12 Ways to Perfect the Restaurant Experience
12 Ways To Perfect The Restaurant Experience
From a "High Value" Customer Point of View
My husband & I are self proclaimed, professional "Dining-outers" with a running total of 20 years experience.
"Professional" sounds like we get paid. It's not true. We don't. In fact, we pay to have the experience. And we have the experience more often than we should!
We are social creatures & enjoy being out & surrounded by the drama of society. Being in the midst of activity. People watching. And just being part of something bigger than ourselves.
We love being served. We don't have to chop vegetables, slave over a hot stove on a hot day, get wrinkled fingers from washing the dishes, or get into arguments about loading the dishwasher!
Why Our Opinion is Valuable
According to restaurant owners & servers alike, we are preferred patrons. My husband has a background in the hospitality industry & so he understands. We are infallibly polite & rarely tip less than 20% (I mean, you'd have to do something really awful). In fact, the restaurant staff like us so much that we are often invited to staff outings!
So, sitting here at a corner table in front of a bright window over a lovely bottle of Merlot, my husband & I decided to write it all down.
No need to pay the big bucks for a consulting firm. It's all listed below. We hope it helps!
It would seem that many restaurant patrons in our society have forgotten, or perhaps never learned, proper table etiquette. The folks who stuff so much food in their mouth that they can't possibly close their lips while chewing. Perhaps it's never occurred to them that the rest of us don't want to see the accelerating stages of food break-down in their mouth.
Of course you can just look away. However, that doesn't stop the ongoing slurping, smacking & chewing noises while they masticate their meal.
Then, when every morsel has been mangled & swallowed, there's the slurping, sucking & kissing of each fingertip while the napkin lies by unused, unwanted & lonely.
I suppose it's each patron's right to eat as he wishes ...
Space in Vancouver is possibly a restaurant's greatest expense, so tables are situated close together. So be it. But it's just more comfortable if they are arranged on different levels & with subtle dividers. This at least allows semi-privacy.
A table squirrelled away in the corner where we don't have to see if we really don't want to is a table that we'll visit over & over again.
2. Outdoor Patio
Few people I know want to sit inside on a hot summer day. I don't pretend to understand the rigamarole of adding patio seating to your restaurant. But for us, as soon as that first spring day hits, we long for somewhere nice to sit outside. Walking by any restaurant with patio seating & umbrellas looks festive & appealing. It calls to us!
Heat lamps are great too. They allow the joy to continue for as long as possible.
For years I worked in West Vancouver with "successful" clientele. Consequently, I'm far too used to wealth to find it impressive. And I've never been a fan of fame. Honestly, it doesn't matter to me if your restaurant caters to high-profile customers.
We've tried most of Vancouver's more expensive choices right down to little "mom & pop" bistros. Consequently, we've developed opinions ...
- We're not interested in conversing with a snobby server. We don't read restaurant reviews. It's not our concern if a celebrity chef is cooking. Please, for us, just keep it real.
- We're not getting any younger, so waiting in a line up anytime, anywhere simply isn't going to happen. Sorry, but there are far too many other restaurant choices.
- If there is a wait, point us in the direction of your bar. We'd love to have a glass of wine while a table clears. No bar? See point number two.
- There'd better be a decent glass of wine for a reasonable price or again, you're just being pretentious.
- I'm sure there are loads of people who vie for fancy meals on the menu with a list of obscure ingredients. That must be why people regularly carry dictionaries to restaurants. Please include simple choices for reasonable prices.
4. Serve. Real. Food.
Vancouverites are known for their obsession with health. The "Real Food Phenomenon" is here & now & not going anywhere.
Is your restaurant still having massive plastic bags of fake bread shipped in & serving it up as "Home Loaf" because you're not allowed to call it "bread" when it's not.
Know this: we're on to you.
Organic, & non-GMO ingredients would be my preference. I know I'm stretching things, but I'm pretty sure this is the way the trends are headed.
Also... when women order a large salad as a meal, it is our attempt to make a healthy food choice & become svelte. But, when you add candied pecans, preservative laden craisins & throw crispy deep-fried whatsits on top, & then toss the whole deal in a creamy, tasty dressing, you're sabotaging our efforts. I can't imagine what motive you'd have to do that. So you must be missing the point?
Please understand, if I wanted that many calories in one meal, I'd have ordered the poutine! Save your money on the little extras & just add a bigger portion of grilled chicken on top. Thanks!
Husbands are different. If you make fries & nachos his favourite way, we'll be showing up a lot!
Tony's Perfect Nachos
Take corn tortillas, cut them into quarters & then fry them up. Use a full, soft corn tortilla for the nacho bed. Take a hand full of chips & spread them over the bed. Put on a layer of proteins & cheese. Then, put on a second layer of corn chips. Be generous with the following toppings: tomato chunks, green onions, olives, pulled pork or chicken, but go easy on the white mozzarella & white cheddar (to keep the grease down). Repeat until you've built a massive house of cards! Bake.
Serve with home-made salsa & refried beans for dip.
To check out our Nachos rating blog > NachosLibra.com
5. Ingredients Should be Accurately Reflected in The Menu
There Are Some Foods That People Either Love or Hate
My first encounter with cilantro was in a Mexican dish. I'd never even heard of cilantro before it passed my lips. It was so awful that I had tears running down my face. To this day, I cannot stand even the smell of it.
