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Restaurant faux pas

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 
Diners in the UK have listed the following as their biggest gripes when eating out. The two that came out top of the list are;

1. Over attentive servers. Is everything ok? Is everything ok? Is everything ok?

2. Double tipping, where the service is included but not made clear on the bill and they allow you to tip again without saying anything.

Others include being charged for tap water, paying over the top for bottled water, pretentious menus written in Franglish, a mixture of French and English, and unusual cullinary terms that only chefs understand. Open salt and pepper bowls, tiny portions and over zealous servers rushing you so they can turn tables.

Interesting pointers for owners wishing to up their game. I know there have been many threads highlighting pet peeves on cheftalk, but on the points I have raised here, how do they compare to the US?
post #2 of 23
I think most of those things would irritate diners in the US, although charges for tap water and open S&P bowls are rarely seen here. I think our No. 1 gripe, though, is simply bad food. I can put up with most other things if the food is good and the service is at least adequate.
post #3 of 23
The New Yorker cartoonists have had a field day about this for decades. I remember one from the late 80s entitled "Munch in Manhattan," in which a strange large-eyed figure tries to order and eat his meal, and the waiter keeps running back: "I'm John and I'll be your serving-person today!" Cut to man looking horrified, hands to sides of head. "How's it going with that menu?" Man looks more horrified. "Fresh-ground pepper on your salad?" Man has fully transformed into Munch's "The Scream."
I have heard of this, but I believe it is illegal -- I don't know about federally, but certainly it was illegal in Chicago, because I know one place that got slapped with a hefty fine for it. Turned out the waiter was doing this on the sly, so the restaurant paid the fine and then sued (and fired) the waiter, and collected a hefty sum. That'd be mid-90s if anyone wants to look it up; I don't remember what restaurant, but nothing super-fancy I think.
Not seen this one.
Used to be normal in New York, but there was this big thing where everyone decided that bottled water was polluting the universe, so maybe that's changed.
Two versions of this are common here.

1. Every word qualified with an endless explanation of origin. There's no such thing as bacon any more, only "Cochon Porcine El Lardo Farm Organic Maple-Hickory-Applewood Smoked Prime Belly Bacon." Multiply by the rest of the menu item.

2. Authenticity demonstrated by a refusal to frame any menu item in anything but the native language (usually Italian or Spanish), and a careful instruction (apparently) to the waitstaff to deride any customer who doesn't know what the terms mean. Also popular in sushi restaurants, who serve frozen mediocrity but make a fuss about using only the "authentic" terms just like in Japan (meaning, just like in sushi restaurants in the immediate Tokyo area, since everywhere else the terms differ).
I thought this was illegal. Chefs?
A running gag since la nouvelle cuisine, in the U.S. this has been replaced by the 50-Gallon Drum O'Meat, followed by the waiter showing up to ask, "you still working on that?"
There was a long article in the NY Times about this a few years ago, and people were indeed irritated. I recall distinctly that the staff at Daniel were essentially throwing people out to make room for the next reservation, which had been scheduled too soon.
post #4 of 23
I saw something like this on Gordon's F-word last week. Many irritating things apply to the US also, although open salt and pepper bowls would never be permitted in the US. I cringe when I see them on the table at people's houses in fact.

Double tipping is something I'm careful about now since it has happened to me here in NYC. I suggest everyone look carefully at your receipt because sometimes they have added gratuity to your bill.

I don't like being forced into turn-over. Being of european origin I like to enjoy my meal at a restaurant without jumping from course to course as speedily as possible. Most Americans are not like this though. They want to eat and they want to get out quickly and usually "allot" themselves a certain amount of time for eating by scheduling something for after dinner like a movie or going to the theater. In Greece where I'm from once a restaurant is full they tell you "sorry, we're full" they don't try to put your name on a list, they just send you away because they don't try to turn over the tables.

What I find most annoying is when I'm handed the check while I'm eating... "whenever you're ready!" It makes me feel rushed. I als don't like being asked "do you need change?" It's rude.

