Sweat the Small Stuff: We Love Eating Out, But...

Dining out with friends and family can be one of life's greatest pleasures. But it also can be maddeningly frustrating when the customs, policies and systems of a particular place don't align with our expectations. As dining editor, I get tons of mail from readers who share their gripes – not so much about an individual place, but rather a general practice that bugs the crap out of them. Here is a short list of common beefs. And, of course, I added a few quibbles of my own for good measure.


Considering the perverted amount of blood, sweat, tears and cash that restaurant owners sink into the pursuit of their dreams, it's unconscionable to not publish a website with a current version of the menu, let alone hours, reservation policies and phone numbers. And Facebook, while an acceptable add-on, is no replacement given that more than half of your potential customers aren't users. The Internet (and increasingly mobile-friendly apps and sites) is no longer the future, you might have heard.

Restricted Happy Hours

Everybody loves happy hour – that's why it's called "happy hour." But whoever came up with the rule that those $2 drafts and $1 sliders can only be enjoyed at the bar and not that open bar table should be reassigned to the HR department, because there's nothing fun about fighting over the last remaining barstool or eating while standing.

Paper and/or Plastic for Dine-In

Paper and plastic (assuming they're recycled and recyclable) are fine for take-out orders. But there's something wholly unsettling about eating a hot meal off a plastic plate, all the while attempting to slice through a piece of meat with a wobbly plastic knife. Can all that waste actually be less expensive than hiring a dishwasher? Oh, and that flimsy tin "silverware" isn't much better.

Table for Screw You?

If we just slide this table over here, nudge that table a bit closer to the wall, and turn this one 90 degrees towards Hell, we can squeeze in one more deuce. Let me ask you something, Miss Hostess. If I were ushering you and your date over to that craptastic table in the corner by the service station, would you be thrilled? Didn't think so.

Big Plates/Small Tables

We get it: Those colossal white platters that you (and everybody else) scored at the restaurant supply store make your food look amazing. Too bad your table is so small that only one and a half of them fit at any given time. And no, I'm not done with that just so you can make more room. P.S. Those oversize plates do nothing to keep that pretty food warm.

A Cold Breeze Blowin'

You don't need Betsy Kling's Twitter feed to inform you that it's freezing in Cleveland come the "off season." If diners near the door get frostbite with every arriving and departing customer, you did it wrong. And all the plush velvet drapes in the world strung half-assedly in front of the door aren't likely to improve the ill-considered design of your restaurant, in Cleveland.

Missing Salt and Pepper Shakers

Yes, Chef, you know more about proper seasoning than a diner could ever hope to comprehend. Your precision-tuned tastebuds can detect a nanogram of salt from 50 paces in gale-force winds. And yes, too much pepper will obliterate the idyllic spice balance in that dish of yours that took years to perfect. Still, can you please pass the salt and pepper?

Delayed Bread Service

We know what you're up to Mr. Sneakypants: If we order dinner when we're famished, we'll order way more food than we can possibly eat and enjoy (how that is good for repeat business I'll never know). So you withhold the bread basket like a Promise Keeper on prom night in hopes of upping the check averages. Just send over the basket and we promise we'll call you in the morning.

Gone Fishin'

Happens every time: We take a shower, blow-dry our hair, get dressed, drive across town, and yank on the door to your restaurant only to find out that you didn't bother to do the same. Not adhering to one's stated days and hours of operation is the first step toward total and irreversible anarchy. Please don't push us any closer than we already are.

Can I Please Use the Restroom?

What is this, middle school? We're adults who haven't had to ask permission to use the restroom since we were in social studies class, so why do we have to ask you, in front of a room full of strangers? Afraid somebody is going to filch the soap? Well, at least that balloon-whisk keychain isn't embarrassing or anything.

Cash Only

True story: I once bought a $1 item from a flea market vendor using a credit card because I had zero cash on me. You know what? She pulled out her trusty iPhone, slid my card right through, and handed over my purchase. If food trucks can figure out the technical wizardry required to run a credit card, so too can you. Oh, it's expensive to process credit cards? Guess what...

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Douglas Trattner

For 20 years, Douglas Trattner has worked as a full-time freelance writer, editor and author. His work on Michael Symon's "Carnivore," "5 in 5" and “Fix it With Food” have earned him three New York Times Best-Selling Author honors, while his longstanding role as Scene dining editor garnered the award of “Best...
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