The 5 Things I Can’t Stand When Dining Out… Before I Even Order!

Fact: we all love to complain

Fact: I am the best at it

I have the unfortunate talent of noticing everything within seconds of walking in to a room. Throughout my years in the hospitality industry, I have been able to use this skill to create better atmospheres, cleaner work environments and more efficient service- leading to happy customers… and better tips :)

Hoping my Bitch Lists will educate the everyday customer and refine the skills of those in the industry. Enjoy!

#1 – Cluttered Table Tops

I watch customers move items around and off crowded tables all of the time- rearranging the table settings so they can open their menus, have a place for their food, etc. I’ve even gone as far as to ask my server to remove unnecessary clutter (um hello unlit candles).

This is the SERVICE INDUSTRY. Part of giving good service is anticipating the customer’s needs (is there enough room for the plate, do i need to “pace” the order, is the table showcasing the food & beverages, etc). If your customers are moving items to make room for their plates then you are doing something wrong (and I can 100% guarantee it is affecting your pockets).

I have been able to prove to my staff time and again that paying attention to small details like this will help to ensure a positive dining experience for their customers AND hefty tips for them. Guests DO take note, whether it’s conscious or not.

#2 – Ewwww, There’s Something On My Menu

Menus are GROSS.  Think off all the hands that touch them throughout a shift (sorry for that visual). So when I open a menu that has crusty whatever in it I am infuriated. It takes three seconds to wipe down a menu once it leaves a table. Literally THREE SECONDS.

I have never expected a member of my team to completely sanitize every menu during the shift. I only ask they are quickly wiped with a damp towel (don’t use the fuzzy towels because they will rub off on the menus!) and checked for spills/food/crust.

That three seconds can make a world of a difference when it comes to a first impression for a diner…and we all know that first impressions are everything!

Expert tip: If you are using paper menus, don’t hand out ones that are dirty; make sure you print enough before the shift begins so you can easily change them out.

#3 – Crap on The Floors

My crazy makes me count how many times a staff member will walk over fallen napkins, straws, spilled drinks, etc. until someone actually does something about it. NO ONE wants to look at garbage or even notice it. Unfortunately once the customer is seated and closer to floor level, the chances of them seeing these things are a little higher.

Train your staff to pick up every little thing. Managers included (if they are ever even on the floor… we’ll save that bitch fest for another time). Part of the manager’s job is seeing the room, so they should notice when something needs to be cleaned.  I even pick stuff up off the floor when I am just a patron, that is how in-graded in me this is.

Bottom line: picking up trash is not hard, can make the floor safer to walk on and, again, is just another small step to better service.

#4 – Where’s My Server?

How many times have you said that while you were dining out? Did you know it is a “rule” in the industry that a table should be greeted within the first two minutes of being sat?

When we say greeted, what we really mean is acknowledged. “Hi I will be right with you”, is more than acceptable-especially if the restaurant is busy. Someone bringing me water is ok, too… they are saying hello we know you are here. If I wait more than seven minutes (I do not know why seven it’s just my bitch point) I get up and leave.

Staff should be trained to work as a team (teamwork makes the dream work- in this case the dream is making money!). Whether or not the table is in your section, if the customers have been waiting or are looking around to get someone’s attention, then GREET THEM!

#5 – Wobbly tables

It doesn’t matter if you think resting your feet on the legs will keep it balanced; at one point you will forget, let loose, and wobble wobble. Ugh. Sometimes it is so bad a drink may even splash at you. We have all been there, I know I am not the only who cannot stand this.

Now a days, most restaurant tables have legs that are made to retract up and down so they can be balanced out on an uneven floor. There’s also this great little invention called Wobble Wedges that you can shove under the legs and keep stacking until everything is level. They are worth every penny and I always KEEP THEM ON ME to immediately fix a wobbly table.

So, managers, train your staff to CHECK THEIR TABLES! Check them before the doors open, check them when the guests leave, check them when you’re at the table checking on your guests- AND FIX THOSE WOBBLES!

Expert Advice: DO NOT use napkins, coasters or other random objects to fix uneven tables. Not only does it not work, it looks terrible!

Managers, get it together… train your staff. Servers- take responsibility.

P.S. – If you ever want to dine out with me just make sure my back is to the room!