I never like being asked if everything is ok more than once. It's polite for the waiter to come by after the food has been served to see if everything meets your needs but to continuously ask me if I'm ok makes me feel like I'm being babysat. What is actually useful is keeping an eye on me so that if I need something I can get the waiter's attention easily.

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."


"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

post #5 of 23
Thread Starter 
Interesting, open s&p bowls are not common here but I have seen them a few times they are horrible and I have been charged for tap water, again not really a common practise. Most of the others are standard gripes.

I have visited parts of Florida fairly regularly since the early eighties and back then I found the service (is everthing ok? type) a little strange but still quite nice. I had never heard of it before as we were very stuffy and pompous over here back then. But in the last 20 years we have adopted it proudly and you hardly ever leave a restaurant now without hearing "Have a nice day" its still nice but only if they mean it.
post #6 of 23
packaged butter packets in anything 2-star and above.

terms on the menu that completely are not what it "Really" is, and misrepresent to sound good. you know...gastrique, emulsion, foam, blah blah. comes out with a quick pan sauce.

"fresh" before anything on the menu, or for godsake, that silly necessity to have a "Kobe Burger" or "Kobe Slider" on the menu.

10oz martini cocktail glasses.

cocktails called a martini, because they are served in said 10oz "martini" glasses....but haven't a hint of vermouth, or gin, and usually some fruity vodka.
post #7 of 23
RPM I have decided that for your birthday I'm buying you an industrial sized box of butter packets from Costco. You can hurl them at the froofroo chefs when they walk out the back door of the restaurant for a cig break.

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."


"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

post #8 of 23
Pssshhh what do you think I do when I'm served them?....take the whole basket full of them in NRatcheds purse....I'm saving up to unleash them on some unsuspecting restaurateur.

another faux pau.....when they don't announce the price of the "specials" and the "specials" are triple the price of what they are worth, and double the price of any other entree on the menu. This happened to me with just a silly ribeye once...I forget, but I think on the menu it was the same steak, maybe a lesser weight cut by 2 or 4 oz. but the price was DOUBLE when I got the bill....silly me for not asking the price, but I assumed it was close to it's similiar entree on the menu. nothing in the special warrented the truffles, no rare earth magnets...nothing....just maybe a different seasoning and a pansauce or something.
post #9 of 23
as far as all the things that are illegal; differ. country, differ. rules.
So many Flavors; So little time. Taste your way through life.
So many Flavors; So little time. Taste your way through life.
post #10 of 23
when I uaed to serve it went something like this:

15 sec or as soon as the coats are off meet and greet and direct the guest's attention to the apps menu(possible drink order)

return with drink order; suggest app., possible app. order(doesn't have to be the most expensive app. just that i honestly like it); if young children are present and depending on the age let them play with the toy I always carried so the adults could look at the menu more freely, also take childs order(taking child's order at this time can be a double edged sword, some parents like to go ahead and place it because their child may eat slow, however some parents may have fast eating children, so therefore would prefer to place the order when they place the child's order when they place their own. If you do suggest to take the child's order now and the parent wanted to place it with theirs; you have just opened the door for an inpatient child to start whinning. so what i am saying feel the guest out and play it by ear.)

return with app. (in a good kitchen this should only be a couple of minutes), suggest entree or take entree order and suggest entree upcharge, if child's order was placed it might be ready to bring to the table.

return with with salads, check drinks.