If cilantro is in a dish, it should be listed in bold & easily excluded upon customer preference.
There are other foods that people either love or hate. Please know what they are, take the proper precautions, it's your job.
Classic Dishes Need to Remain Classic Dishes
I love a steak sandwich! But the last time I ordered one, I was very disappointed.
Set in front of me, between two fluffy, white, bready, paninis were little bits of over spiced steak drowning in a thick, creamy, mayonnaise based sauce. I couldn't believe it! I pushed the bread aside, scraped as much of the sauce off as possible & just ate the meat.
When I order a steak sandwich, I want a piece of steak, cooked medium rare, set over a lightly buttered sourdough half-loaf (actually, I'd prefer a nice whole grain half-loaf, but I know that's stretching things). The message here is keep it simple.
At the same "higher end" restaurant ...
My husband ordered the fish & chips. He got two pieces of fish, about the size of fish-sticks & surrounded in massive amounts of deep-fried batter. They may have even been fish sticks! The soggy french fries were obviously the processed type, doused in preservatives, that arrive at the restaurant frozen & in a massive plastic bag, whose inside surface is covered in a white, waxy substance. The message here is twofold. Please don't skimp on food & please serve us real food.
We actually belong to this particular restaurant chain's "little club" & when the manager visited our table to make sure we were satisfied, we just nodded & said yes.
I know I should have sent the food back. I know I should have told the truth about the meal. But we were sitting on one of the best patios in the Lower Mainland, thoroughly enjoying our views, each others' company, the last bit of our Riesling & we just didn't want to deal with it.
I'm telling you now.
The famous "I Wipe" (the quick swish of the cloth down the centre of the table) or its older sister the "Z Wipe" are not sufficient to keep that hot-sauce spill from staining the elbow of my brand new, white sweater.
The cleanliness of the table is paramount to our dining experience. Also of importance is to wipe crumbs, spills, stickiness & all other forms of disgustingness from the:
- Window sills
Speaking of insects...
- Fruit flies can be a terrible problem for restaurants during the summer & difficult to get rid of. And when they end up in my wine... ugh!
- Once, because of a family dinner, I once went to the same restaurant a couple of times within a two week period. The very same dead flies remained on the windowsill. Perhaps I'm over-reacting, but I was really grossed out.
In as far as I understand, cleaning duties are usually part of a restaurant's closing procedures. But I think it's important to keep the restaurant clean throughout business hours. Of course, that's just my humble, yet fastidious opinion.
Hello Fellow Restaurant Patrons!
If you had to choose the most important part of the restaurant to be kept clean, what would it be?
Each city in Vancouver's Lower Mainland has slightly different bylaws regarding smoking. Thankfully smokers must go outside now. But I'm pretty sure the bylaws specifically state a certain distance from the door.
These bylaws are rarely enforced. I understand that many of those in the hospitality industry rely on customer goodwill & so biting the hand, with a cigarette in it, is risky behaviour. Or perhaps, they just don't smell the stench.
I do! And from that first whiff, my nose gets itchy, then my whole face gets itchy, even the rims of my eyelids get itchy! The food turns to ash in my mouth as the acrid, vile stink of the chemicals in the cigarette assault my olfactory senses.
I've been tempted to pick up my plate & head to the bathroom to finish my meal because, at that particular moment in the dining experience, it just smells better in there.
With the advent of E-cigarettes, hopefully this irritation will come to an end.
Countless times we've sat close enough to the kitchen to hear a cook whistling. All I imagine is that he's blowing all over my food. He's got to be, right?
No better is when a server or hostess continually whistles... shrill, invasive, tuneless.
Please turn up the music!
Vancouver is known for it's environmental zealots.
Regardless of whether or not you believe it's important, environmental options now exist. Please choose them for your take out containers at least.
If you use plastic or styrofoam, we may not boycott your restaurant, but we'll be harbouring mutinous thoughts.
And no damn straws!
10. Turning on the Audio for Sports Games on T.V.
I have nothing against sports. But neither am I interested.
It's one thing if we've chosen to dine out in a sports bar. We understand that listening to "the game" is expected.
It's another situation entirely if we've shown up at a restaurant that never turns up the audio for "the game", but has changed policy in order to cash in on a popular sports team's success.
It's not the greatest atmosphere to dine in. In fact, sometimes we just leave.
What about a small section where the cheers & groans & the drone of the television can be a distant sound?
Here, in Vancouver, I realize we're a minority in this regard, so I'll understand if this point is ignored.
Just a little quirk ... I love to colour! I'm always delighted to find that paper & crayons are part of the table setting (or at least available). And if I start to draw & colour, we'll be sure to stay longer & buy more drinks & maybe even dessert.
12. Server Etiquette
We love chatting with the server. We want to hear from the real you. We truly are interested!
Friendly, personable servers with a great sense of humour can skyrocket the dining experience. We've often dined out at a particular restaurant for the primary purpose of visiting a favourite server.
As well, my husband just loves to have someone to say goodbye to when we leave. He's just cute like that.
Hello Fellow Restaurant Patrons!
What restaurant issue would bother you the most?
Some of the comments here do seem a bit negative & I apologize for that. I assure you that the joys of dining out far outweigh the nuisances which is why we enjoy it so much. Please! Keep cooking & feeding us!
- Tony & Sylvia Leong
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© 2014 Sylvia Leong