Oct 1, 201810:04 AM
The Editor's Room
Weekly Commentary with New Orleans Magazine’s Errol Laborde
Restaurant Peeves: A Heated Conversation
It happened at lunch today: a server who almost took away my plate while there was still a shrimp in waiting. And it happened last night: a drink which almost disappeared even when there was still hooch and a cherry at the ice level. It is time, I resolved, to deal again with restaurant peeves.
From time to time, with occasional lapses, I have expounded on restaurant peeves. A couple of the peeves are perennials, but have become increasingly annoying with each passing year, and the others are comparatively new, but gaining traction on the annoyance scale. In ascending order they are:
5. Televisions that are too loud.
Just about every restaurant has a television now, if not in the dining room, at the bar. I can understand increasing the volume when the Saints or LSU are on, but not when Boise State is playing Utah. And please, CNN-type political talking heads gives me heartburn. Let the dining experience be its own entertainment.
4. Servers who come to tell you the daily specials after you have spent time pouring over the menu.
Why wait? Daily specials should be told to customers before they start probing the menu, not after. To have spent minutes selecting something from the menu, only to find out that there is something else is a waste of time. And just because the special might be written on some chalkboard somewhere doesn’t count. Those are easy to miss. To me this is a basic rule of marketing: If you have something to sell, tell the customer.
3. Menu type that is too small.
I know, some may say that this is a response to age, but any age is served better by type that is easy to read, especially in restaurants that usually tend to be darkened. I have taken to carrying a small flash light attached to my key ring, but it shouldn’t be that hard. Make your menus customer friendly
2. People talking on cell phone at the table.
When cell phones were novel they would be used in restaurants as some sort of empowerment tools, but now everyone has them, no one is impressed. Besides those who have prolonged phone conversations at their tables invariably speak louder than in normal conversation and that adds to the annoyance. Their conversation is also rude to their guests who are just left staring. Put them outside with the smokers, I don’t care, but don’t let the cell phone users interrupt my meal.
1. Servers taking plates away too fast.
This peeve has remained consistently in first place. Some restaurateurs, I know, are conscientious about the problem, and instruct their staff to do better, but the problem persists. And the servers always make it sound like they are doing you a favor as in, “may I get this out of your way?” To which I have always wanted to reply, but never have, “I am in a restaurant, I want a plate to be in my way.” Through the years, I have become increasingly militant on this issue so that if my plate is empty I will not let it be removed if my dining partner’s isn’t. To take away the plate sends a message to the others at the table to hurry and finish. As a hedge, I even keep a scrap of food on the plate to show that I am not done yet.
I don’t mean to sound grumpy. I remember the days after Hurricane Katrina when those of us who were here missed the restaurants that had not reopened and rejoiced at news of their return. One problem they faced was a shortage of people to wait tables. The restaurant industry serves us not just nutritionally but emotionally as well. We appreciate what they do. Just keep the champagne chilled and the coffee hot.
BOOK ANNOUNCEMENT: Errol’s Laborde’s books, “New Orleans: The First 300 Years” and “Mardi Gras: Chronicles of the New Orleans Carnival” (Pelican Publishing Company, 2017 and 2013), are available at local bookstores and at book websites.
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