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What You Notice at Restaurants


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5. bottles facing forward at the bar

Please educate me on this. What is the problem with bottles facing forward at the bar? How else will I know what is in them?

the lables of the bottles should be facing forward so they can be clearly read. it also looks neater.

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A trend that I like:

Being able to see the kitchen; either an open floor plan or a large window. It immediately conveys a sense of integrity (to me).

What I don't like:

Misrepresentation; crab cakes made of fish or mostly fish, pressed beef roll with sauce sold as a barbecue sandwich.

Food service food; canned vegetables *shudder*, cheap ingredients, sugar-coated sweet potato fries, frozen hash browns cooked in butter-flavored shortening.

Improper preparation; burnt food, overcooked steak, uncooked brown-n-serve bread, undercooked sausage and bacon, dressing deluge on salad.

Gee, I just ruined any appetite I had for dinner.

I don't mind a bit of threadbare carpet or things showing wear as long as the food is tasty. Dirty is not good, but I'm apt to point out discreetly a dust-clogged air register to a server if I believe it's just something that has been overlooked.

--
Saara
Kitchen Manager/Baker/Dish Pit

The C Shop

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Another vote for the bathrooms. If they aren't clean and well stocked, I wonder about lots of things - like how the staff washes their hands if there isn't any soap.

Do the tables wobble? There's simply no excuse for this, and I've seen it at both high and low end restaurants.

Is there adequate lighting? Atmosphere is one thing, needing a flashlight to read the menu is another. My husband carries a little one at all times and we've had to use it at a couple of places.

Are the fork tines bent? Is the spoon handle bent? There's no excuses for that. Bent silverware feels bad to use.

Does the staff keep up with the normal spills over the course of a night of service? Stuff falls on the floor, it happens, I don't expect the floor to be pristine, but if I'm crunching things under my feet, I notice immediately, and not in a good way.

Does the server manage the amount of ice in my water glass? There are some servers who, when presented with a water glass that's full to the brim with ice, still tries to add more. Um, you know there's a reason I'm draining all the water out of my glass in one sip.

Conversely, if I'm served ice water in a warm glass (hey, I know sometimes they're being used as soon as they're washed), has that been taken into account and extra ice added?

Am I kept informed if there are any problems? This is such a big one for me. I know crap happens, the kitchen gets slammed, things get delayed. I know it's often out of the server's hands. And let's face it, I'm probably not happy about it. But keeping me in the dark makes me even madder and it's one of the big things that will keep me from going back.

Marcia.

Don't forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he wanted...he lived happily ever after. -- Willy Wonka

eGullet foodblog

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The biggest pet peeve of mine is when the server/busboy stacks the plates on the table instead of stacking on thier arm. If management hasn't trained the staff on such an essiantial little point of service, I would guess every thing is slapshod. Also bev naps under barstools set my OCD off the charts.

A DUSTY SHAKER LEADS TO A THIRSTY LIFE

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Sticky is always bad, whether it's the doorknob, the flatware or the menu. (Not that I can attest that any of those things are stick-free in my house, but I'm not in the business.)

Brilliant chefs take note: Your extraordinary creations will stay extraordinary if your restaurant has hired good waiters, waitrons, servers or whatever mildly disparaging appellation we're using for FOH these days. A good garcon or garconne makes sure the cutlery is clean, and keeps you and you masters in the best possible light.

And although I think linking arms with the waiter to retire to the Ladies for a tinkle is not necessary, Emerils' adorable waiters at NOLA a year ago, who performed this service for me, made me laugh. They laughed too. Charming service.

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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The restroom thing also really gets me going. Please, I want soap and I want either paper or cloth towels -- not one of those damned dryer things. Plus, I like to be able to use the towel to open the door when I leave because who knows whose hands have been on that handle.

Oh, and gunk on anything turns my stomach.

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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5. bottles facing forward at the bar

Please educate me on this. What is the problem with bottles facing forward at the bar? How else will I know what is in them?

the lables of the bottles should be facing forward so they can be clearly read. it also looks neater.

Ah, this makes more sense. The way you wrote the post, you were listing negatives. You get annoyed when bottles AREN'T facing forward, which is normal... :biggrin:

"It's better to burn out than to fade away"-Neil Young

"I think I hear a dingo eating your baby"-Bart Simpson

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Hospitality can make or break an entire dining experience. Not only the food has to be good! I don't mean for this to be a list of negatives/pet peeves but it pretty much is. Which is kind of odd, given how much pleasure I get from dining out. I love a server who is knowledgeable, attentive and enthusiastic, who can make my mouth water by describing a dish, who can guide me in ordering well, who can anticipate what we need.

