Restaurant Pet Peeves

Food: Hopefully the Best Part of Every Dining Experience But the Rest Matters as Well

As I prepare to head out on a five-week journey—here, there and the other place—I’m trying to mentally prepare myself for the pitfalls of travel. Yes, I love to travel. But it’s not always easy as I outlined in Traveler’s Woes: Internet Hassles, Hotel Pet Peeves and What Kind of a Traveler Am I Anyhow? Part One:  Packing. I’m also recalling the wise words of a dear friend that I elaborated on in Travel Lightly:  Something to Remember During the Busy Holiday Season and Always. Yes, it helps if you get your mind straight, if you lower expectations and anticipate that it will not always be smooth sailing. (I don’t like to manifest a negative happening, however, it does help to be pragmatic.)

I’m trying to get a handle on my packing trauma by having begun to lay out my clothing, accessories and other assorted stuff last Sunday. This allows me to contemplate my piles. It all looks good so far, however, stuffing it into my bags (one duffle, plus a carry on with wheels) will be the real challenge.

Right now I’m considering the fatigue of it all, so I better start tapping into “travel lightly”—as in light in spirit—big time.

There will inevitably be many wonderful meals out and there’s no doubt that even some of the finest establishments will trigger something in me that will make me cringe. It happens all the time. Am I a pill? Maybe. But consult my list of restaurant pet peeves and I’ll bet you’ve been irked some, too:

-When a server addresses clients as “you guys.”

-When a server asks “are you still working on it?” What ever happened to “may I clear your plate” or “have you finished?” When did dining become work?

-Dining at a less-than sparkling table, especially when it comes to glassware.

-Intrusive servers—ever have one that jumps in on your conversation?

-Even worse—have you ever had a server wipe their nose (typically with the back of their hand) when serving you? I have.

-And what about when a server doesn’t know what’s in a dish—isn’t that annoying? Even worse, I sometimes hear things like “I don’t know, I don’t like mushrooms.”

-I also become ornery when the host or hostess seats you and says “your server will be right with you” and then it takes forever for that person to come to your table. How about “it might be a little while, may I offer you an apéritif?”

-Then there’s the change thing. The worst is when you give a server a big fat bill (which they see) and ask if you want change. No, I thought I’d leave you a 40% tip.

Am I sounding cranky? I guess I’ve been spoiled having lived in France for over a decade, a country where being a server is a real profession. I’m rarely peeved with the above there, even in the most humble cafés. It’s all about training. If you’re a chef or a restaurant manager, please share the above list with your staff. I invite all to post your own pet peeves in a comment. Or, feel free to comment on mine.

If you’re a server, know that I wholeheartedly appreciate the efforts required to do your job—I waitressed for many summers in my prime. But it’s always the little things that make a difference. Consider the above list, the little things.

Bon appétit!

11/8/12-Here are some other language peeves provided by one of my avid readers:  the use of “have a nice day,” “awesome” and “I have no idea.” “Their indiscriminate use is diluting the thrust of great words,” he adds.
31 Oct 2012, 12:00pm
by Susan Stone

Yes, Maribeth, we’re still spoiled in France.

I absolutely agree with every point you made about peeves with serving staff. I especially loathe the “are you working on it?” which makes it sound like your meals is an arduous task instead of a moment of pleasure. I too have waitressed so know how hard a job it is to wait tables. But a little courtesy and common sense goes a long way…
All the best, Harriet Welty Rochefort

Maribeth – Having just returned from a month in France where we frequently enjoyed an amuse-bouche while waiting for our entrée and main course, we know we will probably run into some of the issues you mention now that we are home. Dining in France spoils us all. Having a server give us his name is another annoyance. If we need him, we will recognize his face and probably won’t remember his name anyway. You certainly wrote what so many of us have been thinking for years! And, the interrupted conversations by a server to find out if ‘everything is okay’ is the most annoying of all.

Bon voyage!

Great article. Might I add that on a recent trip to Utah, I happened to dine in what was classified as a 4 star resort…however the waiter, besides being extremely chatty upon our arrival, chatted whilst gnawing on a tooth-pick for most of the conversation…and at one point finally retired the toothpick to the platter he was holding with water glasses, etc. on it. UNBELIEVABLE!!!

What an initial impression that left. Felt like I was dining at a “Po Folks” in the deep south with fried chicken and taters, rather than a 4 star resort.

Guten Appetit!

Let’s air them all and get them out of our system! My two pet peeves in a restaurant: When you’ve used silverware for a first course, and they put it back on the table. They won’t give you clean silver for the next course. Even if you’ve deliberately put it on the side of the plate to be taken away.
And, wait staff (everywhere) who say “No problem” instead of “You’re welcome.” Grrrr.
That’s off my chest, let’s smile!


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