PEEVES OF THE DECADE
For the last 10 years or so, this month’s column, with occasional lapses, has chronicled what it considers to be top restaurant peeves. Because, our Best of Dining issue corresponds with a change in decades, that provides an excuse to vent some of those peeves. A couple of the peeves are perennials that 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 Hornets are on, but not when Boise State is playing Utah. And please, CNN 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 given list, only to find out that there’s something else, is a waste of time, and probably hurts the chances of marketing the specials. And just because the special might be written on some chalkboard somewhere, it 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 those who had them would use them in restaurants as some sort of empowerment tools, but now that everyone has one, no one is impressed. Besides, those who have prolonged phone conversations at their tables invariably speak louder than normal conversation and that adds to the annoyance. Their conversation is also rude to their guests who are just left staring. Just as some restaurants have designated smoking areas, maybe they need to have cell phone use areas too. Put them 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 through the decade setting, I suspect, some sort of restaurant peeve record. 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’re doing you a favor, as in, “may I get this out of the 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 won’t 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’m not done yet. And if the server is impatient for something to do, there’s always Boise State and Utah.