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10 Things That You’re Doing Wrong at Restaurants: A Response


My Father recently forwarded me an article titled “10 Things That You’re Doing Wrong at Restaurants” by Adam Roberts.  My Father knows me pretty well.  This article encouraged less outrage than other articles instructing guests about restaurant life from the perspective of someone who does not work in a restaurant.  There are some points where I agree fully and some where the author is completely wrong.  I want to take some time today to point out each.

  1. Accepting A Table That You Don’t Like.

Mr Roberts explains that if the host takes you to a table you do not like, you should ask for another.  He goes on to say that if this request is not accommodated, you should leave.  This alone shows the lack of understanding that the author has for how restaurants work.  There is almost always a reason a certain table is selected.  Whether it is to make sure you have a server who did not just receive two other tables and is overwhelmed or to ensure that a larger table is held for a larger party that will be arriving soon.  An empty table may indicate that the server it is assigned to have not arrived yet or that it is waiting for the table next to it to depart to that it can accommodate a large reservation.  If you are unhappy with your table, ask before being seated if there is another table.  Accompany the host back to the front door as they look for another available table.  Do not say, “I want that table” and pout if you cannot have it.

2. Listening To Your Server Instead of Your Craving.

If you are in the mood for steak, don’t order the fish.  No matter how good the fish is, it won’t taste like steak. 

3. Not Asking Questions.

I agree fully with this one.  I am a question asking fool when I am a guest.  I will not laugh at your question. 

 4. Not Thinking The Meal Through From Beginning To End.

Another point I think most diners fail to consider.  Having beef carpaccio, steak soup, and a ribeye might not be the most effective meal strategy.

5. Ordering A Bottle of Wine When Wine By The Glass Makes More Sense.

The author’s idea here is that if everyone is having different types of food it is better to order by the glass than pair one bottle to everything.  I can agree with that, but his math is flawed.  He contends that the price of four glasses is generally the same as the price of a bottle.  Most restaurants set the price of a bottle at the price of three glasses.  This means that for a party of four where two of the members want a white and two want a red, the real consideration should be if anyone will want a second glass.  Paying for three glasses is the same price as a bottle and provides a free glass.  It also greatly increases the selection on most wine lists.

6. Salting Your Food Before You Taste It.

Amen.  The chef seasons the food well at most restaurants.  Try it first and then add the items you feel would improve it.  This also applies to adding steak sauce to quality steaks and asking for extra sauces before determining the sauces potency.

7. Asking The Kitchen To Leave Off An Element.

If you don’t like onions or peppers, ask them to be left out of the dish.  The tradeoff however is that you cannot complain later that you enjoyed the dish but felt it was “missing something.”

8. Going To The Bathroom Right Before They Serve Your Next Course.

Mr Roberts makes this point by stating that restaurants will hold your food in the kitchen until you return and remake any food that has waited too long.  I have worked at some outstanding restaurants, but have never seen this practice.  I am certain some restaurants operate in this manner, but the vast majority do not.  Step away from the table at your own risk.  Murphy ’s Law will ensure your entrée will be cooling on your table when you return.

9. Sharing One Dessert.

I think the better argument here is that restaurants know that you will do this.  I hear every night, “I just want a bite of something, but I will split a dessert.”  Restaurants have compensated by shrinking portion sizes while keeping the price the same.  If you say you just want a bite,  that is all you will probably receive.  Plan accordingly.

10. Keeping Your Dissatisfaction To Yourself.

I could not agree more on this point.  The restaurants you dine at want you to have an enjoyable experience.  When I check back on a table after they have started eating and they say the food is “Great” I will assume they are enjoying it.  Leaving half of the protein on the plate and complaining only after I inquire again when removing the plate that it was overcooked prevents me from resolving the problem.  Worse yet are the people who will maintain their faux enjoyment until they sit down in front of their computer to write their negative review or complaint letter.  Let us correct anything that is not to your liking.  We want you to leave happy, but if you tell us you are we will probably believe you.  Take some responsibility for your dining experience and let us know how we can make it better before you leave.

That is the key thing to remember: we want to make your dining experience as enjoyable as possible.  We do need your help to do so.  We are not out to sell you items you don’t want, put you at the worst table in the restaurant, or make you feel stupid.  We simply want you to help us help you, but also trust that we are professionals.  Everything a restaurant does is based on our experience (and the feedback of previous guests) to make your meal more enjoyable.  It is still your meal though and your input with our experience can make it the best meal it can be.

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About David Hayden

David Hayden is the creator of The Hospitality Formula Network, a series of websites dedicated to all aspects of the restaurant industry. He is also the author of the book Tips2: Tips For Improving Your Tips and Building Your Brand With Facebook.

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One comment on “10 Things That You’re Doing Wrong at Restaurants: A Response

  1. John T. on said:

    Completely agree with #6. If I see a fellow diner do that, I boil into a fit of rage.
    The worst experience I’ve had was an emergency stop at a T.G.I.F. somewhere in Alabama. It was during a return trip from a vacation at 2pm on a weekeday. The staff seemed like they weren’t expecting anyone, or annoyed that there was someone ordering right after they cleaned the kitchen. Anyways, I always walk in with a smile regardless of the establishment, only to be greeted by stern surliness. It seemed that my girlfriend and I were ruining their day.

    Appetizer? Terrribly watered-down cheese on nachos. Entre? Seemed like it was microwaved twice that the veggies were just a mush without any crunch. I knew I shouldn’t have tried the dessert, but wanted to give them one last chance. We couldn’t finish the chocolate cake…and my girlfriend likes even the cheapest hershey’s chocolate, even if it melted 100 times in the car. I knew what to expect going to a chain, but I’ve had better experience at Chilli’s, or its alter ego Applebee’s. TGIF was a big disappointment, and it was seriously the first time we couldn’t finish any of our food. And we were starving that day.

    I grew up in a poor household so it’s imbued in me never to waste any food. Not a single grain of rice should be left on the plate. I confess, I commit the sin #10 but I always finish my food (sometimes with dire consequences, like food poisoning). TGIF was worse than Michelina’s frozen entrees.

    As to #8, the opposite has happened to me. It was at a fancy suit and tie, sit-down restaurant at about $125 per person in a busy Friday. After waiting for a long while, I could taste the food was well-made but unfortunately it sat under the heating lamp for a little too long – the glaze was starting to congeal and the meat was losing moisture. Despite this little setback, the service was so stellar I wanted to write an email praising them directly, but they didn’t publish it on their website. I think I tipped them 25%, and I was thankful they treated me respectfully. A lot of times the servers are dismissive or try to play the “cool” buddy to me by being casual in front of me and my guests/ clients. I may look like I’m still in undergrad despite being in my 30’s, and this lack of decorum is very unprofessional.

    Anyways, it seems that the only place worth dining are at restaurants with entrees in the +$30 range. I seem to get the stink eye everywhere else and stopped going at cheaper establishments.

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