Friday, August 3, 2007

Restaurant Dining: It's All About The Food...Or Not

We've been lucky enough to eat in a lot of wonderful restaurants lately. There’s a not terribly conclusive recent study about what bothers restaurant-goers the most. The number one problem seems to be waiting for the check. Now before you disagree, you have to know that this was a study from Norway and perhaps Norwegians have better things to do than sit around waiting for a check. Dirty menus also bothered them. I'm thinking that that must come out of a certain hygenic Viking sensibility.

A survey given to New Yorkers, albeit with a TINY SAMPLING, showed different results. New Yorkers by in large don’t want the check brought until asked for. That’s certainly the way they do it in gracious Europe, so it's not a surprise that such a mannered place as NY would feel the same way. Hah!!! Just checking to see if you're paying attention.

Probably the reason that New Yorkers (and I was born and bred one) don't want the check brought early is because they want to get their money's worth out of their exhorbitantly priced restaurants. They're not giving up their real estate at that table until forced to.

The Norwegian study also found that, even if the meal had been totally satisfactory, a negative check situation colored the entire experience. I can’t decide if I agree with that or not. Would a perfectly fine dining experience be nullified by having to wait too long for the check? I guess it would affect my opinion of the waitstaff, but not the chef. By that time, it’s out of the chef’s hands and it’s all on the wait-person.

Having said that, to me…now…the most important element in restaurant dining is service. It even overrides the food. I’ve said that before, that I would rather have a so-so meal, served in warm and amiable surroundings than fabulous food served belligerently.

Of course, normally, it’s not that black and white. It’s usually somewhat unprofessional service and uneven food, but, still, a pleasant manner can go a long way toward making up for culinary deficiencies.

The Norwegian study also drew some other, fairly obvious, conclusions. The comfort of the chairs is important. Plus "Encounters between the members of the staff and the guest also influence our experience." Ummm...duh... That's kind of the point of eating in a restaurant, instead of our own dirty kitchens filled with disagreeble family members.

If these folks in Norway want to save some money, I'd be happy to tell them some other obvious facts about restaurant-going. (Got any you'd like to share?):

Good food is better than bad.
A cheaper check is always preferred.
Give us anything free, anything at all.
Don't be snotty.


Emilie said...

Interesting post. I'm with you on bring the check early. (I wait tables) I try not to do that, so most of the time people end up having to wait for their check. Just a little bit.

Sue said...

When my husband was a waiter ages ago, he said it was all about turnover. And he would practically bring the coffee AND the check with the soup...It goes without saying that THAT would not have garnered my approval.

Heather said...

I like to be asked if I want the check. Maybe I want another drink, maybe more coffee, maybe I'm not ready to scoff down my dessert - they ask me for my opinion about everything else, the check should be one of them.

I also agree that bad service is worse than bad food. Kitchens can have off nights and I'm willing to give a place another try to see if it was just a fluke. Bad service can be avoided. I don't even mind if it's slow if I notice one server for too many tables - it isn't the server's fault - but rudeness and the like? Forget it.

Sue said...

About the check...Exactly!

I don't need to pay someone to be rude to me. Unfortunately, I can get that for free.