Being called "guys"
Asking "Are you guys ready to order yet?" is not appropriate in an establishment of any refinement. "Mate", "peeps" and "youse fellas" are also bad. Having said that, I've been called "Ma'm" three times in the last month and (while I liked it the first time) it's now making me feel old. When exactly did waiters and bar staff start thinking I looked like a "M'am"? I feel like Patsy Stone on Absolutely Fabulous who insisted on being called "Mademoiselle" rather than "Madame".
The side dish dilemma
Some restaurants dish up enough vegetables with the main meal so that sides aren't needed. But other places just present the protein on the plate and expect us to order side dishes to complement it. It's not always clear when sides are required. Wait staff can be helpful in navigating this dilemma but they're not infallible. One reader longed "for the days when the chef designed the whole plateful".
Is restaurant lighting getting worse or is the type on the menus getting smaller? The more likely answer is that our eyesight is deteriorating. In my experience, hard-to-read menus go hand in hand with being called "M'am". I used to hold the tea-light candle up to the menu thus creating a fire hazard. These days I use the flashlight app on my iPhone. Problem solved.
"[N]o one needs a Facebook photo diary of every meal you have," said one reader. Another countered with: "Maybe this is their one treat for the year, and they want to remember the gastronomic delight." Believing it doesn't present their dishes in the best light, some chefs disapprove of this practice but as a customer I don't really have a problem with it as long as the offender is not my dining companion.
"In a seafood restaurant at the Wynyard quarter ... pigeons and sparrows roamed the prep area," wrote one reader. I saw this in a casual eatery in Newmarket a few years ago. Birds had figured out how to follow patrons in through the automatic glass doors and hopped around on chopping surfaces where my taco filling had been just minutes earlier. I never went back. I'm sure the birds did, though.
Few diners enjoy "snooty service" and "being ignored by staff". I can't remember the last time I encountered a snooty waiter; these days they're almost unfailingly friendly and eager to please - apart from when they ignore me, which happens quite a bit. Even when we're at the only occupied table and there are several staff members buzzing around, it's not always easy to get attention. Some wait staff have mastered the art of never making eye contact.
No spacing of food
My favourite Japanese restaurant in the city is often guilty of presenting every dish we order at exactly the same time (usually just five minutes after we've placed the order). The small plates, large plates and the tempura all come out simultaneously. There's often so much food it doesn't all fit on the table. (On one occasion the waitress actually shifted an adjacent table over to make extra room.) We still love this restaurant and have discovered how to thwart their system by ordering dishes one at a time.
Whatever happened to "you're welcome"?
And, finally, has anyone else noticed the penchant for young waiters to respond to a customer's words of thanks (for, say, an order taken or for food or drink being delivered to the table) with "that's okay" or "no problem"? It creates a jarring effect. Wait staff, please note: "you're welcome" or "my pleasure" are the two most hospitable responses to spoken gratitude in such an environment. "Enjoy" or "bon appétit" are also suitable but not everyone can muster the degree of theatre required to make these sound credible.
Do you share these restaurant gripes? What else grinds your gears when dining out?