We don't go out to eat very often, so when we do, I want to have a good time. I want the food to be tasty, the atmosphere to be fun and the service to be good. A local morning show recently had listeners call in with what they consider "deal breakers", or experiences that would keep them from going back to a particular restaurant. I didn't call in, but here are some experiences that were deal breakers for me.
Waiting Too Long To Be Seated - There is a restaurant a few miles out of town that makes great fish and chips and killer Long Islands, so it's usually our first choice for dining out without going very far from home. Once, when my niece was visiting my parents, we all decided to go there for dinner. It was a Friday evening and it was pretty crowded, so we were prepared to wait for a table. There is no real waiting area, so we stood near the door. The owner's wife had a problem with this and told us to "quit blockin' that door!". We asked if we could get a chair for my dad to sit in because he has back problems and can't stand for very long. The answer was no. We asked if he could sit at the bar and wait. Again, no. We asked how much longer we could expect to wait for a table. The owner's wife said "How in the hell do you expect me to seat seven people on a Friday night?" We left.
Waiting Too Long For Food - We had dinner in a restaurant while on vacation in North Carolina. We were seated almost immediately and our order was taken right away, but after that, it was a long wait. We asked our server about it several times and the response was always the same, "Not much longer". After nearly an hour, our meals were finally brought to the table, for the most part, cold. The manager came by to explain the delay. The restaurant was out of bread, and because I had ordered a club sandwich, he had to drive to the nearest store, choose a loaf of bread, stand in line, drive back and then have the kitchen make my sandwich. He seemed rather put out by the whole ordeal. I couldn't understand why they didn't just ask me to order something else!
Bad Food - This has happened so many times, it's hard to narrow it down to just a few experiences. There was the place that served us chicken sandwich that were still raw in the center, the Italian Ristorante where my Alfredo sauce was rancid, the Chinese restaurant where the lobster sauce looked, smelled and tasted like low tide, the seafood joint where the drinks tasted like antibacterial cleaning fluid......I could go on and on.....
Bad Service - Another all too frequent experience. You know how it goes, you get the wrong food or it hasn't been prepared the way you specified (rare instead of medium, fried instead of baked, Italian instead of Ranch, etc.) and the server is rude when you ask him/her about it.
Overly Friendly Service - Pleasant and conversational is great, but there is such as thing as being overly friendly. We had dinner at a Jamaican restaurant on a slow evening. Because she had no other tables to wait on, our server pulled up a chair and sat with us while we ate. We heard all about her multiple ex-husbands. It was awkward.
Disappointing Atmosphere - We had a gift certificate to an Inn in Canada. When we checked in, we were told to dress for dinner as their bistro was very high-end. After being seated, we noticed that Mr. Willoughby was the only man in the dining room wearing a jacket and tie and I was the only woman in the room wearing a dress. The favored attire seemed to be sweat suits because most of the other diners were wearing them. Still, we wanted to have a nice dinner so we asked for a bottle of local wine. A bus boy dropped it off at our table, so we waited for a server or sommelier to come by and open it. When neither did, we asked the bus boy if he could bring us a cork screw. "No need, I can do it for you", he said while he unscrewed the top.
Dirty, Dirty, Dirty - From lipstick on the cups and glasses to food encrusted utensils, dirty restaurants are a real deal breaker for me. If my sleeve is stuck to a puddle of syrup that hasn't been cleaned from the table, how can I enjoy my food? And how clean do they keep the kitchen? I don't have a lot of experience with this category because if a restaurant is dirty, we don't eat there.
Assorted Objects In The Food - I should probably skip this category. After all, you probably don't want to know about the scrap of hand written shopping list I found at the bottom of my macaroni and cheese or the fish bone Mr. Willoughby found in his pulled pork sandwich. The hair in my sandwich is too gross to think about and........I should stop now.
How about you? Got a good deal breaker story? Do tell!