I think I’m a fairly tolerant person (although I can hear Mrs Miller sniggering as she reads this over my shoulder). I accept people make mistakes and that there is a matter of preference which can make me dislike perfectly good things. When it comes to restaurants I think I carry the same principles forward. There are many things which make a great restaurant experience. I can think of a fair few which can ruin it too:
1. Service charge is not included. I just find this impertinent. I understand fully if there are large groups but otherwise I expect to make my own mind up. I also happen to dislike it when members of staff ask if I can give my tip in cash or they will never see it. I blame the restaurant not the staff. The places I leave the best tips are the ones that give the best service. If I am let down I won’t leave a tip – it’s simple really. Don’t assume you are going to give good service and charge me in advance: Don’t assume I’m a tightwad who can’t be trusted to recognise service. You do your job..I’ll do mine.
2. Deliver the dish in its entirety. You are the cook not me. Season the food the way it ought to be and then I don’t have to fiddle with inadequate cruet sets in dimly lit restaurants which can only result in a coating of salt rather than a subtle flavouring as intended. Don’t get me to choose, and pay extra for, vegetables either. Choose something which goes with the main event and advertise it on the menu and I’ll tell you if I want something different.
3. Water is tap water. If I want ridiculously priced mineral water I’ll ask for it but generally people in Britain don’t. If you aren’t willing to serve tap water have a word with yourself. Then make sure you top it up regularly so that I never have to attract your attention. By the way – the same rule applies to coffee and tea at breakfast time.
4. Dirty tables in cafes, taking a booking and then making a customer wait for a table – or even worse seating them and then leaving them to spend half an hour looking at a menu – are all signs of running an understaffed establishment. I don’t care how good the food is if the experience is unacceptable. People are off sick occasionally (although every other business should make allowances for “shrinkage”) but if there is a particular problem don’t take an extra booking. Leave some tables empty or advise the customers the wait will be lengthy – at least they can choose.
5. Dirty glasses and cutlery. I can’t believe the number of times I’m given a chipped glass or a glass with traces of lipstick – not even my colour. My father used to have a nervous tic of always wiping the cutlery with his napkin before eating and it used to annoy and embarrass me. I’m coming round to his way of thinking. If I can see it – so should the restaurant or bar.
6. Use the right tableware. If in any doubt, serve food on a plate. Never serve food that should be eaten with a knife AND fork in a bowl. Wooden boards may be for bread but not for “platters” -the clue is in the title. Arty designer cutlery is a no-no. There is a reason why things that help you get food into your mouth and off your clothing all tend to look and feel the same.
7. Pay your electricity bill. I have been in restaurants that rely on candlelight for much of their ambiance. Great idea and they create a lovely ambiance but, as I get older, I find I need more light to read the menu. Personally I wouldn’t mind each table setting having a reading light like in the car or on a plane – a very focused discrete beam that doesn’t disturb your neighbours.
Just to illustrate that I’m the tolerant person I claim to be: I don’t need to have a piping hot plate and I don’t want food that I’ve got to wait five minutes to touch. I’ll generally put a dish that I don’t like, served in an attentive-looking restaurant, down to my poor ordering. I can even put a bad experience down to misfortune if the restaurant looks like it strives to be great. I don’t mind queueing or sharing a table if the end result is worth it and I definitely, definitely don’t care who serves me the food, what they are wearing, tattoos, hairstyles and piercings. With people, as with food, I like character and enthusiasm.
Any to add?