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Monday, 8 October, 2001, 16:36 GMT 17:36 UK
Disgruntled diners: What annoys you most about restaurants?
Piped music and restaurant staff who pour wine when it is not requested are two common gripes that annoy diners, according to the latest edition of the Good Food Guide.
Among customers' other pet hates are restaurants that have no non-smoking area, misplaced bookings and establishments that charge full price for children.
A further cause for annoyance is if a restaurant promises vegetarian food but fails to deliver, the 50th anniversary edition of the guide revealed.
But despite the complaints, the editor of Good Food said that UK consumers have the best choice of restaurants in the world.
What annoys you most about dining out? Is it worth paying expensive prices to dine out at all? Do you think the UK really has the best choice of restaurants?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Lorraine Hall, England
Screaming kids, mobile phones, loud music, people who talk to be heard by everyone - but mainly screaming kids.
I predict however that the lobby for 'people who have noisy kids and want everyone else to share the burden' will win in the campaign to make everywhere family-friendly. So everywhere will end up like a huge McDonald's.
As a Surrey Scot it is good to see the English are still anti-child going by previous submissions to this site. Restaurants get away with murder because the English cannot complain effectively and are often taken in by 'classy' establishments. My particular dislike is smoking in restaurants: it is as acceptable as passing wind in someone else's face.
The most irritating thing about most restaurants I have come across in the UK is the totally uninspiring food!
Having read the many comments from customers, I thought as a waitress (who eats out often) I should defend the servers of the world.
The ones who complain about being asked if everything is alright every 30 seconds are probably the same people who will say you can't get the waiter's attention if you need some extra sauce. The reason we ask if everything is alright when we bring the food is in case you have been given mashed potato instead of chips. You don't have to taste it to know you want it changed.
My advice is, if you have pet peeves let us know. We are there to try and make it enjoyable, honest!
Here in Germany, tipping is not expected, though it is appreciated when done.
My pet hate is being constantly asked by waiters, "How's your meal?" at least every five minutes. (I'm eating it, proof, perhaps that the meal is edible enough?) Then the annoyance factor is that having been pestered non-stop, you get ignored when you want the bill. My technique is to try for ten minutes to get their attention, then walk to the door. That does the trick.
It has been a long time since I was in England. What I do remember about the restaurants we visited were that the waiters were either rude or very friendly and helpful once they found out we were American sailors.
Here in America, the worst thing is if you have a glass of single-malt Scotch served neat with a half dram in the glass, they think it is empty and take it away!
I hate having my glass filled absolutely to the brim in restaurants and then having it topped up seemingly every 30 seconds. They don't do this in France.
Vegetarian restaurants that don't offer a meat option!
I don't like it when lousy waiters expect a tip, when the only tip I want to give them is to take a hike.
Sitting near the kitchen. I can do that at home.
It's disgusting to see restaurant staff showing more courtesy to people sitting on other tables because they are caucasians or white and you are either coloured or black. I am particularly referring to restaurants in Australia. This happened to me and my friends on different occasions while we were in Australia.
John B, UK
I hate bills written in eligible handwriting. It stops people from checking bills which are often incorrect.
Restaurants without separate areas for smokers get me. How many times have I requested a seat in non-smoking and had my meal ruined because of smoke wafting over from the smoking section? I shouldn't have to allow for stinking to high heaven when I come home from a meal out. Smokers don't smoke during their own meal, but light up afterwards regardless of whether other diners are still eating or not. They are too selfish to control themselves, so the restaurants should do it for them.
What annoys me about eating out?
The fact that most places think 'food' equates with 'inedible processed pap'.
The best places I have found are small country pubs, usually off the beaten track, that serve home cooked food in generous portions for reasonable prices in a good atmosphere (we have one near us and I'm not telling where).
When you go into a fast food place and staff ask what you want when you are obviously still studying the menu.
Kevin's noisy, crying children might just be complaining about the children's meals which many restaurants serve up. They seem to be substandard rubbish, although there are some exceptions. I think, if I were expected to eat them, I'd scream and cry, too!
In response to Kevin's comment the thing that irritates me about most restaurants is the lack of facilities for children. You don't stop wanting to eat out at places other than Burger King as soon as you become a parent!
As a non-smoker I request a non-smoking table, I then don't like being seated next to the smoking section where the partition may be nothing more than a potted plant or railing. Further, I don't like being rushed.
There aren't enough child friendly restaurants in the UK. We go for Dim Sum because Chinese restaurants are family orientated. Eating out should be available to all.
Neil Fraser, USA
Restaurants that have one "choice" for vegetarians. They would never dream of offering just one meat dish. Yet they look at you as if you were some sort of troublemaker if you point to the fact that it is possible to be a vegetarian and not like goat's cheese. Still at least it's better than the whole decade I spent eating nothing but 'mushroom strogonov' in restaurants.
Waiters who can't bring two dishes out at the same time. Restaurants that bring out one meal five minutes before the other, leaving one diner with the choice of either eating their partner's eyeballs and then watching their partner eat, or letting their meal go cold waiting for the other meal to arrive. Totally unacceptable, and to top it all up the waiter expect a 10% service charge!
Having to pay more than £30 a head just to eat food that I could cook at home better.
Matt, Boston, US
Those places that add a 'discretionary 10%' service charge onto your bill. Hardly discretionary is it? Then when you take it off because you would rather leave a cash tip, they complain!
I get annoyed at restaurants who claim to have vegetarian food and then it turns out to be fish! When you object they then say "But we have vegetarians in here all the time who eat fish!" When are restaurants going to take the time to find out exactly what is and isn't vegetarian food?
Tipping. This is a 19th century custom, which has no place in the 21st. It is, by definition, patronising. If waiters don't get paid enough they should take it up with their employers rather than begging from the customers.
The thing I really hate is an ingratiating, over-attentive waiter; having one of these creeps hovering on your shoulder every five minutes can really put the dampers on a nice relaxing meal out. Leave us to eat at our own pace - we came here to enjoy the food, not the service!
Alex Cockburn, USA
Waiting staff who ask the obligatory "Is everything OK?", and are already turning away before you get a chance to answer.
I get really annoyed when waiting staff clear ones diner plate whilst the other is still eating. It is the height of rudeness.
Invariably the biggest problem is my fellow diners! I like to think that this is because I'm far more discerning and generally a cut above the rest of society, but I suspect that the real reason is because I'm getting older, and generally more grumpy and misanthropic!
The only thing that bothers me is when I get an accidental glance at the kitchen on my way to the loo. It usually puts me off my next course far more than any underpaid waiter could.
Places that print room for gratuity on the credit card bill and hand it to you to put a figure in. If I want to leave a tip then I will do so without being asked and I will leave cash as I know that it ends up with the waiter not the management.
There's only one thing I don't like - the bill.
Places where they ask you if the food is OK about 15 seconds after it has been placed in front of you, and before you've had time to find out.
I have no objection to paying the going rate for high quality freshly cooked meals in restaurants. However, I think restaurants that heat up processed foods and then have the cheek to charge the same sort of prices you might pay in a small independent restaurant for real food are bringing dining out in the UK into disrepute. These, of course, are often large chain restaurants. If I want to eat processed food, I'll buy it at the supermarket and eat it at home. Good service and a pleasant ambience also make for an enjoyable meal.
I get annoyed with those unexpected service charges. All prices should be listed clearly on the menu.
I don't like waiting staff that come over to your table every so often throughout your meal and keep asking if everything is okay. Once is enough really!
04 Oct 01 | UK
Distasteful side of eating out
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