Stuff restaurants do that bother you

I like to go to restaurants and after looking over the menu to form a mental overview of what they offer, I like to ask the servers what the chef or restaurant is most proud of/ that they think I must eat/ recommendations. Often times, I get the answer ‘everything is good here’ or ‘well, what do you want to eat’. Some proceed to tell me about the entire menu (I appreciate the effort, but its not that helpful, to me.) Almost always, when ‘everything is good’, nothing stands out.

What other things restaurants do bother you?

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I’m as into a convivial experience with my friends as I am into the food, and the noise level often makes it hard to have a conversation. The dining rooms have too much hard surface and they pipe in music. We often ask the server/manager to adjust the sound system, but most of them say they can’t operate the controls. One of our family members has hearing loss, so we try to eat out very early, before ‘the party starts.’ I don’t guess we’re the only bunch of middle-aged people who end up a night dining out, exhausted from shouting. These days we choose a venue based on the acoustics. Sad.

I’ve read that this is an industry standard strategy for boosting buzz. Does anyone know if there’s a backlash?

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There’s really only the “usual stuff” that bothers me - poor service, poor cooking , dishes being “off” the menu that evening, uncomfortable chairs.

Unlike the OP, I have never asked for a recommendation as to what I should eat and am unlikely to ever do so. I would take the view that any recommendation is likely to be because (a) it is an expensive dish, therefore there’s more tip and/or (b) the kitchen needs to sell that dish before it goes off.

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You sit down and order a drink and before you even pick up the menu, the server asks you to order something “for the table.”

I think that’s a fair question, although I might rephrase it. When people ask me for restaurant recommendations in Italy, I try to find out what floats their gastronomic boat, whether they like rich food or light food in particular. In Italy, waitstaff is very often family or has worked there for years, and they are less shy about recommending what the restaurant is known for, and it often pays to ask about what is good “this evening” – meaning a special dish based on a market treasure bought fresh that day that might not be on the menu. I think a lot of hired wait staff in other countries is nervous about talking it over with patrons about what’s good tonight and what’s good in general.

As for the rest of what restaurants do that bothers me, the list could go on and on. I generally have to psyche myself to want to eat in a restaurant, and I refuse to eat in noisy ones with insufficient table spacing, and waitstaff that addresses me as “guys.” I don’t like the recent trends in “artful” plating, I hate tasting menus, I don’t want to be told how to eat a dish, I dislike minuscule portions – I even dislike candles on tables! About the only time I enjoy eating in restaurants is when I can eat outdoors.

Thinking that engineering a hip, trendy vibe is necessary or even desirable.

Even when the food is way above par - especially when the food is way above par - I do not appreciate having to shout to hold a conversation with my dining partner. I do not care to have other diners hanging over my dinner plate to read the daily menu blackboard because you won’t print a menu. And my middle-aged tuchas would like to be able to stay put in that uber-hip chair without feeling the need to bring along a stadium cushion.

I have stopped going to certain restaurants for just those reasons and Ashley Christensen (James Beard Award for Best Chef: Southeast), I am staring straight at you.

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Familiar-seeming food items that arrive with ingredients not mentioned on the menu. This seems to mostly happen to me at breakfast places that are trying to hard. I order eggs Benedict and, without warning, someone’s added chili powder or hot sauce to the hollandaise. Or there’s surprise orange cheese in the sausage gravy on the biscuits. Classics are classics for a reason, and you’ve got to warn people if you’re gonna monkey with them!

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Wobbly tables, and tables that are too close together can make a great meal seem mediocre. Small details matter.

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I’ll second noise and wobbly tables and add:

Menus that don’t tell you what the beverages (alcohol, soda, or whatever) cost. My theory is that if they don’t tell you, it’s more than I want to spend.

Restaurants that, when you say you want water, bring you bottled water. I’ve taken to specifying “tap water”, especially in Mexican restaurants. (I understand that culturally, Mexicans are not as likely to drink tap water, and hence “water” may imply “bottled”, but it is still irksome.)

Restaurants that have annoying television on. Our favorite barbecue place often has those afternoon talk shows (“Women Who Were Abused by Their Brothers” or similar). This is not what I want to watch at any time, let alone over lunch. Admittedly, my preference for television, if it must be on, would be limited to the food channels, travel channels, and animal channels.

