave the table.  If they do, I cancel the booking, if they do not, I refuse to vacate the table when they start getting angsty about it, particularly when I am spending good brass

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I'm in two minds about "table turning". Random thoughts:

Presumably places need a couple, if not 3, sittings a night to make a living, no?

Who wants to sit all night at a table? After the meal, coffees, maybe brandy are finished, I want out of there. I actually dislike lingering over nothing.

If I've got a reservation, I want it at the specified time, and if the diners are finished then I think they should free the table.

Of course, I don't want to be rushed just b/c the restaurant doesn't have its act together.

If a rest. is pretty booked up, but I have the chance of a table till 9, say, which I'd have to vacate b/c of someone's earlier res. I think that's a reasonable offer.

Contracts: Is it awful to be asked to sign a contract that says you will leave the table at X time? I don't know. If customers are treated well, that is, the result is that you get the table always at the time you reserve it for I think I'd go for it. This said I don't want the result to be "conveyer belt” dining.

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it's even better when the woman gives the check/credit card to the waitperson, and the waitperson returns it to the man.  not only is it rude, but it's also a sign that the waitperson just ain't too smart.  

to put it in the words of a friend of mine and great sage:  "there goes your tip bub."

How about when the woman orders the wine and the man is asked to taste it?

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My pet peeve is bad coffee.

So many fine restaurants serve incredibly mediocre coffee.

Is it so hard to clean the coffee pot regularly?  Or buy fresh coffee beans instead of popping open a mass produced, pre-ground tin?

Apparently so.

I like coffee with desert at the end of a meal.  But perhaps I should just switch to port.

sigh

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1.  Restaurants who will not issue separate checks for a table.

2.  Parents who insist on bring small children to the restaurant and then expect the restaurant to be the baby sitters ... much like super markets today, and, sigh, more a problem of today's parents than their children!

3.  Waiters who reach in front of me to refill a water glass or give me a fresh roll.

4.  Waiters who hover in general.

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We have all been posting our pet peeves but what about the pet peeves of restaurateurs? The biggest complaint I hear from them is about people not cancelling their reservations. "No-shows" cost restaurants money. Also, sometimes people make reservations at a few restaurants and that evening decide where to go. Even if they cancel some restaurants don't get walk ins and cannot fill those seats.

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Quote: from quinn on 10:25 am on Aug. 15, 2001

Presenting the menu without prices to the female diner.  I'm a fan of tradition and chivalry but this practice should be retired or modified to reflect the fact that one can no longer assume that the host of the meal is male.

O I love that one.  We were 2 couples at La Pyramide in Vienne, France (just south of Lyon on the Rhone) and lunch there was an old dream come true.  Anna and I were given priceless menus, our husbands the "priced" ones.  I nodded to the maitre d'hotel to get his attention, and quietly told him that we were treating our husbands because they had done nearly all the work while we were cruising the Canal du Midi -- I was sarcastic for our husbands'benefit, and I was lying about who was treating whom, to see if I could disturb the Maitre d'hotel.

It worked, he quickly switched the menus, expressed his profound embarrassment at this "mistake" and wished he had been told befoe it occured: to which I replied that the mistake was the management in making assumptions.  In any case, when I go out with my husband the money comes out of the same pocketbook/credit card... so there.

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To answer Rosie's question about "where do they do this?" the answer is that they do it frequently in France.  I agree with Danielle 100%. It's none of the restaurant's business to know who's paying and from which pocket it comes. If either my wife or I want to splurge we can, but we both care about our finances and are both careful about how we spend our money. I'm not being generous if I let her blow her money on some overpriced meal when she might well spend our money on something else.

Furthermore, both my wife and daughter have a professional need to know the prices. The assumption they don't, just adds further insult. I find the practice offensive. I once complained to the travel editor of the NY Times about a woman journalist who, in an article about dining in Paris, noted that a restaurant had properly given only her husband a menu with prices. Guess what, that's not the sort of attitude I find reassuring from someone gathering facts to write a professional article.

And then there was the time our twelve year old daughter got the only menu with prices. I wondered what sort of pretentious joint I had wandered into, but the recommendations were high for the food and we just ordered. It was our last night in Paris and we were looking for a good meal, not an argument. It was only later when my wife and I spoke about it and wondered what sort of affectation that was not to put prices on the menu, that our daughter said "You didn't have prices on your menu?"

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Why can't restaurants give customers a daily Specials Menu, ala The Bernards Inn?  The wait staff can still describe the items, but at least they are in writing, with prices, and if the wait staff are hard to understand, be it a room with poor acoustics or a foreign accent, it is almost a moot point to have to listen to them, remember what they said and finally make a decision!

