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What You Notice at Restaurants


LaurieB
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Another one I noticed while dining out today: if you have a dropped ceiling with acoustic ceiling tiles, replace the broken/stained/icky ones. Even if they are in the hallway to the kitchen. If I can see them from the dining room, they should be in good repair.

Marcia.

who wasn't trying to look for such things.

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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there's heaps of things, but for me the big 2 are:

1: little flies - in venues where there isn't adequate drainage there can be quite a few little flies buzzing through the air in the restaurant. Kind of an indicator that there is enough still water in the kitchen/venue for them to lay eggs, hatch, get an entire lifecyle going on. Not that I'm fussed by bugs but it's just evidence of a careless kitchen that you can see from only one step inside the front door.

2: if a waiter can't at least tell you they'll be with you soon within a minute of walking inside, that doesn't bode well for the service either

I can forgive any number of other combos, but either of the above will have me exit immediately.

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Hanging lamps over the table: Are they dusty?

Sticky or oily salt and pepper shakers?

Do the waitstaff slouch?

Please, please, please, *do not* spray tables near me with disinfectant while I'm eating: The cloths should be sprayed, then applied to the table.

I'm a canning clean freak because there's no sorry large enough to cover the, "Oops! I gave you botulism" regrets.

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My 2 cents, added to what everyone else has said:

Clean the bathroooms regularly..for heavens sake, how hard can that be?

Treat everyone at the table the same way. DO NOT cater to the men and treat the women as an after-thought. IT WILL be reflected in your tip. And we will NOT come back. :angry:

If English is not your first language you have my admiration & respect for trying to learn it :biggrin: and my annoyance for not being able to answer any of my questions. :blink: Sorry, your inability to understand English shouldn't be my problem. But it becomes my problem when you tell me that one of the dessert specials is "Beer Pie" (Pear Tart). :rolleyes::raz:

Managers! If I see you standing around chit-chatting while we sit waiting for bread/water/butter/whatever or while your FOH staff is having a collective nervous break-down..WE WILL NOT BE BACK. I am a former waitress and that brings back baaaad memories. If I DO manage to catch your eye and request something..JUST DO IT. It makes me batty to: 1) wait 15-30 minutes for my drink/bread/entree/coffee/condiment/check, 2)flag the manager who then goes and finds my waitperson, 3) wait ANOTHER 15 -30 minutes until the waitperson brings my whatever..that REALLY tics me off.

Have an adequate number of waitpersons. I understand that the profit margin is narrow, but, that is not MY problem. If I like your place, not only will I be back, but I will tell all of the foodies I know that your place is worth their time & money. If you are chronically understaffed (I will give a place a few goes if slow/ harried service is the ONLY problem...sh*t happens), I will tip the waitperson well, but I will not come back.

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- 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.

:

Equally as annoying are servers who make you feel unwelcome just because you have a child in your party.

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I hate

servers who treat young people like shit. why do they do this? I'm the one tipping...on whatever I choose to order...

Loud places. Noise should never be a problem, it should have been thought of way before the spot even opened.

Poor menu descriptions. Fancy descriptions for plain things. Substitutions of any kind. fraud.

upselling.

cold food that should be hot.

lettuce under hot foods!

unripe tomates and avocadoes.

naughty children igored by management. their must be something they can do.

tables too close together. nobody to pull the table out. I never want to stick my ass in a strangers face when leaving a table (unless their cute :raz:)

that's all, for now....

does this come in pork?

My name's Emma Feigenbaum.

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First, thanks so much for all the responses -- keep them coming & I'll post more on my project.

This just cracked me up:

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

It's happened to me too -- I think the waiter was slightly surprised that we didn't invite him to join us for a beer.

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Notice?

Yummy smell

Welcoming Host

Comfortable chairs

For high end restaurants - Floral arrangements

Table setting, not just cleanliness, but appropriateness of table ware to food quality

Glass ware, especially if I'm ordering more expensive wines or cocktails

Bathroom - it's the one room where you will likely be alone.

People - both customers and staff, what's the vibe?

I cook at home, make me something I can't make just as easily for half the price.

Ambiance is as important as the food.

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Okay, we covered wobbly tables, but what about wobbly booths or "wimpy" booths?! I can't tell you how many booths I've sat in back to back with another booth and there's been a 5-year old child or a 40-year old man kicking the back of their booth so much so that I can't even think straight by the end of the meal!! :angry: Don't even get me started on movie theatre seats!

Ditto to treating young customers like crap! I probably tip better than most if you treat me right! And don't give me "that" look when I order tap water!!!

Edited to add one more: If I come to your restaurant every day, some sort of acknowledgment might be nice! If I'm a regular, treat me like one! When I was in high school, we went to the same place to eat every day for lunch, and not once did they say "Hey, how's it going today?" or "Will it be the usual today?" Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name... :wink:

Edited by Katie Nell (log)

"Many people believe the names of In 'n Out and Steak 'n Shake perfectly describe the contrast in bedroom techniques between the coast and the heartland." ~Roger Ebert

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Notice?

