Diners’ Pet Peeves


Hard butter, bright lighting, long waits—oh, don’t get me started! When it comes to pet peeves, every diner’s got ’em. Here are 10 from a very unscientific survey of local folks who frequent area restaurants.

1. Televisions
“Especially when they’re tuned to sports or stations with ads,” says my pal Janet. “Yuck.”

2. Loud, raucous music
Mentioned by several people. I couldn’t agree more: Super-loud music gives me a super-big headache, and screaming to be heard makes my throat raspy.

3. Wait staff with bad attitudes
“Staff who look through you and act like they’re doing you a favor by waiting on you, or staff who roll their eyes at you when you make a request—these are some of my peeves,” says friend-of-a-friend Frank.

4. Getting the “single-woman shaft”
Two women railed about being treated like second-class citizens when dining alone. “I hate to be ignored as a single woman dining alone and see the single man at the next table lavished with attention,” says one. “I hate being given a wobbly, crappy table by the bathroom or kitchen when dining alone,” says another. “Why don’t I just pull up a stool in the back and eat with the help?”

5. Clearing the dishes prematurely
“I hate it when I am dining with a pal and the waiter comes and clears her dishes while I’m still eating,” says my friend Donna. “It’s a restaurant no-no, but it happens all the time.” Donna is right. Where have manners gone?

6. The seating game
Walking into a near-empty restaurant and being asked, “Do you have a reservation?” is another one of Frank’s pet peeves. I’ll do one better: You walk in, see a bunch of available tables and are told, “It’ll be about 20 minutes.” (Is this a ploy to make you spend money at the bar?)

7. Water works
“I can’t stand the question ‘Would you like bottled water or mineral water?’ instead of just serving free tap water,” says Jojo, who admits he is “complicated and picky” when it comes to dining out. “It feels to me that they are actively trying to charge me more.”

8. Unavailable specials
One respondent says he chafes when he’s enticed to order the special of the day, orders it—and subsequently is told it’s sold out.

9. Parents who let their kids run wild
Need I say more?

10. Servers who interrupt at the worst times
OK, this one did not show up on my survey, but I’m sure you’ll agree: No one wants to be asked “How is everything?” the minute you’ve shoveled in a forkful of fettuccine. Servers also could be a little more thoughtful about interrupting conversations: When they see diners embroiled in a heavy discussion, couldn’t they just slither away until the dust settles?