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One more thought about all our pet peeves, we all seem to agree on the same ones.  I suggest we make a resolution, all of us, here and now, not to allow the behavior we disapprove of.  Maybe we can educate restaurant owners and waitstaff, if they are not savvy enough to do it themselves.

Hence, I resolve

- to say with a smile to the waiter/waitress to wait a little longer before I express an opinion about what has just been served me;

- to request a priced menu if I am handed an unpriced one, and not to grovel with an explanation -- my request is self-explanatory;

- to quietly ask the maitre d'hotel to stop the unruly children near my table from running around the restaurant, and/or to ask him/her to prevent someone from smoking a cigar nearby.  By the way, at the extraordinary Chateau d'Audrieu, near Bayeux in Normandy, an elegant room has been set aside for those who smoke (Cuban, no less) cigars with their coffee.

As I educate myself in the finer art of enjoying an elegant or bourgeois dinner, I'll become a little more assertive: I dine out to please myself not chefs or maitres d'hotel.  Will anyone else go along with me?

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"The eye with which you see your waiter is the same eye with which your waiter sees you."

As a SERVER I am taken aback by the thinly veiled vitriol expressed here as pet peeves. Allow me to respond, in kind,  from the other side of the show.

RECITING SPECIALS W/OUT PRICES:

You are all going to think I am crazy but like Dave Barry says "I am not making this up." The majority of my guests do not want to hear prices with specials. There is a feeling that mentioning a number is gauche. People have weird issues with money folks. I'm not taking sides.

WAITERS WHO SAY 'EXCELLENT':

99% of my tables want recomendations and confirmation that they've chosen well. My advice and approval is sought during every course of the meal. If you happen to be the person who simply looks at me and orders without any input and your decision lands on a course that happens to be a home run, my enthusiasm may come out as an "excellent" because I've been doing it all night.

HOLLY MOORE:

Please, do not refer to another human being as a 'tron' it's insulting. If you wish to be gender neutral please use the term 'Server'

The rest of your post begs many questions. You don't want me checking in with you, growl to keep me at bay, experience responding to an inquiry as 'Having it dragged out of you' and then have the audacity to insinuate that waiters as a group could care less about you, resent having to interact with you and are forced into communication? Give me a huge break. We call this projection. I suppose, though, that it's OK for your 'favorite waitER' (we have human now don't we) to chat it up with you?

BAD COFFEE:

Yeah, it's a problem. The main obstacle is cost. Save for your finer restaurants, no one wants to pay Ū+ for a cup of joe, but they want it to be great.

SEPERATE CHECKS:

I'm fairly certain this has gotten better over the last 10 years or so. I do know that the latest restaurant computer software makes doing so a breeze. The biggest downside in years past was the time factor. The best way to insure a hassle free transaction is to let your server know from the start. Also, separate payments and separate checks are TWO completley different things. If all you're doing is dropping two credit cards down that is not separate checks.

REACHING ACROSS:

If a server is reaching across out of laziness this is a bad thing. If, however, it has to do with the way the table is configured i.e. against a wall, then it may be unavoidable. We generally try to excuse ourselves. But, if it's really going to bug you, try moving your glass or plate to the outside of the table to avoid being reached across.

DANIELLE:

What gives? Using both sarcasm and lies you set the Maitre d' up and tried to "disturb him" and he performed flawlessly, offered a "profound apology" and remedied the situation right away and you still found it necessary to punish the original mistep by attacking managements decision? Manners, protocol, diplomacy all suggest that when the confilct is resolved to let the moment pass and get on with enjoying life. The proper response to the gracious Maitre d' would have been a heartfelt "Thank-You"

Also, Ill join you in your intolerance as long as I as a server am allowed to correct your behaviour when I disprove of it? DEAL?

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861728, I read Danielle's post a bit differently. The sarcasm seemed to be directed towards her husband. The lie, seemed more of a white lie in an attempt to make a point and not a scene. Perhaps I give Danielle the benefit of the doubt, but I suspect "distrub" lost (or gained) something in translation. She was a French woman describing a scene in a restaurant in France.

Did you read her later post where she suggested we smile when speaking to waiters and speak in a low voice when making requests for things that should have been attended to without our asking.  Did you read Marybitt's very politely worded suggestions along with her gentle expanations. You note you say "excellent" all night, I hope you also listen. I don't sense the same "thinly veiled vitriol" in the majority of these posts and much of the disatisfaction is not aimed at the wait staff. Rosie even went so far as to offer a peeve she's heard from restauranteurs about diners.

People may have wierd issues with money and one of them may be that they won't tell their waiter in front of their guests, that they care what the food costs. I've never met a serious diner who didn' t want the speicals spelled out with prices, but then I rarely dine with big shots, so I don't know what they say to waiters.

