/ Food & Drink, Travel & Leisure

Five foodie pet hates – what stirs you up?

If, like me, you’re both food obsessed and incompetent at stocking the fridge, it’s probably fair to assume that you eat out quite frequently. But what are some of your biggest pet peeves when dining out?

Working on The Good Food Guide, more often than not the culinary establishments I stumble upon are of spectacular quality.

Yet, there are always things that can let restaurants down, and I’m not talking about the food itself, which brings me to my five foodie pet hates.

1. Service too speedy

We’ve all been there; hovering waiters asking for your order before you’ve even shed your coat, and collecting plates before everyone’s finished. A waiter even, on one of my meals out, started cleaning the table with a strong detergent spray before the bill had been paid.

Not only do over-eager staff it give the distinct impression that they want the customer in and out as quickly as possible, it makes for an impossibly stilted dinner conversation.

2. Double the tip

I’ll happily pay the service charge for a pleasant dining experience, but to be asked to pay an additional tip is a step too far, and all because the automatic service charge often doesn’t benefit the staff. It’s not simply annoying, it’s unfair on both parties.

3. Neglected toilets

Plush seats, romantic lighting, shiny silverware and… draughty, unloved toilets. The ladies and gents are a reflection of a restaurant’s standard and customers are very rarely able to judge them before committing, yet even in swanky eateries they can fall far below the mark.

4. Extra charges

A tantalising bowl of crusty baguette is hard for most of us to resist and I certainly dive in with enthusiasm. Alas, I never learn – diners are often confronted by an additional charge for bread, bottled water and other apparently complimentary sundries. Fair enough, but surely it should be made clear before hungry customers make a beeline for the bread bowl?

5. Pest problems

Like my colleague Jess Moreton, I have been in the unfortunate position of spotting a mouse while dining. Unwilling to cause a fuss, I simply took a deep breath and looked away. However, food hygiene is a problem for diners and proprietors alike. It’s of mutual benefit to raise the issue, ensuring that the establishment is aware of a problem, and able to compensate the customer appropriately.

What can you do?

There’s no change without making a stand, so if you’re unhappy with service or any other aspect of your dining experience, speak to the manager. If you’re a regular restaurant-goer, it’s definitely worth knowing your restaurant rights.

Or you can try and pick good restaurants from the get go by researching beforehand. At The Good Food Guide, we welcome feedback for all restaurants, good and poor, in order to inform subsequent editions of the Guide, which you can now use on the go with our eBook. So, what feeds your frustration when you’re dining out?


I can identify with your excellent list, Emily, though I’ve never met a mouse in a restaurant. I would substitute dirty cutlery, though that problem has largely disappeared thanks to dishwashers. I might have to settle for cold plates instead. I absolutely hate hot food that has gone cold.

My pet hate is the dreaded ‘never-as-good-the-second-time’ syndrome. I’ve eaten in some fantastic restaurants, but I can guarantee the next time I go back, the fare will be disappointing.

Last night was a good example – I went to my local pub looking forward to a delicious burger (as per my first visit), but when it arrived, this one was almost half the size and very sorry looking. I had to complain to the waitress (the burger was full of gristle), but felt the usual sting of guilt as it wasn’t her fault.

Have any of you noticed the same second-time phenomenon?

anon the mouse says:
15 August 2012

I thought it was just me.

The worst second-time involved about 12 people, including children, and included red hot mayonnaise, a refusal to follow their own promotions, old food, and overcooked steaks.

We understood that such a large order would take time but expected it to be of an edible quality when it did arrive.

Great convo Emily- something I can really get my teeth into! I don’t eat out often, but when I do, something invariably goes wrong, whether it’s being overcharged, terrible service or horrid food I can guarantee there will be a reason for me to complain. And that is exactly what I do and what I suggest others do as well. Nothing will change unless you do ‘make a fuss’ and complain, and as a consumer who chose that restaurant over all of the others, it is your RIGHT to complain when things don’t meet the expected standard.

I am lucky enough (touch wood) to have never experienced pest problems in a restaurant (although staff with poor personal hygiene could count). Howevere in the event it did happen, I wouldn’t be able to just look away, I would instantly be demanding the manager and threatening to call environmental health.

I think the issue is that too many people look the other way and don’t complain when they have the right to and should- not just for their benefit, but for other diners’ sakes as well.

Mercy says:
15 August 2012

Has anyone noticed this too? Some restaurants are NO go places for dinner. I do not eat out but seing how people handled food on the TV programs such as Come dine with me, F-word Kitchen, Hell Kitchen put me off big time. How could people not wash their hands before preparing food? or more worse is to use vegetables that are not washed for cooking? Have you seen people making vegetable salad right from the pack to the plate? if someone could eat that themselves, if they cook other people’s food, would they care? I save myself, my health, and some money not eating out. Occasionally, yes, but that may be KILLING!

Minor quibbles perhaps, but we are fed up with [1] being asked the instant we sit down what drinks we want, [2] being asked within thirty seconds of the first course arriving “is everything alright fo you?”, [3] the server forgetting to bring the correct cutlery/additional vegetables/glass of water, and [4] whipping the menu away the minute you have ordered so you cannot see what other options you might like or what desserts are available. Yes, I’d like an afterthought please if that’s not too much trouble for the chef.

Loads of them, of course.
Here’s some:

“Table for two please!” … “Have you booked?” You haven’t. The place is half empty but there’s much scouting around until you’re directed to a table near the back. None of the ostensibly reserved tables in more attractive positions are used in the two hours you are there.

Keeping control of the wine bottle. The moment someone takes a sip from their glass someone swoops in to top it up. Very annoying if you are driving and only want half a glass anyway.

In Indian and oriental restaurants assuming you each want individual dishes, rather than for the whole table.

Trying to get someone to give you the bill when you want to get away. Especially when service has been very keen up to this point.

In hotels, laying up for breakfast on the tables around you. This can happen as early as 9pm and is dreadfully irritating.

Barry says:
16 August 2012

If you are in Spain and feel that you are receiving bad service or are being ripped off (as if), ask for el libro de reclamaciones. Attitudes towards you will suddenly change for the better!