return with entree, check drinks

2 bite-2 minute check back, check drinks

clear plates, offer and suggest desert or coffee, check drinks

return with desert, check drinks

2 bite-2 minute check back, check drinks

clear plates, check drinks, drop bill(s)

check drinks, pick up bill

return with change (never ask if they need change, always return with exact change the guest will determine if they would like you to keep it)

check drinks, invite back

during the whole service always keep a watchfull eye on the table from afar and you will be able to maintain silent service and place the order using the point system.
So many Flavors; So little time. Taste your way through life.
So many Flavors; So little time. Taste your way through life.
post #11 of 23
I am ashamed to admit it, but when I was still a green server I CHARGED for tap water; my excuse is I was fallowing restaurant policy, but the funny thing is that i never fallowed that policy again in any restaurant i have worked at. If you are or someone reading this is the guest I did that to all those years ago, I am sorry.
So many Flavors; So little time. Taste your way through life.
So many Flavors; So little time. Taste your way through life.
post #12 of 23
I've been to Indian restaurants where I pronounce something correctly (I grew up in India), and the server says "you'd like some xxx?", not-so-subtly correcting my pronunciation and benevolently smiling, when they are the ones mispronouncing it. There's no way they were just making sure they understood . . . I put a bit of an American accent to it, and then they totally mess it up :crazy: I'm a white guy, so they think I just don't know, I guess.
post #13 of 23
I was at a French restaurant in Boston a couple years back, with a very full-of-himself waiter. At the table also were the majority of the Boston University French literature faculty, plus some of their colleagues from Harvard. One senior professor ordered and had her pronunciation "corrected" with a sneer by the waiter. Once he'd left the table, we all died laughing. We also left him a rotten tip (this wasn't his only faux pas) and a brief note... in French.
post #14 of 23
HAH:D That's hilarious!
post #15 of 23
Thread Starter 
To digress a little, this one really bugs me. There is an Italian restaurant local to me and they make such a big deal about the authentic Italian family restaurant thingy. Soooo here are some items from their Christmas menu, Chateaubriand, creme brulee and lemon souffle.

Also, my wife is manager of a restaurant with a French name but advertise Mediterranean fare including bruschetta, Spanish tortilla, lamb tagine and plenty of pasta dishes. It kind of puts me off going if they are not even sure of their own identity.

Is it just me?
post #16 of 23
To expand on that Bazza it's my pet peeve to go to "italian" restaurants that serve everything bathed in a tub of marinara. Olive Garden is a good example of this, just top everything with 2 cups of marinara, and sprinkle with cheese. Every item on their menu tastes exactly the same.

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."


"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

post #17 of 23
Thats funny you say that when your quote is "All I need is an onion".........onion, eh?.........on everything?! messing with ya
So many Flavors; So little time. Taste your way through life.
So many Flavors; So little time. Taste your way through life.
post #18 of 23
Ugh! The "never-disappearing, constantly checking waiter" is one pet peeve. I can't remember who wrote it, but talking about overly-solicitous waiters they said something like, "Oh, come on! One more bite for Kevin-your-waiter!" There's been a few times when I was afraid that was going to happen!

Second is the "Do you want your change?" Why, yes, yes I do. If the waiter wants to say something as they take the check and money, they should try, "I'll be right back" or "I'll be right back with your change". Asking if I want my change is going to wind-up reducing their tip every time.

Third is stinky service because I'm a female eating alone. I'm not a savage. I'm not going to get drunk and come-on to other patrons and/or the waitstaff. I'm not going to demand odd alterations to a menu item to fit into the Diet-of-the-Week. All I want is a decent meal, decently served and (if they haven't asked about my change!), they'll be over-tipped, if anything. C'mon! Give me a chance!
post #19 of 23
It's funny, I wrote about it once on another similar thread here, but I remember once being felt sorry for when I arrived at a restaurant alone. The waiter couldn't really believe that I'd be lunching alone and kept asking me why I wasn't having lunch with someone. If I remember correctly he said "Alone? By yourself? Don't you have a brother or somebody to have lunch with?"

Another tip to waiters: Mind your own business.

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."