In terms of physical space, I am very often turned off to a restaurant when the dining room is carpeted. Am not sure exactly why I have this reaction, but it frequently makes a restaurant seem dingy/unclean to me. I also think lighting is very important and should be flattering and comfortable. I've had experiences where I feel like I'm sitting in a spotlight. Not so comfortable. And please put a trash can near the bathroom door.

Menus should be spelled correctly.

I cringe when servers blatantly try to upsell, especially bottled water.

I cannot stand it when dishes are taken away before my fork can return to the plate. Please, for the love of God, can you wait until we're done? I find that clearing plates before everyone is finished makes the people who are still eating feel rushed. But there are people who hate sitting with dirty plates, and I realize that you can't make everyone happy . . .

When I was a waitress/runner, we used position numbers when putting orders in and when bringing food to the table so that we didn't have arrive at the table and announce "who gets the salmon?" To me, this only seems to be done in the most upscale restaurants. It's not an auction. Good service includes remembering who gets what.

I also think that good service includes not asking customers to pass plates unless ABSOLUTELY necessary because the server cannot reach the table from ANY angle from ANY SPOT in the restaurant, and only then with apologies to the customers. Please, walk around the table.

Agree on the importance of knowing how to stack on your arm! If not, just lift two plates and take them away. But please don't scrape stuff from one plate to another when you're clearing the table so that you can stack them all on top of each other. Ew.

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Oh, yeah. A server that reaches directly in front of me to pass on a plate to

another diner at my table irks me every time. Or when he/she stands at the

opposite side of the table and hands me my entree expecting me to take it

and put it on the table myself. Like previously stated, if it is impossible

for the server to place the dish in front of me, I will take it from him. Otherwise,

there's no excuse for it except laziness

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For me most of the items have been covered up-thread, but a few others:

For places without tablecloths, please don't spray your windex/409/whatever-toxic-cleanser you use while cleaning the table while I am trying to enjoy my food.

Wobbly tables are definately a big thing. I remember the first (and only time) I ate at Charlie Trotters I had to ask them to fix my table. It was so bad the wine was sloshing around in the glass everytime we touched the table.

Also, when bussing the table, please don't scrape leftover food from one dish into another in front of me so you can stack the dishes better. Thats just nasty.

Edited by johnder (log)

John Deragon

foodblog 1 / 2

--

I feel sorry for people that don't drink. When they wake up in the morning, that's as good as they're going to feel all day -- Dean Martin

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Do the tables wobble? There's simply no excuse for this, and I've seen it at both high and low end restaurants.

The most recent place I ate out, probably the nicest restaurant in our very limited area, the waitress immediately noticed the wobble in the table (it was slight, and I probably wouldn't have said anything, although it probably would have become annoying as the meal progressed) and fixed it in seconds without a big to-do. More than the quite decent lamb and wine, I will remember her quick attention to a small personal comfort detail and willingness to personally fix it.

So personal attention, making me feel welcome, getting my order right, cleanliness, GOOD FOOD: all good.

Dirty/understocked bathrooms (I recently attended a training at a banquet facility that would still be out of T.P. immediately after restrooms had been cleaned!!!! The follow-up training is being moved to a different facility, in part due to this [also, they knew our daily agenda and the bathrooms were inevitably closed for "cleaning" during every break]), stickiness/greasiness anywhere, rudeness, music too loud, too dim if I'm dining with family (I don't have a problem with my eyes, but I feel bad for my grandmother when I have to read her the menu.). Oh yeah, probably the most frequent gripe I have when dining out is that I'm unsually freezing. I know this is tricky, and maybe I just have the bad luck of always being seated underneath the air conditioner, but I shouldn't have to wear my jacket.

Wow, that was a lot of complaining. I guess when it comes down to it, the food has to be good, but even with fabulous food, I won't return unless I felt I was respected and valued as a customer.

Julie Layne

"...a good little eater."

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Just wanted to add a pet peeve of my own: imobile booths and tables. I'm a rather large woman, and I NEED to be able to position myself comfortably in a chair that I can move far enough from the table so I can breathe and eat, too.

