Service plays such an important role in the overall experience of dining out. When things go wrong, either with the approach or the execution, it can have such an impact on what might otherwise be an enjoyable evening. Here are a selection of our major service bugbears.
“Is everything OK?”
This can be annoying from at least two perspectives: one of the waiting staff coming to ask of everything is OK annoys lots of people simply by its existence. Why does it need to be asked at all? If things are not right, do you wait for this before raising a concern? I doubt it. But even for fans of this level of over-attentiveness, there’s little worse than being asked the question when you’ve just taken a big bite or spoonful of something and have to choke it down to bark the necessary “fine”, which is the standard response to this annoying irrelevance.
Your arrival is greeted by a smiling surfeit of waiting staff; your attempted departure is met with the ghostly disappearance of anyone who might be able to bring the bill. This one is particularly annoying when coupled with number. Where do they all go?
Card machines – “we’ll come to the table”
When you go to the bar or front desk to pay, it usually means you’re in a hurry or the appearance of the bill has drifted into the land of the ghostly disappeared. So when you’re met with the response, “oh, we’ll bring the card machine/bill to the table”, this is just never going to be good news.
Responses to Tripadvisor reviews
Before you’ve even crossed the threshold of a place, you might check a review site, with Tripadvisor the best one for giving you a really good, broad overview of the types of reactions that people have to places. If a business has chosen to respond to reviews, particularly negative ones, it’s a strong indicator that service attitude issues may lie ahead if you choose to subsequently visit. For every success story in this regard (David Ramsden from The Dogs just about manages to carry things off) there’s many more failures. In Edinburgh look no further than the horror shows associated with Cafe Fish (now closed) and Bruno’s 7 to 7.
Towards the swankier end of the market where cloth napkins live, there seems to be an unhealthy obsession with those napkins being folded at all times. So, when you put down your napkin on the table, either to avail yourself of the washroom facilities or to simply remove the item from your lap for a moment or two, the habit of waiting staff immediately refolding it, either in your presence or when you’re away, is sensationally annoying. LEAVE MY NAPKIN ALONE!
To everything, there is a season
Some places pull some angry looking gurns when you ask for a simple set of condiments, like the salt and pepper shakers. Even if you think your kitchen can’t do anything but perfectly season all the dishes, people have funny tastes so simple requests like this should be met with good grace, as far as possible.
The house rules
Sometimes it’s very easy to spot where management are making the staff do silly things. Whether it’s staff uniforms that make everyone uncomfortable, to “the brand” stifling the personality of the staff, this is a bugbear that crosses chains and independents, big and small, fancy and down-at-heel, and is a constant rankle.
Guys and dolls
“Everything OK, guys?” to a table of one’s great aunt, one’s sister in law, one’s college room mate, one’s dachshund, and one’s fulsomely bearded current squeeze. No – no, it’s not. Find a better thing to say.