Monday, February 20, 2012

Top 5 things that piss me off in a restaurant

Las Saturday my wife and I went to eat out in a restaurant called Vermillion, in Chicago. It is an Indian/Latin American fusion restaurant. Aside from the lackluster food (an alternative name for the restaurant might be" Salt: we don't know what it is"), what really pissed me off was that there was absolutely no light in the restaurant. To the point that we had to use the lights of our mobile phones to read the menus. When we got our food delivered, we had to take a candle nearby, and use it to see what we were eating. I swear I am not joking.

I understand the need to create a nice atmosphere in a restaurant, playing with the lights. I do, I swear. I wouldn't want to eat in a restaurant with the same lights of a Walmart. But - as the ancient Romans used to say - in media stat virtus, virtus is in the middle.

Inspired by this last experience, here is my top five things that really piss me off in a restaurant:

  1. Total absence of light, because it is very cool and hip. As mentioned above, obliging your paying guests to guess what the hell they are eating (will it be a potato? Will it be a piece of fish? Will it be a hot chile? Oh, the thrill of guessing...) is stupid. Many restaurants are guilty of this. 
  2. Ear drum breaking music. I understand that if the theme of your restaurant is heavy metal music, you will be playing loud heavy metal music, so if I come and dine at your place I will gladly put up with this (even if I am a not a fan of heavy metal). But if the theme of your restaurant is NOT heavy metal music, then I would like to be able to have a nice conversation with the people I am having dinner with. Well, guess what? In many restaurants, even very good and/or expensive, Michelin-rated restaurants, not only is this impossible, but they look at you as if you were an idiot for even thinking that. Some even write it on their menu "don't ask us to reduce the volume of our music". Well, then don't ask me to give you money for a headache inducing experience in which the pleasure of food will be ruined by stupidly loud music. 
  3. Not respecting reservations. Honestly people: if I make a reservation for 7pm, and I show up at 6.55, I want to be seated at 7pm. I don't want you to sit me down at 7,30 every freaking time. It doesn't matter how good your food is: I, the customer, want to be able to decide how to spend my evening. If I want to stand up and talk to friends before eating dinner, I will go to a restaurant with no reservations, and gladly wait my turn. If I make a reservation is because I want to sit and eat at that time. I understand that it is difficult for a restaurant to asses times and all: but it is not my problem. 
  4. Pretentious waiters. Hey, guess what? No, I don't know what "alajar infused sbiruli" is. Thus, if I ask you nicely what it is, there is no reason to go all French on me and treating me like if I had just taken a huge dump on your shoes. Be nice, answer back, and put a smile on that hippy face. Because, guess what again, it is your freaking job to explain what the food is.
  5. Overcrowded dining rooms in fancy restaurants. Either I am getting old, and my infamously low level of BS tolerance are getting even lower, or this is something that is happening increasingly often: you go to a "fancy" restaurant (those where the cheapest main course is priced at $35) and you are basically sitting on top of the next guest. The distance between the tables is maximum 5 inches, so that to get in and out you actually need to move the entire table. I don't often go to this type of fancy places, but when I do, I would like to be able to listen to the person I am having dinner with, and not to the (closer) lady who is sitting next to me. 
What about you: what are your pet peeves? 


Mary Kay said...

when you ask for something, like a spoon (so I can take some salsa out of the bowl), they look around the table trying to figure out why you need a spoon. JUST BRING ME THE SPOON. You don't need to know why I need it. Oh I could go on for days but won't.

A Tuscan foodie in America said...

Spot on. could this be part of "pretentious waiters"? But please, go on...

Trobairitz said...

Great post. I think you've hit the nail on the head with these.

I think one of the reasons we don't go out to eat very often is because it isn't a pleasant experience anymore. We have a few favorite restaurants and usually stick to those.

A few weeks ago we tried a new hippie type veggie/vegan restaurant and my chair was actually touching the one behind me. Our tables were that close. So wrong.