Yummy smell

Welcoming Host

Comfortable chairs

For high end restaurants - Floral arrangements

Table setting, not just cleanliness, but appropriateness of table ware to food quality

Glass ware, especially if I'm ordering more expensive wines or cocktails

Bathroom - it's the one room where you will likely be alone. 

People - both customers and staff, what's the vibe?

I cook at home, make me something I can't make just as easily for half the price.

Ambiance is as important as the food.

I like this list; a welcoming host really stands out as a positive for me. It's funny that sometimes a nice welcome can almost come as a surprise! I also notice and really appreciate nice floral arrangements at restaurants. At a nicer restaurant, the table setting and its individual elements are definately something I take notice of as well.

For darker restaurants, I like having a candle or some other individual lighting at the table. Someone above mentioned menu design; a great design that is also not impossible to read in low light is something I notice and that adds pleasure to the experience.

Nice first post, chezruth. Welcome to eGullet....to posting anyway! :smile:

Edited by ludja (log)

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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I like to feel welcomed. It really turns me off if I feel like I am inconviencing the staff by showing up.

A huge pet peeve -- lighting. More precisely, the lack of it. I don't know which designer convinced restaurants that darkness = ambience, but I like to see my food. It doesn't have to be bright as daylight, but really, I should be able to see the expressions on the faces of the other folks at my table, and I should see some of the colors on my plate.

I really like: warm, comforable spaces, not too much noise, wonderful smells, and good food.

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These postings say it all. I am reminded of a time where I proceeded to the bathroom to wash my hands after being seated but before ordering and I noticed that the hot water did not work - at all - and there was not a drop of soap to be found anywhere. Very gross! I couldn't bring myself to order any food after that.

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I really like to see seasonally appropriate veggies, and creative ways of cooking said veggies. In July, try sugarsnap peas (or in a budget place, frozen english peas) instead of cauliflower. Major brownie points.

I love to see lettuce other than iceberg in the 'dinner salad' or its equivalent.

I appreciate restaurants that have figured out the best place in their floorplan to put those of us/you who bring their kids to dinner, even to the local spaghetti joint.

I'll forgive a lot (except outright rudeness and dirtiness) for good food.

If the meal is good enough, I'll probably literally forget all those things that were annoying me before it arrived.

When we take the munchkin out with us, we remember those folks and places that make even a tiny extra effort to accommodate a baby/toddler: an extra water 'glass' at the table, an extra set-up brought for her, offering to bring the child's order first/fast etc. Face it, the kid is the center of our universe - its easy to fool us into believing you think our kid is great - we're half fooled before we enter the establishment. And if you make us think you think our kid is great, why we'll be happy and we'll be back. (Natch, we are not talking formal dining restaurants in this paragraph - although should we ever find ourselves in that situation (yikes & ugh), go ahead - fake us out! The same theory applies.)

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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I like to sit at the bar in front of the kitchen and watch the cooks work. The cook who looks up occasionally, smiles, and answers a few questions about the food is great. The sous chef who thinks he is on stage drives me crazy. Once I saw him take the drippy spoon, out of the bucket of gray water, and taste the sauce on food that had already been plated. As if he just wanted to look like he was in control of the food the cooks put out.

I used to paint decorative (faux) finishes in restaurants. So I look at the paint job when I sit down. I'm sure I'm not the only person who can tell the difference between faux dirt and real dirt. I found that the chefs or restaurant owners who were conscientious and creative with their food, could also tell a bad paint job from a good one.

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Has anyone mentioned the grande finale, the presentation of the check?

Any interesting devices to hold the receipt when brought to the table?

Oh, yes, the check . . . I do find it odd when the server presents the check, says,

"No rush . . .whenever you're ready" or whatever - without asking if we'd like dessert, a cup of coffee, etc. Kicking us out, huh?

One thing I forgot about regarding salads. Someone else mentioned having actual

green lettuce as opposed to iceburg - I wholeheartedly agree with that. And, as

far as tomatoes - I would like to see some effort made by the kitchen staff to cut

off the center brown part of the tomato before it gets thrown in my salad. Please!

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I like to feel welcomed. It really turns me off if I feel like I am inconviencing the staff by showing up.

I've noticed decals from the Hilton organization on the doors of two restaurants near me, which baffles me a bit because AFAIK Hilton owns no freestanding restaurants, but the quips on the signs seem very appropriate here:

"People like being let in." (on the door of Lula)

"Hello there. Now you try." (on the door of More Than Just Ice Cream)

The staff at both of these establishments score well on the making-one-feel-welcome scale.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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Has anyone mentioned the grande finale, the presentation of the check?

Any interesting devices to hold the receipt when brought to the table?

Waitstaff at the late, unlamented Philadelphia outpost of Hamburger Mary's used to present the check in a huge plastic high-heel pump.