I hate being wedged in! :angry:

"Commit random acts of senseless kindness"

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Funny, the table wobble issue (good one!) made me think of the first time I went to Union Sqare Cafe in NYC. The first table we were placed at wobbled precariously, and with one word to our waiter, we were moved to a rock-solid (and far better) table elsewhere. No fuss, no muss, problem resolved so quickly and gracefully that it ceased to exist. Every little detail was dealt with so well that we had a very, very good time. (Food wasn't bad, either!) :wink:

I think all restaurants have things go wrong from time to time, but for me, it's how they deal with the things that go wrong that distinguishes them.

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one thing lately that really bugs me is ambient noise.

If i can't hear my dining partners speak, or myself think i'm out of there before we even get seated.

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Before you even enter the establishment, note the cleanliness of sidewalk out front.

And if you really want a good indication of a restaurant's fastidiousness, go around back and check out the alley, especially around the garbage containers.

SB (btw: also hates those restroom blow driers) :angry:

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one thing lately that really bugs me is ambient noise.

If i can't hear my dining partners speak, or myself think i'm out of there before we even get seated.

To add to this, PLEASE keep the music at conversation volume. I didn't come to listen to the house looped tape, I came to enjoy time with my dining companions. I have walked out of many a restaurant lately as soon as I entered because somehow it's become trendy to play music at deafening volume. Not. Cool.

-Sounds awfully rich!

-It is! That's why I serve it with ice cream to cut the sweetness!

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yeah - loud music is great in a club. not in a restaurant.

especially if it's a restaurant with particularly "bouncy" walls, as seems to be the trend lately.

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I don't want to see the staff's personal beverages or food in sight of the guests. If the hostess has a glass of iced tea under the podium, I don't want to be able to see it from behind when I'm walking outside to take a phone call. If the busboy is eating a burger, let him eat it in the break area, or out back - I don't want to see him eating it in the server's station when I'm on my way to the restroom.

And servers - please, please don't wear cologne of any kind. And if you think that splash of CK1 is covering up the beer sweating out of your pores, you're sadly mistaken.

Someone else mentioned burnt out lightbulbs - classic telltale that someone doesn't care.

Serve from the LEFT. Pick up from the RIGHT. And, when logistically possible, ladies first, and older ladies before younger ladies. It's so simple.

And keep your thumb off the rim of my plate, buddy. And if you can't manage a full tray, get somebody to follow you or even bring two plates and go back for the other two - don't haphazardly balance our plates on a big tray you can barely carry and cause all the entrees to slide to one side of the plates.

Marsha Lynch aka "zilla369"

Has anyone ever actually seen a bandit making out?

Uh-huh: just as I thought. Stereotyping.

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Being from Europe, one of my major pet peeves is the rush to the next course one often gets in restaurants while still enjoying a meal (for example: still working on the main course and already being presented a dessert menu). I realize it is customary to turn tables in a certain amount of time, but at the same time one should not feel hurried through a dinner or overly doted on. Wait staff that understands guests are there to truly enjoy a meal truly stands out. Smells are important, so is the temperature of a restaurant. It should not be chilly and the seating should be inviting and comfortable. The way a table is set is also something that catches my eye, whether it is a paper placemat or a linen cloth, there are ways to make even the simplest of table settings inviting and pleasant.

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Oh, yeah.  A server that reaches directly in front of me to pass on a plate to

another diner at my table irks me every time.  Or when he/she stands at the

opposite side of the table and hands me my entree expecting me to take it

and put it on the table myself.  Like previously stated, if it is impossible

for the server to place the dish in front of me, I will take it from him.  Otherwise,

there's no excuse for it except laziness

My personal answer to this quandry (which may have much more to do with the 350 pound diner at the next table behind you that makes it impossible for me to get to the other side of the table I can normally access) is to very politely say "Pardon my reach please..." and pass the plate to the diner on your (now) far side, with the hope that you'll understand I'd have done it the proper way had I been able to do so.

That seems to go over a lot better than "Hey - tuck it in Fatso!" :rolleyes:

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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I agree with all of the above. Pretty substantial and appropriate list of restaurant peeves. Definitely want to reiterate how much service affects/costs restaurants business. Absolutely cannot tolerate inattentive/non-existent or rude service. Eons ago while out with co-workers had a waitress who, while we were looking at menu, admonished us to hurry up and order since she was really busy!

