This post is part of a series.
What really annoys you when you are out to eat? Probably not the same things as me. Sure, there are people on their cell phones, or people with kids, but that’s just normal stuff, as far as I’m concerned. Buy a few things get to me. And by the way, people who tell gross stories while we are eating, that doesn’t bother me a bit – I’m that guy. Did I ever tell you about my experience with colonics?
- An emtpy drink – I know a wait-person’s day can get hectic at times, but the one thing that starts me subtracting from the tip in my head (20%, 19%, 18%…) is when my drink gets empty. You see, I MUST take a sip after every bite. I’m not sure if that is typical, but my Grandparents set me up – you see, my Grandmother would give me this huge glass of milk with dinner, and my Grandfather would say “you’re not getting up until you finish your plate, and that includes your milk.” So to help get rid of the milk, I learned to take a sip after every bite. Now I’m habituated! It’s typical for me to drink 4-7 glasses of diet soda with lunch – it’s gotten so bad, my usual waiter at the local Red Robin just brings a glass and a pitcher of soda.
- A missing drink during refills – I never want to be without a drink. Never. Otherwise, I have to stop eating until it gets back. Really. I mean, I can force myself to take another bite, but um, now I’m not enjoying my food. Good wait staff bring me a new glass of liquid refreshment while allowing me to keep my current one until the new one arrives. Bad wait staff take my glass to go refill it. Now I’m without a drink. I have actually talked to waiters about this, and as it turns out, some restaurants require their staff to use the same glass, while others, paradoxically, require them to bring a new one. Look, I don’t care what the company policy is, bring me another glass before taking away my current one.
- Bad timing in the kitchen – Sometimes, your appetizer or salad arrives, and then the entree arrives a minute later, and you haven’t had time to enjoy the appetizer. That’s just bad form. Even worse, if the kitchen turns out your meal too fast, the wait person, in order to correct their bad timing, lets your stuff dry out, get crusty, or even get cold under the heat lamps. For the amount we pay to eat out, this stuff is just not acceptable. As a side note, I have learned that some Asian places have no sense of timing, and bring stuff out when it’s ready. I’ve gotten used to that, though as it turns out, some people get their food right away, while others might wait another five minutes. I can live with that.
- Sour washrag smell – some places just don’t clean the mopwater often enough, or use sour cloths to clean the tables. I *hate* that smell. In fact, I refuse to eat a place that has that smell if I smell it when I walk in.
- Heavy chlorine smell – the opposite problem is just as bad. I’m sensitive to smells, and nothing can kill off an appetite like a restaurant that smells like Clorox. Listen, chlorine is NOT what clean smells like – an absence of odors is what it smells like. Get it right, you only need a capful! Along these same lines, some Asian soup places soak their ceramic spoons in chlorine water, and the porous spoons come out smelling like my white wash. I do not want to put that in my mouth, yech.
- Food that smells bad – mostly, this can happen with seafood dishes. I frequent Asian places, and once in a while, esp. in Thai places, I get a shrimp dish that smells like the shrimp have been sitting out. I’m sorry, but a strong fish smell means your fish is either not fresh, or you have some of that really smelly stuff that Chinese people like (one Chinese friend of mine told me that they eat that smelly fish because American fish has so little taste!). Food is supposed to smell good. Don’t get me wrong, I like the smell (and taste) of liver and kidneys and such, but spoiled food is an understandable pet peeve. I once tried chitlins, and when they brought them to the table, I thought someone had farted! Those things are rank. Don’t let anyone tell you “they don’t smell if you clean them right and boil them win an onion.” They just don’t smell as badly.
- A manager that doesn’t comp you for bad service or food – Look, I’m not one to complain (really!), but if my food came out wrong, or 10 minutes after everyone else is finished, or if I had to return it because of some fault of theirs, the manager needs to take it off the bill, or at least give me a credit for next time. Those skin-flints that don’t are just telling me that I don’t need to come back.
- Loud restaurants – on busy nights, the local Chevy’s here is so loud that you actually have to shout to be heard across the table. And at another local restaurant, it was so loud I had to press my 2 year-old’s ear against my chest, and cover the other one because she was crying it was so loud. Places that are all tile (like Mexican places) and have no sound baffling suck. But even in places with carpeting, sometimes the background music is just loud enough that people have to speak more loudly to be heard, and that ends up pushing the volume level up all over the place.
- Booths that are too shallow – look, I know I could lose 40 lbs., but when you only leave 12 inches between the back of the seat and the edge of the table, you are really just creating seating for children (non-obese ones ;) and anorexic models. Quit trying to save space and let me lean forward a little to eat, will you?
- Center-post tables and other leg-room problems – I *hate* tables that don’t allow me to put my size 11 shoes down without kicking the damn post. Can’t they just have strong L-joints supporting the table? Or when there’s so little room that, even with our heels against the seat, we’re still kicking each other. Give me some space! I’m from the US (and maybe from Texas), don’t crush me into the restaurant booth made by small Japanese car designers!
- Sitting on the crack – ever been to a place where they put tables together for a big party, and try to fit three people across two tables? Yeah, one guy has to sit across the crack where the tables meet, and balance his plate across the uneven divide. Quit being so cheap and let one person sit at a table side.
- Big lunch parties – I actually hate big work lunches, like when you are celebrating a birthday or somone’s departure. Not only do you not get to talk to them, but you end up paying a lot by dividing up the bill. And they are usually noisy (see #8). Also, you often get caught inbetween two groups of conversations, and have to decide which to join. Half the time, you have to choose between two conversations you could care less about – like the jocks talking about the latest useless sports news, or some women talking about P.S. I Love You. What fun.
- People that order expensive meals or drinks at big lunch parties – they know you are going to split the bill, so they order the $21 New York steak, since when it all gets divided up evenly, they’ll end up paying $16. Now, cool people will throw in an extra $5 to cover the difference, but these jerks? Playing the system. I’m the guy that orders the $10 lunch plate and then grumbles about the big spenders. That’s not right either, is it? Well, whatever.
- Places with great food but crappy atmosphere – Some people are thrilled to find dives in the inner city with great food. “You’ve got to check out this little boutique place I found – the food is excellent, even though it backs up to a garbage dump with a train that goes by every 10 minutes.” I’m one of those rare people that want a modicum of comfort and atmosphere, even if it means I’m not eating fine food. Dont’ get me wrong, I love fine food, but I don’t *have* to eat it every meal. I’d often rather go to Applebee’s for the atmo than some fancy, cramped place on the north side of San Fran. Trendy and hip is something for 20 year olds, not for grown ups.
- Empty plates on the table – Even when I am at home, I can’t sit in front of an empty plate and keep talking – I’ve GOT to get it out of my way. Why? I don’t know, it’s just *messy.* When a waiter leaves my empty plate in front of me too long, the tip counter starts counting down in my head.
- Tile tables – this may sound funny, but I can’t eat at Chili’s, not only because of their less than great food and menu, but due to the fact that eating on a tile table makes me feel like I’m in the bathroom. I prefer wood. Glass tables aren’t my favorite either, they’re so cold. Who cares if all you need is windex to clean them? It’s all about warmth and comfort for me, that’s why I drive a Chrysler LHS (I mean, if I could afford a BMW 740il, I would).
Well, there you go. You got any?