Gordon Ramsay is such an angry chef, he is often referred to as Gordon F***ing Ramsay. Not that he minds, because his TV show is called The F Word.
Food writer Elizabeth Meryment reports in The Australian (no direct link available) that The F Word commissioned a survey to find diners’ top ten gripes about eating out. These were: waiters adding their own tips to the bill; badly placed tables; mobile phones; tables too close to toilets; public displays of affection; breastfeeding; children; overpowering perfume; bad background music and having to pay for bottled still water.
The poll was British. Apparently waiters there like to extort their own tip; although in Scotland, that is probably a good idea. (Pace, Scottish readers, it’s nothing personal.)
Ms Meryment lists her own top ten gripes: being seated at bad tables while good ones are empty; not being able to get a booking in Sydney for 8pm on a Friday or Saturday night; teenagers; waiters with attitude; being made to wait too long in the bar for a booked table; shaky tables; paying for bread; restaurants calling more than once to confirm; over-sized pepper grinders and bad coffee.
(That list is so manically Sydney, it’s not funny - Sydney, where everyone is important but no-one can get a table at their favourite restaurant; and when you do score a table the restaurant keeps ringing you to make sure you're coming but when you get there your table's never ready.)
But notice anything? Out of the twenty complaints above, NOT ONE relates to the food. Why? Because dining out is a fantasy. Restaurants are theatre. And fantasies are easily spoiled. It is easier to eat an 85% good meal in a place with perfect service, nice surroundings and no interruptions than a 100% perfect meal where the waiters are rude, the table is in a draught or children are having ADHD attacks at the next table. You cannot enjoy perfect food when ten business executives are power-laughing themselves hoarse behind your left ear.
Here’s my list of eating-out gripes, right off the cuff:
Waiters that don’t know. Me: “What’s the fish of the day, waiter?” Dopey, slow waiter: “I don’t know, I’ll have to check with the chef.” Me (with sarcasm):“I’m sorry to inconvenience you, would you like me to do it while you take some other orders? Slowly?”
Uncomfortable chairs. Hard chairs hurt.
Waiters that hover like hyenas especially when you are getting close to finishing your meal, as if you are taking too long. I feel like scraping my food onto the tablecloth and handing the plate to them with a theatrical flourish, saying, “Here you are waiter, sorry to hold you up.”
Minimalist décor. Because timber and metal are noisy and I can’t hear what anyone is saying. And just because.
Badly behaved diners. This includes phone use; getting drunk; boorish behaviour; “asking” ill-behaved children to be quiet “or we won’t take you out again”; and fellow diners in larger parties failing to cover the cost of their meal or reckoning their share down to the last cent. Parsimony belongs in the supermarket, not at a shared dining table.
Oversize plates with minimalist architectural food. Get over it, chefs.
Sugar in paper tubes. Mankind’s second-worst invention after the leaf blower. Sugar goes in bowls.
Loud music. Waiter: “Can I help you, sir?” Me: “Yes, waiter, can you turn off that dreadful music?” Don’t be afraid to complain. Restaurants are like any business. They need to know what their customers like.
Placards on the table advertising Aurora gelati or brands of wine. It’s a dining table, not a direct marketing channel.
Unfriendly waiters. Because a nice smile, a willing helpfulness and a sense of wanting to make your dining experience pleasant puts all the other complaints into perspective, while having a nasty waiter only amplifies them.
So. What REALLY annoys you?