"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

post #20 of 23
Overattentive servers that frequent my table just as I'm clearly chewing a large bite of food and ask how is everything? When I can't possible answer unless I let food fall out of my mouth while attemtping totalk with my mouth full. Bad manners. Then stand there waiting for me to finish the bite so they can get my reply. It makes me feel rushed and it's annoying. For me, it just seems like murphy's law when I go out to eat. At least twice during the meal the servers fail to recognize that I now might not be a good to ask me to talk. =)
post #21 of 23
Three foot tall pepper grinders carried by waitstaff. What absurd foolishness and a complete waste of the server's and everyone at the table's time while the poor goof has to go round the table peppering everyone's salad. I can grind my own pepper for pete's sake. It's just pepper, not gold. It hasn't needed to be kept under lock and key since the middle ages. We go to a very popular and unfancy local place sometimes that has small grinders right on the tables. BRILLIANT! You can shave that truffle for me, but I'll take care of the pepper.
post #22 of 23
Recent occurrences, so they're fresh in my mind. Went to a fairly upscale restaurant just 4 days ago. They give you a bottle of wine worth how old you are if it's your birthday. I just turned 60 yesterday. I wanted two of the $26 chilean Cabernet's but they wouldn't do it. SOmething about being able to track the wine. The $60 bottle was some 2004 Valentine something or other from Napa valley. So acidic, it ate some of the enamel off my teeth.

But we ate there about 1 month ago for the first time. EVerything was really delicious, the service was great, the manager even came by to say hello.

This time, my filet mignon was 1 or 2 degrees above room temperature, but the parmesan leek potato bed it was served on was just the right temperature for eating. I had to send it back. (I REALLY hate to send food back, never know for sure if there will be some "extras" in the food for having sent it back...I worked in a restaurant and have seen things you don't wanna know about!).

SO backing up a little, they served the bread first. THen brought the appetizer and the salad at the same time. THe waiter saw my agitation, and took the salads back to keep them "on ice" for us. One bite of the bread and I was asked how everything was! I hadn't even tasted the scallop appetizer yet.

It was ok. One big scallop and one small one. $12.95, with 2 pumpkin seeds and some crumbled walnuts and some sort of cream sauce.

Then the filet came along with my wife's tournedoes. Like I said, my filet was cold and I sent it back. Then I looked at my wife screw her face up at the first bite of the tournedo. I figured it was too pink for her. No, she says "Taste this". I refrained. But later I tried her other tournedo, and it definitely had an "off flavor". SO I mentioned it near the end of the dinner. By that time my new filet with a bunch of new potatoes (which i didn't want because I'd already ate the ones that came with the cold filet....that's how long it took the waiter to come back and ask how everything was).

SO, the manager comes over, and I tell her that my first filet was cold, and while we weren't asking for our money back or anything, I suggested the chef smell the raw tournedoes because they had that "refrigerator flavor" to them. She insisted (despite my reassurances it was ok) to replace the entire wife's meal in a doggie bag.

The next day, we heated them up, and they had the same "off flavor" again.

Whats the use of replacing bad food with more bad food. And we waited over 30 minutes for the check. So, considering my time and how valuable my free time is to me on a week day night, I paid more for that free $60 bottle of wine than if I'd ordered the two $26 chilean wines.

So, two hundred dollars spent between two visits. The only thing I came away from there was a new spinach salad idea. A red onion vinaigrette, dried red cherries, nutmeg/cinnamon sugar syrup coated walnuts, crumbled blue cheese salad. It was awesome. Probably standard fare for many of you, but I don't go out to eat much in the last 15 or so years. (For reasons just like this!).

Oh, did eat at a Middle Eastern restaurant, where I am well known by most of the staff. I said "A salaam alekim" to the checkout cashier, and she stopped dead in her tracks, eyes wide open, and said "Where did you learn this?" Did I say "said", she "demanded" to know how I knew this. She wouldn't give me my change until I answered. It was really weird. Like I was an agent or something spying on them!

Luckily my favorite waitress came by, and assured her that I was "ok" and I got my change and left bewildered by the experience.

Just to summarize, my pet peeve is having them come to me and ask how everything is when I obviously haven't even eaten anything yet.

post #23 of 23
I can get away with over attentive waiters. What I hate is when they do not react if a customer was obviously not totally happy with the food! "How was everything" - "Mhhh" - "Great, would you like to see the menu for desert". I get upset when my staff does not react properly to this.

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