The Top Ten Clues and Cues I will NOT be Returning to a Restaurant

I always look forward to trying out a new restaurant. I am never able to eat out as often as I would like (nightly might be fun!), so when the opportunity does present itself, I am a stickler. There are a few basic tenets I expect. The first is that the food should be better than something I make at home. Luckily, I am not a great cook and this is not a high hurdle to clear. After that, the establishment must avoid these top ten pet peeves:

10. Stop Watch ~ Have you ever had your host or hostess promise a 10-minute wait just to keep you waiting 45? It is also quite irksome to watch a customer seated after me receive their meal before my order has even been taken.

9. Special Surprises ~ Ah, the nightly "specials." You know the ones: dishes not listed on any menu, read off at lightening speed, with exorbitant prices not mentioned by the wait staff - unless I specifically ask.

8. Liar, Liar ~ Cola and seltzer is not ginger ale, something fried is not baked, and a dish prepared with sauce on the side should not be delivered swimming in it.

7. I Just Work Here ~ What is with restaurants where the wait staff can not recommend a single dish because they have not sampled any of the food?

6. Ambiance Issues ~ Too dark, too light, too hot, too cold, too crowded, too empty, too quiet, too loud...

5. Bizarre Banter ~ Wait staff who are a bit too familiar a bit too quickly, who address a table of women as "you guys," who can't recall which person gets which dish, or who ask "are you still working on that?"

4. Oblivious to Silent Signals ~ Wait staff who are not trained to take orders when everyone's menus are closed, who do not know the resting and finished positions of utensils on my plate, who try to clear as soon as one person finishes their meal, or who bring the bill before asking if we care for dessert.

3. Manners Matter, Safety First ~ Sick wait staff, servers who stick their fingers in my meal as they deliver it to the table or bring my food while removing other diner's dirty plates. And hair -- not mine, mind you -- in my food.

2. IO and UO ~ Identifiable objects and unidentifiable objects in my food, that really don't belong there. Yuck!

1. The Ick Factor ~ Sticky menus, dirty utensils, water glasses with someone else's lipstick, and bathrooms that smell vaguely like a fraternity at the end of pledge week.

You will notice that almost all ten of these pet peeves are easily resolved with the most basic of training. I love to eat out and the food is only a part of the dining experience. It is my hope that restaurant owners, dining room managers and catering directors reading this document will take a moment to realize that well-trained employees are worth their weight in gold...

or at least their weight in molten chocolate cake!