Here's my beef

Maybe I’m in a bit of a foul mood, but a few things have been bothering me that I’d like to get off my chest. It seems when I dine out, I repeatedly encounter several situations and circumstances that always serve to irk me like fingernails down a chalkboard or Paris Hilton’s voice. Therefore, if you dear readers don’t mind indulging me, I’d like to run down several of my biggest restaurant pet peeves:

• My No. 1 offender is geared toward breakfast/brunch eateries. Sorry to single you out, but there’s nothing I loathe like saying “why yes, kind server, I would indeed like cream with my coffee,” and then having a small dish of those scary little single-serving tubs of non-dairy product deposited on the table. It boggles my mind when this happens in borderline upscale restaurants that bill themselves as trendy gourmet, like the cafe that shall remain unnamed where hubby and I went for breakfast earlier this week.

These non-dairy packets should be outlawed in my opinion. They are not natural, they taste like crap, and I don’t trust anything resembling dairy that doesn’t require refrigeration. I’m sure they’re cost-effective and all that, blah, blah, blah. Seriously. I know it’s easier to plop down the non-dairy creamers, but would it kill ya to bring me a tiny pour of Half and Half, or even milk would be better? I guess I could be more specific when agreeing to the proffered “cream,” but I always get the feeling if I start making detailed requests right off the bat, I’ll immediately be pegged one of “those” customers.

• Second biggest pet peeve is servers who drop off your check before you’re done eating. I know you work on tips, and I can appreciate that if the place is packed with people waiting for seats, it behooves you to turn the tables as quickly as possible. But when the place is only half-full to begin with and your shift isn’t over for another two hours, there is no excuse for slapping down my bill when I’m not even halfway through my food. And softening the blow with a “no rush, just whenever you’re ready…” does not make it any better. You might as well say “Chew a little faster, grandma, and don’t let the door hit you on the ass.”

• For hubby’s sake, I must bring up the big O. That would be onions. I can’t even begin to tell you the number of times he has specifically asked a server if a dish contains onions and is told no, only to have said dish arrive teeming with the things. Or, he clarifies that a certain item on the plate will not contain onions and then discovers that some other side dish or accompaniment contains them. (We were recently in a breakfast place that promised there would be no onions in his omelet, only to serve him country potatoes laced with ‘em.) God forbid, the server takes the onion-laden dish to the kitchen to remedy the problem, simply removes the slice or ring and then returns the already tainted plate as is. He will still smell them and taste them. For people with heavy-duty food allergies, this could be a very serious matter. While onions will not cause an anaphylactic reaction or any life-threatening condition for my husband, their mere presence will usually put a serious damper on the meal for the both of us.

In the nearly seven years we’ve been married, I must shamefully admit to trying to pull one over on him a time or two, and he’s busted me every time. No matter how finely the onions are grated, no matter how many other spices are competing in the recipe, no matter how clever I think I’ve been about disguising them. He ALWAYS knows. And once he’s been wronged, it takes a recovery period for me to regain his trust, during which time I will have to reassure him time and again that no, I haven’t put any onions into whatever I’m dishing up for dinner. Just tonight, in fact, he asked me if I’d put onions in something, even though it’s been several years since my last attempt to sneak some by. I’ve learned my lesson. I personally enjoy onions, but now I save them for meals I’m cooking solo or for other audiences.

• Servers who say “No problem.” Me: “Excuse me, this fork is dirty. Could I get another one, please?” Server: “Sure, no problem.” Um… hold the phone. Yes, Houston we DO have a problem! If there were no problem, I wouldn’t be asking you to replace it. Or… Me: “Thanks.” Server: “No problem.” The correct response is “You’re welcome.” Perhaps this is the nitpicky English major/grammar snob/editorial drill sergeant in me rearing its ugly head, but still. It bugs.

• Restaurants without web sites. In this day, age and economy, my dining-out dollars are somewhat precious. If I’m considering checking out a place I’ve never been before, I’d like to have a general idea of what I’ll be getting for my money. I don’t need a 360-degree interactive view of your dining room and a virtual meal experience. However, I would like to be able to check out your menu ahead of time. With prices, please. It doesn’t have to be anything super flashy, just take the time to make sure your online presence is up to date. If your Yelp or Urbanspoon listing links to a web address that’s a dead end or if the menu you’ve posted is ten years old, it makes me suspicious and you risk me going somewhere else.

• Suggested gratuity amounts at the bottom of the bill. You make think you’re conveniently making the math easier for the customer, but in fact, you’re being presumptuous as hell. Last time I checked, tips were still not compulsory. If my server is going to arrive at the table with a surly attitude and act like I’m doing him/her a favor, perhaps he/she should consider a new vocation. I must justify this remark by saying that I pride myself on being a respectful customer and a consistently good tipper, at least 20 percent for problem-free service, and often more like 25 or 30 in places I visit regularly. I assume diners with half a brain know how to calculate a decent tip for decent service. I could be wrong. If so, I will stand corrected by issuing a hearty apology.

Whew. Thanks for listening. I feel so much better now. I promise to lighten up on the bitching and make my next post much more chipper.

Lest restaurant owners and servers think I’m trying to pick on them, I’d love to turn the tables and hear some of YOUR biggest customer pet peeves about customers! (Feel free to post anonymously if necessary.)

4 thoughts on “Here's my beef

  1. I love the “no problem” comment!! I actually took an etiquette class in college . . . apparently, saying “no problem” is a big no-no, because it assumes there was a problem to begin with!

    As a fellow English major, my favorite is when I ask someone how they’re doing, and they say “I’m doing good.” I want to say, “Oh, really? what charity are you currently volunteering for? What peace mission are you involved in? WHAT GOOD ARE YOU DOING, EXACTLY??!?” You’re doing/feeling WELL, people!!


  2. Unfortunately as someone who worked as a server for almost 8 years, every restaurant I worked out told us we had to put the check down at a certain time. It’s not to necessarily rush you out of there, but so that the people who want to leave quickly already have access to their check. I got so much grief for this throughout the years from people with the same opinion as you, but I was never trying to rush them. Blame management, not the staff!

  3. To add to the tipping issue…went to Northside Social with a large group of people a few weeks ago. Night started with our server actually saying “Oh, they told me you were going to be one big check, I was so excited” when we informed her that we’d be on separate checks. Went on from there. Ended poorly, too, when they automatically added a 20% gratuity to everyone’s bill. Now, I know that with large groups, gratuities are automatically added. But it’s usually 15-18%, and you can add to that amount if you feel the service justified more. In this case, we weren’t even given that option, and with the service we got I found that pretty frustrating. Funnily, I probably would have added more if it had been a lower percentage, but the fact that we were forced to give her 20% left me with a bad taste in my mouth.

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