It was a nice touch, and the High Fifties decor went right along with the campy theme. Pity that the service was haphazard and the food only so-so; the owners--nice guys though they were--weren't up to the challenge of operating a restaurant, especially one that was aimed at a gay/straight clientele but away from the main gay neighborhood yet surrounded by lots of businessfolk they could have made regular patrons out of anyway.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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This issue has been mentioned when it comes to food but not "service"--

do not lie to me! If the wait for a table is going to be an hour then tell me it will be an hour before I get a table. That way I know what to expect and can order cocktails/wine/appetizers at the bar or where ever I am waiting OR find some where else to dine (if your restaurant is good I will be back when I do not mind waiting or when you are not so busy). Do not tell me "oh, about fifteen minutes or so..." and then fourty-five minutes later when I come to the front desk wondering about my table act annoyed that I am not sitting and patiently waiting for you to come and find me. After that long a period of time you have left me w/ few options but to wait for a table in your restaurant and I might dine there that night but will not return. This is especially annoying when waits are "forced" to make diners think the place is busy and drink more before being seated. Part two of that--if you are going to have a wait (forced or not) have enough staff to cover the bar area for those waiting.

And a new one came to our attention just fr/ this past w/e--if we choose to sit in side a restaurant b/c it is 90+ degrees out side it means we are avoiding the stifling heat/humidity; it does not mean that we want the restaurant manager to open all of the doors to the patio out side to ease server access and make the restaurant as hot & sweltering as the patio area that we avoided in the first place b/c it is so hot & sweltering.

btw, this thread should be required reading for restaurant owners/managers.

in loving memory of Mr. Squirt (1998-2004)--

the best cat ever.

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One thing I forgot about regarding salads.  Someone else mentioned having actual

green lettuce as opposed to iceburg - I wholeheartedly agree with that.  And, as

far as tomatoes - I would like to see some effort made by the kitchen staff to cut

off the center brown part of the tomato before it gets thrown in my salad. Please!

And why does it seem to be that I ALWAYS get the "butt" (i.e. the root end) of the onion? :shock: Good grief, if it's that necessary to move every scrap of edible food, maybe you should rethink your business plan! :laugh:

"Commit random acts of senseless kindness"

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ooohhh!!! i can't stand to see servers/hosts/bussers, etc drinking or eating in plain sight of the guest!!

also, i don't want to see anyone counting their wads of money at the bar. keep the business of the restaurant out of sight of the guest!

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I second the "irk" on someone mis-spelling a dish on the menu.

I find myself searching out the mis-spellings, or even better, restaurants and menus where those in charge should know better. For example, the high end steak house that features "Prime Rib served with au jus". And further to that, there is one national chain that serves their Prime Rib "with au jus sauce". Of course, they put a maraschino cherry in a Rusty Nail, so expectations are low.

And when did Shrimp Scampi start to denote Shrimp served in some sort of rich garlic cream sauce? Scampi is an animal unto itself, and I'm pretty sure it has little to do with garlic and cream.

Waiters who say "brooshetta"] bug me too.

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Many good points.

The one thing that has been brought up several times that I think is a losing situation for everyone involved- other then the offending party- is the issue of unruly children.

Unfortunately short of asking the family to leave, there are not many options open to the staff. Now I realize that there is no child that is going to be an angel 100% of the time and for young kids I place the responsibility for they're behavior on the parent rather then on the child. It is not like the average five year old kid turned to their parent that morning and says "How about The Gilded Truffle or The Rusty Barnacle for dinner tonight?" they are more or less along for the ride with where ever their parents have decided to go. And to be fair, there are parents who take it upon themselves to either not put the child in the type or environment where their presence may not be appropriate (for both the sake of the kid and the other diners), or who will take whatever actions needed to bring the situation back into their control should the child become disruptive- but we are not talking about those parents.

We are talking about the clueless- or worse the careless parents who share our mutual dinning space. Those parents tend to not care that everyone else's dinner is being effected by little Damien's glass shattering screams, they don't care the person at the next table does not want to be told that they're dinner resembles the innards of the younger brothers diaper and if the waitress did not want to spend the rest of her day covered in ketchup- well she should have gotten a different job. And of course the hazards that are involved if the kids are actually running around or climbing on things.

What they DO care about is that someone on staff (and God help the server if it was them) dares to ask them to control the fruits of their looms. From personal experience if the server is lucky they will merely be given rather loud, graphic advice on how to spend their lunch break (possibly involving members of their immediate family). But it can escalate to even larger scenes, threats of physical violence if not actual acts of violence and even then the problem can still continue. And there is the ubiquitously law suit threat. Yes, you could ask the party to leave but you are guaranteed that at least one of the above scenarios will happen. And many of the powers that be who are in charge would rather have everyone deal in the house deal with the Children Of The Corn then risk the ire of the one unruly table. In one location I worked we were told that we were NOT allowed to say anything or attempt to calm the situation in any way- and from what I have been told by other servers that is closer to the norm then the exception, did I agree with that?, no (and I still do not). Should it be allowed to happen?, no. A valid complaint, but my sympathies/empathizes on this lie with the servers.

Edited by Gigi4808 (log)
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