Two Restaurant Pet Peeves of Mine

  1. My wife and I go to a nice restaurant once in a while and after we have perused the menu the waitperson often walks over to the table to tell us about the specials, assuming there are any. I don’t normally select one, but the waitperson is required to tell me about them and I listen attentively, sometimes asking a question or two just to engage them in conversation. Invariably there is then an awkward silence since the waitperson usually neglects to mention the price. If I am interested in one of the specials I am forced to ask them the price which makes it sound like I only care about the cost. (I look for value in everything I purchase so I want to know if the specials are a good value for my money, assuming I feel like eating one of them.) Wouldn’t it be easier to just stick a card in the menu listing the specials and their cost instead of putting both myself and the waitperson in this awkward situation?

  2. Sometimes when I go to a nice restaurant I am with friends or acquaintances. Having been a self-sufficient adult for quite a while I am comfortable deciding what kind of food I want to eat, but a few of my friends always put the waitperson on the spot by asking them “What’s best?” or “What do you like?”. Asking them “What do you like?” seems like a complete waste of time since who bases their choice on what other people like, and asking them “What’s best?” puts them in the awkward position of having to recommend something which is a no-win situation for them. Why do people like to put other people on the spot like that, and why does it matter how they respond? If something was that bad I doubt it would be on the menu in the first place.

Do either of these two ring true for you or is it just me?

Personally, I have no problem asking how much the special is if the waiter doesn’t mention it. Usually they do, but often kind of mumbled at the very end.

As for asking what’s best, I’ll do that when I’m torn between two dishes that both appeal to me. In that situation the waiter will almost always tell me why A is better than B.

I dislike your first one as well - price isn’t the only deciding factor if I’m going to order something, but it’s certainly in the top 3. I like crab legs, but I’m just never going to order the $115 Alaskan King Crab legs, okay? But if it’s a particular type of fish that I don’t ever really get the chance to order, and it’s ~$20 or so more than an entree I was going to consider, I might pull the trigger.

But as for your second, I’m guilty of that. I want to know if there’s something unique on the menu that I may have missed, or if I can’t decide between 2 things, ask the waitstaff for their preference between them. If they mention something about it that strikes a chord with me, I’ll defer to them.

  1. Usually they give me the price. Yes, they definitely should.
  2. I have asked the server “what would you pick” between a couple of choices… I’ve got good informative responses. It’s best if they explain why “Well, I like Cajun a lot so…”
  3. I like to be greeted at reception within 30 seconds with some sort of acknowledgement. And seated with menus within 60 seconds. Server should come by for drink orders within a couple of minutes
  4. Don’t like “how are you guys”… we are not guys. And “no problem” is like nails on a blackboard, just say “you’re welcome”.

Regarding #2, if I’m at a place with good service, I look at the waiter not just as an order taker, but as someone who can help me plan the best meal. This goes double at a place that serves family style or specializes in small plates to share. “Have I ordered enough/too much? What’s new and interesting on the menu? Is there something you’re known for that I shouldn’t miss? Is one of the specials a real rarity?” Things like that I’d expect a waiter to have an expert, informed opinon on.

1.) If they don’t give you the price, feel free to ask. It does not make you look like you only care about the cost, just that you are budget conscious, which is nothing to feel guilty about. The waitperson is probably as budget conscious as you, if not more so.

  1. This is a little silly, but it doesn’t affect you and, again, does not affect the waitperson, who usually has a prepared answer. A bartender friend lost his sense of smell in a childhood accident. People ask him for food and wine recommendations and he will rattle them off without hesitation.

As for #2. Knowing what is on the menu is part of their job. Any restaurant worth its salt will have made sure the wait staff has at least tried most of the items on the menu just so they can give their opinions on the dishes. Sometimes the server will offer insight to an item you had not considered. “You may want to be careful if you choose the curry. Our cook is a little heavy handed with the spices, and it’s too hot for me,” as had been told at the new Thai place near my house.

I think this is a generational thing. I help people for a living and I say “no problem” all of the time as a response to “thanks”. I say you’re welcome sometimes too, but I’ve never heard anyone of my age or younger (41) have any issue with “no problem”.

This is explains it better than me:

“Actually, the “you’re welcome/no problem” issue is simply a linguistics misunderstanding. Older ppl tend to say “you’re welcome,” younger ppl tend to say “no problem.” This is because for older people the act of helping or assisting someone is seen as a task that is not expected of them, but is them doing extra, so it’s them saying, ‘I accept your thanks because I know I deserve it.”

“No problem, however, is used because younger people feel not only that helping or assisting someone is a given and expected but also that it should be stressed that your need for help was no burden to them (even if it was).”

“Basically, older people think help is a gift you give, younger people think help is a requirement.”

Airbeck, I think that link you quoted has got it backwards. I see the service as definitely expected.

I think it’s spot on. Like I said it’s a generational thing. Nobody means any disrespect at all by saying “no problem”. Intent matters.

My biggest pet peeve is walking into an empty restaurant and get offered the booth closest to the doors to the kitchen and bathroom, the cashier stand is there too.
Thanks but no.

I don’t like the lack of price in #1 either. But as for the card on the table with the specials, often the specials are only in limited quantities. By having the waiter tell you them verbally, the kitchen can just tell the staff that they’re out of whatever rather than having to scratch the item off the table cards.

#1 - I don’t expect prices with specials unless the price is the feature (“we have a special price today for our fish surprise, only 24.95!”). I’m an experienced enough diner to know the dishes to ask the price question about (e.g. lobster, salmon, whole crabs, etc.) and the other dishes (“tonight we have fresh halibut in addition to the cod”) I expect to be priced comparably with the other dishes of its ilk on the menu (so if all the broiled fish is between $25 and $30, then I expect the broiled halibut special to be in that range).

#2 - In the groups I go out with, I pretty much expect this question to be put to our server. Generally it is by someone who either has no real preference or is trying to decide among several equally tempting dishes (so, many times the question is “which would you recommend, the duck or the orange roughy?”). I seldom ask the question, but I find the server’s response a good gauge on how engaged they are in our dining experience.

Just ask the price. They want you to choose the dish before you consider the price. Not every place does that.

It is generally pointless to ask the wait staff about the food. They’re going to push something that there’s a lot of in the back, or is a high profit item, or just what they think is easiest to serve without any complaints. Not every time, but you won’t really know why they’ve made a recommendation.

OTOH, I think some people just like to order that way because they don’t have any particular preference for food, or because some people avoid even the simplest decisions.

Intent matters? Apparently not on this board.

There are multiple threads in ATMB, and possibly other forums, where posters are stating that certain words themselves are a problem.

Good answers everyone. I’ll let #2 go since there are good reasons for asking it, and try not to worry as much about asking the price of a special. What about special orders? Do you ever ask if they can give you a half portion of prime rib instead of half the cow for $40?

No. Did you ever buy half of a car? How about half TV? Why do you expect they would reduce the price on a special order of any kind? If you don’t want all that meat on your plate then you should offer to pay extra to have them remove half of it.

ETA: Besides the extra labor involved the value of the meat will be less than a third of the price of the dish, so the only cost saving for them is about $6. That might cover the additional cost of preparing a special order for you.

Regarding #2, the waiter could provide valuable advice as to whether a particular food is fresh, particularly when it comes to seafood.

Surely you can tell the difference between half a car and a half portion of a meal.

It’s certainly not rude to ask politely. Just be prepared for the answer to be “no.”

The point is not what half a portion is, the point is that you can’t assume you can buy half of anything for half price. In most cases when half of something is for sale that will be made clear.