Amazingly, I have a couple to add that I didn't see:

- I am not an overbearing or overly demanding customer, but when I say that something is not to my liking, PLEASE DO NOT TRY TO TALK ME OUT OF IT! Thank goodness this does not happen to me very often but the one case that really stood out was at a restaurant where the steak I ordered smelled, well, off. This was/is a very popular spot for breakfast and lunch for people who work nearby including myself at the time. After telling the waitress about the steak the manager came over to convince me that the steak was fresh, when they received it, etc. He even went on to say that it was the waitress' fault for letting the steak hang out too long before she served it to me. :blink: No dice pal, the steak went back.

- Allowing loud, obnoxious, out of control children and their clueless parents to ruin dinner for everyone else. No, I'm not talking about McDonald's or Chuckie Cheez. Sorry, but this is unforgiveable and I will not be back.

- Trying to pass off something substandard and hoping that it won't be noticed: fake crab, fake scallops, lasagna that was actually dried out and burnt.

- Split personality waitstaff. While out with a couple of friends at a Greek restaurant that used to be wonderful until a change in management, the waiter was beyond rude, dismissive, and inattentive. But then miraculously at the next table he was congenial, helpful, smiling and friendly. The only thing we could figure was that we weren't regulars since he seemed to be familiar with the people at the next table. BTW, it's the same restaurant that served the burnt lasagna.

- At restaurants where all the other dishes are good, still being served naked, flavorless boiled vegetables. The worst example of this was plain, boiled brussel sprouts left whole served next to perfectly cooked pork chops and delicious mashed potatoes. When I tried to slice into them they were hard and being round hard objects on a flat surface, I managed to send one sailing across the dining room. :laugh:

Inside me there is a thin woman screaming to get out, but I can usually keep the Bitch quiet: with CHOCOLATE!!!

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I notice service. I have some significant issues with the buddy-buddy style of service. I didn't need to know, when I dined out recently, that the waiter was trying to pick wines for his upcoming wedding, nor the size of his wedding party nor the type of classes he was taking at the local adult ed, nor that he hadn't slept much last night and was drinking plenty of the wine we were drinking in order to stay "on" for service. Grrr. That was an extreme example but I'm not originally from the States and I'm used to a more reserved style of food service that doesn't imply a relationship between me and the server except inasmuch as they should be able to be informative and accurate about the food and wine.

On the other hand, there is a restaurant that my husband and I will return to frequently because the service makes the meal - it's a sushi restaurant and of course the food is fantastic, but it's the detail oriented but not obsequious or overfamiliar service that keeps us going back. Our water glasses and tea cups are never empty, plates are removed or rearranged as soon as we're done with them, the table is never allowed to get messy looking, I never feel like they're breathing down our necks but if we want to order something additional it's always easy to catch our waiter's eye.

I also notice the general design/atmosphere of the place - does it make me feel comfortable? What mood is it setting, and is that the mood appropriate to the meal? There's another sushi joint in town that is older and slightly less upscale but that always manages to create a gentle sense of wellbeing because of the atmosphere of the room, the service again, the lighting and the music selection. My husband is somewhat of a musician so terribly obtrusive music - the most annoying being an endless loop of the same track, which we've encountered in more than one restaurant - can ruin the evening for both of us as he gets more and more agitated by it.

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Specials boards that are too far away to read/round a corner are a real problem, too.

And at the other extreme, the waiter who not only pointed out the specials board but then read out the specials - at length - even though I could see the board as well as he could. And the waiter who, unasked, decided to talk me through the menu by effectively repeating each description (the conversation went along the lines of "selection of ice creams and sorbets with a tuile biscuit - that's some delicious ice creams and sorbets, served with a tuile biscuit alongside." "What flavours do you have?" "Er, I'm not sure. Now, the raspberry creme brulee is a creme brulee with raspberries in it, very nice...").

And while I'm moaning... getting good service all the way through the meal, but then being ignored for ten minutes when it's time to ask for the bill. Why is this so common?

Caroline

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Idlewild -- I agree about being put off by buddy-buddy service.

I once went to a new chain restaurant everyone was talking about (in Hawaii, we don't get a lot of national chains, so I was curious) and was horrified when the waiter pulled up an extra chair and sat down at my table to take the order. <<shudder>> I can't even recall the food. I've never been back.

SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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