I just got back from eating at one of my favorite restaurants, Casa Ole, with a few of my oldest friends. We grabbed a booth by the window, ordered margaritas all around, and talked about days gone by. The food was excellent (as usual), but as I sipped my margarita and chowed down on my enchiladas, I started to think about my restaurant pet peeves — those things that waiters and table mates and hostesses do that send me through the roof. You know you have your own restaurant pet peeves, but here are my top ten.
When the Hostess Fails to Acknowledge My Presence
I’ve never liked walking into CiCi’s Pizza because I don’t like to hear someone shouting at me as I walk through the door, but acknowledgment is important for a positive dining experience. One of my restaurant pet peeves is when I walk through the front doors of an establishment and the hostess doesn’t even look up from her podium. Perhaps she’s marking on the seating chart or maybe she’s chatting with a coworker; either way, she doesn’t seem to know I exist. It seems that if restaurant owners really wanted my business, they’d train their employees in customer service.
When the Menu Doesn’t List the Prices
I don’t know about you, but I don’t purchase anything without first knowing how much it costs. The enchilada platter probably costs around eight bucks, but how am I to know for sure? Most restaurants do list the prices for their entrées, but many fail to give exact numbers for drinks. I’m sorry, but a margarita that “starts at $3.99” doesn’t tell me much of anything.
When the Silverware Doesn’t Look Clean
I realize that it must be difficult for restaurant dish washers to erase every smudge from the dishes, but a big pet peeve of mine is unwrapping my napkin to find silverware that looks like it just came from someone else’s mouth. It makes me wonder if, underneath my main course, the previous diner’s food is still crusted on the plate.
When “Gratuity is Included”
Some restaurants only include gratuity with parties of eight or more, while others work it in regardless of the size of the group. I don’t know about anyone else, but the size of the tip I leave is determined by my waiter’s or waitress’s ability to take my order, bring me my drink and serve my food. I take into consideration the number of people in the restaurant, the size of my party and the number of times we ask for “more Dr. Pepper”, but I still like to determine how much I’ll leave behind at the end of the meal.
When the Restrooms Aren’t Clean
I don’t think I’ve ever been to a restaurant when I didn’t need to use the facilities at least once. I usually go in to wash my hands at the start of the meal, then the margarita works its way through my system before the check arrives. A big restaurant pet peeve of mine is when the restrooms are filthy or lack paper towels. How difficult can it be to check on the bathrooms every hour or so?
When Other People Sneer at My Food
I don’t think that I have strange culinary tastes, but we all like something different at restaurants. I can’t stand it when I’m out to dinner with friends, and they sneer at my plate as soon as it arrives. It isn’t as though I’m trying to force the food down their throats — or even asking that they take a bite. I didn’t complain when you ordered sushi at the Japanese restaurant, so please don’t look down your nose in disgust at my bean nachos or egg drop soup. It makes everything look unappetizing.
When the Waiter Doesn’t Refill My Drink
I drink a lot when I have something other than alcohol, which invariably means Dr. Pepper or Sprite. In some restaurants, I have a new soda when I’m only halfway done with the first; in other restaurants, I have to ask three times before someone will bring me a fresh one. I’m always impressed by waitstaff who pay attention to the drinks; it shows they care.
When the Waiter Takes My Food Before I’m Done
How many times has it happened to you? You’ve paused in the ravenous consumption of your chicken fingers to catch your breath and take a few swallows of Coke when the waiter swings by and swipes your plate right out from under your nose. You really wanted those last two chicken fingers but now they’re gone for good. How difficult is it to ask if you’re finished?
When the People at the Next Table Won’t Shut Up
I realize that restaurants are crowded places and I would never want people to stop having fun on my account. But I seem drawn to the booths behind the group with the loudest voices. Three times, I’ve had food slung into my plate by screaming toddlers and twice I’ve been next to the guy on he cell phone: “I can hardly hear you! Must be the restaurant!” Is it too much to ask for those people to take their cell phones outside or to take their voices down a notch or two?
When My Car Gets Stolen from the Parking Lot
My Number One restaurant pet peeve is one that most people probably haven’t experienced. This happened when I was a senior in high school and is probably something I should have let go by now, but I haven’t been able to eat at a Bennigan’s since. I parked my week-old GMC truck in the parking lot, and when my friends and I emerged an hour later, my truck was nowhere to be found. When the restaurant management heard about it, their response was, “Oh, yeah, that’s happened twelve times in the last month.”
Seriously, people, if you know that your restaurant parking lot is a target for vehicle thieves, you would think you would stall a security camera or two, or perhaps warn your customers before they enter unaware.