I wish all restaurants had a no cell phone policy as well. I really don't want to go to a nice restaurant just to hear the chatty people beside me that can't pry the phone away from their ear.

Oh, and if I ask if a dish is vegan (as in no meat or dairy products) please don't look down your nose at me as if I am diseased. For all I know your veggie soup has beef stock in it and Veganism is not contagious. LOL ........end rant

One again, great post.

A Tuscan foodie in America said...

Thatnks Trobairitz - I am sure that with your dietary restrictions your restaurant experience may even be more difficult than that of most people.

Claudio said...

1. I hate noisy restaurants. I can bear loud music (if I like the music playing, of course) but I can't stand people talking too loud next to my table.
2. I hate when you made a reservations for a huge number of people and then, when you show up at the restaurant, your booked table has one or two fewer seats than you have reserved. You know you've been really clear about the number of seats in your reservation (cause you hate that kind of things) but it's not been enough, the waiters are really pissed off about that and they look at you like it's YOUR fault.
3. I hate when you ask for the bill and they bring to you a little piece of hand-written paper instead of a proper receipt. I'm gonna pay with real money, you're supposed to give me a regular receipt! (well, I guess the last one is maybe a typical bad italian habit)...

A Tuscan foodie in America said...

Claudio, I am with you on point No 1 and 2. As for No.3 yes: I don't know if this is a problem only of Italy, but I have never had it here.

Superpiccione said...

In Belgium the main problem is called flexibility.

If you suggest adding a fifth chair to a 4 person table they look at you like you were crazy only for thinking such a thing.

Same happens when ordering: "Can I have this dish without this side and with salad instead?"


I mean, how difficult can it be to switch a side with another??

A Tuscan foodie in America said...

I have talked so many times of how Belgium service in restaurants (but in any commercial activity, really) sucks...they used to piss me off so much. Any request, even the simplest as you just mentioned is always met with "on ne peut pas monsieur". It can't be done.

I may miss Belgian food. But I don't miss the reest of my restaurant experience there.

Superpiccione said...

Realised I forgot the worst:

the waiter taking the order WITHOUT noting down anything, even on a 5+ people table.

It drives me nuts because they invariably either have to come back to ask again half of the people what they were in for or mess the entire order up!

A Tuscan foodie in America said...

YES!!! This is another Belgian and French classic! Get a fucking pen and write!

Simone C. said...

I must say:

All of the above +

6. Intrusive wait staff.
Think about how many times you enter a restaurant, sit down at a table and even before your butt touches the seat the server goes: “Can I get you started with something to drink?” like you just got there walking all the way through the Sahara. Or, when they bring you your food nice and warm, you give your first, juicy bite and the server, coming out from nowhere, attacks you at the jugular: “Is everything ok with your food, sir?” and you don’t know whether you want to spit the food you are chewing on his/her face to answer the question, or use some body language to tell them to go F@#k themselves.
The big problem is that waiting at tables seems an easy job, but it’s not. You cannot just follow a script and repeat it like a parrot. It’s a job that requires some thinking and social skills. And customer service doesn’t mean only being fast. It means to try to understand the needs of each of your customer and address them in the proper way.

7. Waiting for a table in an empty restaurant. Yes, it might sound like an oxymoron, but it happened to me a few times in Chicago (always where the dining room was not visible from the entrance/bar area). I enter the restaurant with no reservation, I check in and I’m told that the table will be ready in 10 minutes: “In the meantime, you are welcome to have a drink at the bar”.
When finally the table is “ready” you discover that there was no reason to wait 10 minutes (and, in fact, the wait is much shorter if you DO NOT follow the advice of having a drink at the bar), because the room was half empty and they just wanted you to get an extra drink at the bar (or do some charity to the bartender).

A Tuscan foodie in America said...

Hi Simone - your number 6 is annoying, but number 7 is the real winner. Itreally pisses me off badly.

restaurant tablet said...

The most bad thing for any restaurant would be total absence of light that will be reflecting some negative energy and if waiters are rude then your dinner is totally spoiled.


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