Restaurants that do not update their web site, Facebook page, etc., when they change the days they are closed. :frowning:

(I’m sure I’ll think of more.)

Don’t rush me. I understand you want to turn tables, but if I say we’ll need some time after we’ve sat down, don’t hover. Whenever a friend and I get together at a local chain restaurant, we tell our waitstaff or the bartender at the bar “We’ve not seen each other for awhile - could you give us a few to catch up before we order?” and they are always very accommodating.

Noise level. I want to be able to hear my dining companions, not say “What?” with my hand cupped next to my ear every few minutes.

Packing tables in so close to each other that when you (try to) sidle in or out of the space you’ve been allotted, your butt or crotch is rubbing against another diner’s table or arm.

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If there’s a restaurant where I would only expect tap water it would be Mexican :smile:

Jam tables too close together (yes, you have to make money but I don’t want someone’s ass in my face as they have to slide between tables to sit down). Have zero baffling or soft surfaces to absorb noise. Have 12 “specials” that the server has to recite instead of being on a menu insert. While you’re at it, enclose the kitchen; an open kitchen just adds that much more noise.

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I hate, hate, hate when the server leads with “have you dined with us before?” I always want to reply “no, but I’m reasonably familiar with how a restaurant works.”

Asking this to a table of 4 often results in an awkward pause as some people have dined there before, others haven’t. My feeling is that if there is particular information that is so important that it must be conveyed, then it also should be repeated to each table. If it’s not that important, then skip it and don’t waste my time. Maybe I dined with you two years ago when I was 8 months pregnant and addle-brained. Maybe I’m hard of hearing and never really caught your spiel the first time around. (See also: noise level). Regardless, there is no good answer to this question. If you have in fact dined there before, the server then usually says something like “so you know our plates are meant for sharing.” Just give me the facts without the condescension.

I’d also like to state I’m in my 30s and have very sharp hearing and am extremely bothered by the high noise levels found in so many sceney restaurants. So it’s not just you Boomers and others who hate this.

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Pretty cynical… no? Sometimes asking the server what’s good can be like asking a staffer at Total Wine to recommend something… you’re rolling the dice. But… I DO ask and then judge by the server’s ‘presence’ and the way in which they answer.

It does not bother me, but I agree: it is not helpful.

What bother me a lot more is a lack of acknowledgment. If you see me standing and waiting at the reception area, come greet me. Don’t go back to serve other customers and ignore me for another 2-3 minutes. You do that, and I will leave – and I have walked out of restaurants (twice) for this.

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Not to much . It doesn’t have to be perfect , I expect some shit to happen . Food , service or other to mess up . It doesn’t happen all the time . Get me my glass a wine ( I will be toe tapping for that ) ,Then I’ll check the menu and decipher of what to order when I’m ready . Restaurant’s are nothing compared to dealing with your cable company . Chill . Personally I cook better food and have better service at home .

That is not always true. I have repeatedly been recommended dishes which are inexpensive and high traffic (not going bad). Often time restaurants want to retain customers. In fact, many of my restaurant friends have said: it is not difficult to get new customers to come try your restaurant. It is difficult to make them come back again and again. They eat one bad meal, and they won’t come back again. This is the difference between a successful business and one that is not. It is about building a long term relationship.

If the owner is remotely smart, then it is in his/her best interest to recommend what he/she believe to be their best dish.

For example, I was at a sandwich shop and I asked for some recommendation for my sandwich. The staff asked me if I have anything I like to avoid, and I said no. She then recommend the corn beef as the meat with rye bread…etc. It turned out that she recommended their most popular sandwich.

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I hate when they bring your check with your order or your main course within minutes of your salad. I travel for work often and usually sit at the bar area and I really don’t understand the practice of hurrying you along. You have $10-15/glasses of wine to sell and I have nothing but time or sit in an empty hotel room at 8pm, so why do you want me to eat in 20 minutes and run out? If you would just offer, I’d be happy to have a 2nd glass of wine.

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On Long Island, restaurants are required by regulation to state the prices of specials, but unless they’re on a blackboard menu style, servers virtually never, ever state what they are when reciting them.

I also hate when servers or runners come to the table and have to ask who gets which dish.

I actually really like that. Isn’t that funny how different we all are? If I’ve eaten there before then I likely don’t need the same ‘education’ as those who haven’t. Just me.

“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold