Thursday, 10 March 2011


You work hard all week and look forward to eating out and having some time to unwind with a good meal and a glass or two. And then you are sat within inches of diners at the next table. A new survey by has found this annoys us the most when eating out. The survey asked diners to list their top three complaints when eating out. 
Cramped conditions with tables crammed together topped the poll with 67%, while 66% complained of slow and inattentive service. Other complaints included being automatically charged for service and restaurants hiking up charges for 'special occasions' such as Mother's Day, Valentines Day. The 'oh no, we're not sitting there are we?' full list of gripes are as follows...

1. Tables too close together
2. Slow and poor service
3. Automatic charges for service, regardless of quality 
4. Price hiking for special occasions 
5. Food slow to arrive due to kitchen being busy 
6. Being made to wait for the bill / check 
7. Being asked to leave the table at a specific time
8. If the set menu is too restricted 
9. Background music / decor. 

All good and valid complaints I see, but perhaps the biggest has been massively overlooked. At the risk of upsetting a lot of people, here goes my singular complaint when eating out:- BADLY BEHAVED CHILDREN.
Ah yes, bless the little darlings for running around the restaurant, screeching and crying. Bless them for charging into other diners chairs and tables and banging into waiters/waitresses legs when trying to serve food. Bless them for ignoring their 26 toys brought for distraction and instead opting for continually banging metal cutlery or cups onto plates or tables. Bless them for coming up to your table and staring at you and your companion with an unblinking death-ray stare (even more cute when there's a stream of snot accompanying the stare). And how cute they are when they delve their pretty little clean fingers into the salad bar, chew on a cucumber, then spit it out over the grated carrot. 
Ah yes, and bless the parents for allowing their children to run riot in restaurants. Bless you for your non-intervention and random deafness when little Rupert is banging crockery on the table. How insightful of you to share the wonder of your loud offspring with other paying customers. Of course we want to have our shoulders, backs of heads banged by your HUGE nappy/accessories bag as your swing round to locate your table. How inspired are you to sit your child in a highchair for approximately 39 seconds before lifting it out to run around or to sit your lap screaming whilst you manage 2 spoonfuls of food. And how I sit back in admiration at your child's creativity in ripping up colouring books, bread and food, and leaving a total mess in their wake for other people to tread into their shoes and carpets. Not to mention some poor waitress on the minimum wage having to clear up the crap afterwards. 

Before I get accused of being a total child and parent hater, actually I'm not. I salute parents who encourage their children to try fine food in a convivial eaterie. I applaud parents who don't expect their children to be mute and sit completely still, but recognise and intervene when their children's behaviour might just be having an impact on other people's enjoyment and peace and quiet. And hats off to parents who take their kids out earlier so as to avoid eating out late in the evening when children are more susceptible to tiredness, grumpiness and bad behaviour.  

Other gripes? Extortionate corkage charges? Plates not warmed up? Being sat near kitchen or toilets? I'll stop there shall I? 


  1. I wouldn't recommend the new Nando's in Blackpool then...

    ...Needing an hour to kill before we went to the Odeon for our pre-booked film (showing at 8.20pm), we decided to try the place that friends/peers/colleagues have all recommended as 'the greatest thing Blackpool has seen for years'.

    Now, don't get me wrong, I love Nando's. I enjoy picking the size, glaze, cut, and cooking menthod of my chicken. I also enjoy the millions of different options you can have with regards to sides, dips, sauces, extras etc. This is all very well and good when you can actually order your food. Our evening wasn't quite as straight forward:

    19:00 - Arrive at Nando's with nearly an hour and a half before the film starts.
    19:01 - Greeted by the obese, Geordie waitress who tells us in her most polite (but barely legible) accent that "you can come in and sit down, but you won't be able to order your food for about half an hour, then it's at least half an hour's wait for food once you've ordered. That ok pet? Ok, sit down here".
    19:02 - Get seated next to the kitchen swinging doors, of which 43 members of staff pass through every minute.
    19:03 - Decided on what food we'd like.
    19:43 - Get told by Geordie Doris that we can now go to the counter and order our food - not place it with her.
    19:51 - Spotty, pre-pubescent teenager finally notices me waiting to place my order.
    19:51 - Start to order. Chicken wrap with Mango and Lime glaze. "Sorry, sir, we don't have any of that glaze." Order no glaze instead. Quarter chicken with Lemon and Herb glaze. "Sorry sir, we're out of quarter chickens". Inquire as to why they can't cut a half half. "Sorry sir, it doesn't work like that. Would you like a half chicken?"
    19:59 - Look at time and realise if I don't order anything now, we'll miss the film. Order 'any chicken, any glaze, some chips and two refill cokes'.
    20:04 - Server oik asks me 27 questions about the size, cut, cooking method, sex, living conditions, size of beak and feather colour of said chicken.
    20:07 - Return to seat. Get twatted in the head by every dirty plate that is being returned to the kitchen.
    20:08 - Take a minute to peruse the room and check out our fellow diners. Jeremy Kyle would have been reduced to tears by this lot. Take particular note of the massively butch lesbians ironically sharing a bottle of rose wine. But feeding each other extra hot piri-piri chicken wings.
    20:09 - Stab the annoyingly little 8 year old prick who came up to our table and asked me what I'd ordered, in the face with my fork.
    20:10 - Return to self service area to get another fork.
    20:12 - Food arrives. Fair enough, only took a few minutes. But it's cold. And wrong.
    20:13 - Told by Geordie Doris that we can collect our own condiments, cutlery, drinks, straws, ice, napkins etc from the 'self service area'.
    20:15 - Inhale mediocre chicken so as not to miss the film.
    20:25 - Argue about the bill with Geordie Doris. Pay half. Nick as many complimentary sweets as we could fit in out pockets/handbag.
    20:30 - Leave for film. 10 minutes late. Not being able to get through the one way systems and roadworks that occupy the WHOLE of Blackpool town centre.
    20:40 - Arrive at cinema, pay for tickets, head to screen, walk to the only two seats left (on the front row) past some very angry viewers as the film is 5 minutes in.

    Nando's Blackpool - a dining sensation.

  2. Phew.. but did you like it?
    I think at the 19:01 stage I'd have heeded the alarm bell warning and done an about turn straight to McDonald's next door to the Odeon. Bravo for your perseverance Russ. Should I be worried that we seem to share the genes that send us into pulsating volcanoes of grumpiness when faced with retail and restaurant ineptitude?
    Great shout though and laughed at your 20:07 and 20:08 moments x

  3. To be fair, I normally love Nando's. And the food was ok when it came, but it was a bit on the cold side and not exactly what we ordered.

    I'm hoping it's just teething problems with it only opening last week. But it's the same with any large corporation like that - all they want to do is get you in and out as quickly as possible so they can get the next hungry people in.

    They're not renowned for their customer service skills, so we weren't bothered. People can make their own mind up about whether it's good. I personally (and I'm not being prejudice in any way here) think that it's only because it's Blackpool. Every other Nando's I've ever been in have been great.

    My time between 20:05 and 20:10 backs up this arguement perfectly.

    Rico's next time...

  4. Mmm.. the jury's out on Nando's for me. Tried it a few times and found it a bit over-rated. For the national chain restaurants, I've always found Pizza Express pretty good with their food and service and they usually have good offers on the myvouchercodes website. As I said, bravo for your perseverance and tolerance as I know I wouldn't have put up with that. As for being Blackpool - sad but true I'm afraid.

  5. Fabulous as always Hel ! I presume the kiddiewinkle theme is based on the dining experience that is the "Highcross"- a haven for every bloody rugrat and ankle biter on the |Fylde coast. My pet hate in pubs like this :- waiting to be served at the bar when the Guardian reader in front of you asks for some form of special coffee i.e. latte or crappo chino, like they're being uber cool. It takes ages to make, then they want to pay with a credit card !! Piss off to the Garden Centre if you want coffee- this is a pub !! and take your skriking offspring with you, it's way past their bedtime.
    rant over,

  6. Hi Dave,
    The Highcross is the worst offender it's true. Probably the worst experience I ever had was one night in Rico's. We got sat down at 9pm, nice table, good atmosphere etc. when along came three couples and one newborn baby in car seat directly on table next to us. After 39 seconds, the mother removes baby from carseat, feeds it, passes it round the others, looks around restaurant for admiring glances (got black looks instead). Right on cue, Rico's staff bring their trumpets and gongs round for happy birthday celebrations for another table, baby is scared half to death and spends the next 40 minutes screaming as only newborn babies can scream. Meal and convivial atmosphere ruined for all. Technically, not the baby's fault but WTF are parents doing bringing babies to restaurants at 9pm and having total indifference to other diners when their offspring screams the place down.
    As for the coffee orders - yeah, would agree with you on that. It's a grim acceptance that the good old English pub is a thing of the past. They're now family-orientated, kid friendly, non-smoking, coffee bars / wine bars / multi-cuisine eateries. Perhaps as an afterthought, you may get served a pint of overpriced cold beer or lager (with colouring book and activity pack.
    Keep the comments coming...
    Grumble, grumble, grumble x