Here at Serious Eats, we get a lot of feedback from our community about what they like—and what they don't like—when it comes to restaurants. Here's a list of their top five biggest pet peeves. Restaurant owners, take note!
1. Kids running wild
This is by far the number one complaint from our readers. For most, it's a matter of expectations. Head to a family restaurant, and you can expect kids and all the noises and distractions they come with. But when diners are shelling out more money for what they expect to be a quieter, more intimate, or more adult experience, kids are the number one detractor. User therealchiffonade has this to say:
"The parents have taught themselves how to "tune out" little junior's wails. As for the rest of us, it's nails on a black board. If you can't get your kid to shut up during dinner at least do the right thing and take him or her outside until calm, then return. Or go to Chucky Cheese. They're used to it."
2. Bad acoustics
It goes both ways. Whether it's music that's so loud that patrons have to scream at each other to be heard or a room that's so somber that guests feel uncomfortable even whispering at each other for breaking the silence, good acoustics and a comfortable amount of background noise are essential. Hard surfaces like bare floors, hard walls and ceilings, and hard tables must be dampened to absorb some of the din of dining. I've eaten in restaurants where I could hear the whispered conversations of the couple on the far side of the room because of the hard surfaces in between.
smallblondemom says, "...the places I don't go back to are the ones where it is impossible to have a decent conversation because it's too loud. Doesn't matter if it's music, bad acoustics or the waiters chatting. I would like to hear my partners without straining. And my next to most uncomfortable place is one where it is soooooooooo quiet that a laugh seems out of place!"
3. Overly attentive waiters
Good service is one thing, but doting, hovering, or just plain annoying are major turn-offs. The best waiters are the ones that are there exactly when you need them, but don't feel the need to compulsively fill water glasses after each sip or try to talk to patrons about their food mid-bite. Waiters should be trained to read customers. Some enjoy a bit of informal chit chat. Others would prefer their privacy. Both types of customers are important.
"What drives me nuts is the reliable nuisance of a server coming up right when I take a bite of something and perkily inquiring "How is it?" Sorry, but my mom told me never to talk with my mouth full…" says commenter MandyEats.
4. Too much junk on the table
A small centerpiece, perhaps a salt and pepper shaker, a napkin dispenser if you're a very casual restaurant are all fine, but when the tabletop starts to look like the walls of a souvenir shop.
CATERPILLARGIRL gets particularly frustrated by this. "Any place that thinks its okay to litter the table with unnecessary objects, like a dessert menu, a drink menu, the specials of the day, a few thousand coasters, salt and pepper and ketchup and mustard and napkins and a bucket of peanuts and a bucket for peanut shells, and a tiny waiter....okay not the last one but you get the idea. There isnt any room for the plates!"
5. Dirty bathrooms
Of course the main dining room and eating surfaces should all be spotlessly clean, but oftentimes restaurants let hygiene slip in the restrooms. As customers, this only leads one to ask the question, "if they can't even be bothered to keep their own bathrooms clean, I wonder what the kitchen looks like?" It's a turn off, to say the least.
moibec puts it best: "A dirty or neglected bathroom means I won't be back."