Saturday, July 31, 2010

Still "working"?

I'm considering writing a how-to manual for restaurant servers and hosts/hostesses. I consider myself somewhat of a restaurant critic, having visited many in my lifetime, and I have several pet peeves.

I am not speaking of fine dining establishments here, who either demand highly trained (and most likely higher paid) staff, or just adhere to stricter standards.

I'm speaking mostly of family restaurants, franchises, the ones you go to most often when in need of a meal, or want to meet a friend without spending an arm and a leg.

When you enter a restaurant, why does the host/hostess say" "Only one today?" Or "Just two?" Are they disappointed I am not a party of twelve? Is there something wrong with entering a restaurant with merely one other guest, or, God forbid, alone?

And then, why don't they ask you your choice of seating? I like to sit by a window, or in the light and warmth of the sun. So why am I always ushered to the table closest to the noisy kitchen? Double doors swinging open and closed; cooks hollering out orders. These tables should be used only as a last resort.

Recently, my husband and I met two friends at a restaurant. Our friends arrived first and were seated in a booth right next to a broken window, boarded up with wood. I bet you're guessing that was the only available seating.

Wrong. The restaurant was almost empty.

Why do the servers talk to each other while attending to you? It's as if you're invisible, or are disrupting their private conversation.

Why do they have either rock or country western music blaring away over the speakers? I think it energizes the staff, but it wears me out and makes it difficult to visit with my table mate. That's if I have a table mate.

And why on earth do they squirt the tables with cleaner or wash them just as you're being seated? Then they put the menu and napkin down and everything is wet.

Okay, here comes my all-time worst gripe:

You're finally enjoying your food and perhaps conversation with your table-mate. The server comes over, puts a hand on your plate and says: "Are you done, or are you still working on it?" Worse, "Are you still working?"


I thought I was eating.

Why not: "Are you enjoying your meal, or may I clear your plate for you?"

On the above-mentioned visit with my friends near the boarded-up window, the server busily cleared everyone's plate as we were visiting. Since I was talking at the moment, she let out an impatient sigh, held out her hand and all but snapped her fingers at me, and said, "Your plate!" - waiting for me to hand it to her since I was seated on the inside of the booth.

Since when do they need to clear a table while it's still occupied? Can't they wait until you leave?

Have restaurants been so lucrative, they've forgotten they need each customer they serve? Even if you're only one? That there are so many restaurants to choose from, one needn't frequent a bad one twice?

I know this sounds Andy Rooney-ish, but does anyone else know what I'm talking about?