Now I may seem unsympathetic to waiters, but the truth is I find the waiters in my favorite restaurants deserve a better class of diner more often than I find dissatisfaction with my server.

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Hello 861728 (this sounds like dialing long distance to Ireland or somewhere!). I appreciated many of your points.  On one

“Please, do not refer to another human being as a 'tron' it's insulting. If you wish to be gender neutral please use the term 'Server' “

I had a couple of thoughts. Holly Moore referred to

"waitrons" and  "dinetrons". I didn't read it as a pointed criticism of servers.

An aside but related. This was a few years ago, but I read one of Marge Piercy's novels (“Woman on the edge of time”, i think) and she creatively suggested using "per" (short for person) rather than the longwinded, and ugly in my view, "he/she".

In any case, I don't think it should be an "us" diners versus you "servers", so I hope you will keep posting.

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Well, I'm glad to know I'm not the only one logging in on Saturday night.

I was agressive on purpose and probably because I read ALL of the pet peeves at once so they seemed to carry more weight. I also like to start a dialogue!

BUX:

Listening is the biggest part of my job. I do my best not to respond with any affirmation when it is not solicited. This is actully a huge issue in terms of training new servers. I was unaware that Danielle was working from another language and so could not make an accurate judgement about the translation. I do however see this behaviour time and time again wherein it's not enough for us to truly be sorry and to work to fix the problem. We must be punished for the original mistake over and over again.  Hey, it's a pet-peeve thread and Danielle hit a nerve. ;-)

Of course the no price menu scenario is obsolete. It's absurd.

YVONNE:

Hi!

Not dialing long d. The number is very, very, very specific and instantly recognizeable to a certain population. I don't mean to be cryptic but it's my way of sending a hello to this group.

The 'tron' thing is not limited to this board and since Holly was the last person who used the term she, unluckily, got both barrels.

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Alas 861728 my use of the term "tron" was a satirical reference to some restaurants that have adopted waitron in an attempt to degenderize their references to waiters and waitresses.  I was having fun (amusing myself at least which is all the fun I often need) by expanding that terminology to diners too as in dinertron.

The gist of my peeve was not to complain about any communication with servertrons.  A good rapport often makes a meal even more enjoyable.  Rather I object specifically to that forced bit of intrusive intercourse, "How is everything."  That question became necessary because of the increasing scarcity of professional servers who can tell how everything is without asking and who are enough of a presence in the dining room that they can be easily summoned if there is a problem.  10-15 years ago such a question was a rarity, not the rule..

Judging by your humorless, hypersensitive interpretation of and reaction to my peeve, I have a feeling you need not worry about ending up in my favorite waiter or waitress or waitron category, nor does it seem likely that I will appear on your favorite dinertron list.

P.S.  Holly is a "he."

P.P.S.  Kind of intriguing 861728 that you object to the use of the term tron but refer to yourself as a number.  :)

HOLLY MOORE:

Please, do not refer to another human being as a 'tron' it's insulting. If you wish to be gender neutral please use the term 'Server'

The rest of your post begs many questions. You don't want me checking in with you, growl to keep me at bay, experience responding to an inquiry as 'Having it dragged out of you' and then have the audacity to insinuate that waiters as a group could care less about you, resent having to interact with you and are forced into communication? Give me a huge break. We call this projection. I suppose, though, that it's OK for your 'favorite waitER' (we have human now don't we) to chat it up with you?

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861728, I'm happy to continue a dialog. I actually have high hopes that this site will offer many dialogs that are informative or at least thought provoking. Danielle noted she was in France, but I happen to know that she's fluent in French.

I think diners and waiters often see each other as antagonists. I see then as partners and I get unduly annoyed when my partner isn't contributing to my enjoyment of the evening. ;)

Seriously we bring our prejudices with us, but the truth is that, at least in the restaurants I like the most, waiters do their job a lot better than the diners do at times. I see waiters all the time that are out of line, but I also see diners who should get slapped with a wet towel or worse for the way they act in a restaurant. Mostly I thought the gripes in this thread were legitimate and that you reacted to defensively. Hey, I've just come from a restaurant where I had the tasting menu with no choices and with each dish I was told I had made an excellent choice. Not really, but sometimes I feel that "excellent" coming from the waiter is all show and unnecessary. I have had a sommelier tell me I've made a bad choice though. ;)

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"I have had asommelier tell me I've made a bad choice though."

Reminds me of the last time we were at Grammercy Tavern. We ordered a zin and the waiter said to us that he recently tasted a new zin and would like to recommend it to us. It turns out that it was about ฟ cheaper than the one we ordered. We gave him a glass of wine and a very nice tip.

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