Here is a list of rules that every restaurant should follow. Note that these rules are inviolate, and no discussion is allowed. Breaking any or all of these rules is subject to extreme dining disapproval:
1. At a Mexican restaurant, the chips and salsa are free
My boyfriend once brought his entire class to the Blue Bonnet in Denver. Nobody ever told them that the chips were not free. Instead, at the end of the meal, the waitress brought out a bill with forty dollars extra for the chips! Worse (in my opinion), often the waitress brought out a full basket of chips and took the unfinished basket away. Way to go Blue Bonnet! It's a great way to pad the bills *and* to make diners never eat there again!
2. At all other restaurants... free bread, and lots of it
Ideally, the bread should be *interesting* and baked on site. But nothing beats a fresh roll of sourdough bread, either. I know they want us to fill up on bread so we won't realize how small the entrees are, but that's my choice as an American. And I want bread.
3. No jargon: don't ask me if I'm a "deuce" or "four top". I just came to eat
See rule number 10... "your problems are not my problems". Likewise, I don't really care about how you run your restaurant, as long as it's running well.
4. You've got to have other desserts than the "boring five": flourless chocolate torte (especially if it's called "Chocolate Death" or "Chocolate Decadence"), cheesecake, cr�me brulee (or cr�me caramel), key lime pie, and ice cream. Come on! There's some many other desserts out there.
Some people would add to this list of boring desserts: dry carrot cake, ice cream out of the carton for five bucks a scoop, and sorbet. In other words, if I ate it last night in my house, it's probably a boring dessert.
5. Ask me where I'd like to sit... don't just say "follow me", and then lead me to a table
This could be a separate rule, but try not to seat my intimate table for two next to the birthday party with twenty children. I know that you want to fill up a given server's table before opening up other parts of the dining room, but if the restaurant is empty, don't try to make it look more full by clustering all the people at one end of the room.
6. Waiters should check back in a reasonable time after bringing the entree
This is especially maddening when I'm missing a fork or spoon (or occasionally, *all* of my silverware) and I have to watch my food cool until you come back to visit my table.
7. I'd like to know who's in charge
It's great when a manager introduces themselves, particularly if they do it in a friendly and unobtrusive manner. It's nice to know *somebody's* trying to run the place.
8. The specials should be special
At least give me something that's not already on the menu. Saying, "The twenty dollar fish tonight is now nineteen bucks," doesn't make me feel very special.
9. If my meal is not up to your standards, at least make my evening better
Just comp me *something*. It's not that I'm cheap or I want something for free, but it makes me feel like you're trying to make a bad situation better. The meal is thirty minutes late? Great, if you bring me a free drink, I'll forget all about it. Was the meal undercooked or just plain bad? Well, this might be a great evening to try a free dessert that I usually don't have room for. Throw me a frickin' bone.
10. Your problem are not my problems
Staffing woes? I'm really sorry to hear that. The chef has a hangover and the busboy quit? Gee, that's terrible. But I don't really want to know about the personal lives of your staff. I just came for a good meal, and if you can't deliver that, maybe you shouldn't be running a restaurant.
11. Try to have an accurate menu
I like there to be prices on the menu, naturally. But even better is when there are good descriptions. I've played "food roulette" too many times, when the beef I ordered turns out to mainly be a salad, or vice versa. I really don't like to be surprised once I've ordered.
12. Side dishes should be included with the meal
It's annoying to pay thirty bucks for a steak, only to find out that vegetables are an additional ten dollars. And don't try to heap the food on a plate to make me think I'm getting my ten bucks worth. I don't want to be forced to order a la carte. Is this just an excuse for not being able to make an attractive plate?
13. Overpriced alcohol is a big no-no
I know you make most of your money on drinks and desserts, but come on! I hate going without a drink just because the cheapest thing on the drink menu is six dollars. When it's just rum and coke or a single glass of wine, I don't want to double my final bill.
14. Taking my drink order first means that my drinks come first
If the bar is busy, I can understand waiting for a drink. But when you take a drink order and then disappear for fifteen minutes, I start to wonder if I should have ordered my full meal the minute I sat down and had your attention.
15. Cook the food
Yeah, I know sushi's popular. And those heat lamps tend to dry out the food, so it's better to have everything a little undercooked. But it's mean to bring me my meal, get me excited, and then have me send it back to the kitchen to have it heated up and cooked properly for another fifteen minute wait. You tease.
16. Train your staff
In a tight job market, I know it's hard to hire experienced wait staff. So, do a little training before you send them out into the big bad world. We're all hungry tigers out here, and we want food. We eat stammering waiters and waitresses for breakfast!
See also my "Rules for Patrons". Just because we're the ones paying the bills doesn't mean we don't have responsibilities, too!