The folks at UrbanSpoon have released their list of restaurant pet peeves — determined by a combination of user-generated reviews and expert feedback — and right there at the top of that heap o’ peeves are “Unsupervised Kids,” those feral children whose parents choose to inflict their terrible tots on the rest of us.
These yowling youngsters beat out runner-up “Slow Service” as the top peeve, presumably because the only thing worse than having to wait too long for your food is having to wait while children you don’t know are playing Duck, Duck, Goose around your table.
Interestingly enough, too-speedy service also made the list, as most diners would like the chance to enjoy their meals before being rushed on to the next course or out the door to make room for the next customers.
The rest of the peeves seemed to fall into a handful of categories —
• There’s a party over here: Customers who don’t realize how rude it is to sit at the dinner table while blabbing loudly on their cellphones. Take that chatter outside, or better yet, turn the flippin’ phone off.
• Act your age: Kids don’t have a monopoly on rowdy behavior. If you’ve eaten out enough times, you’ve likely had a night soured by an overly enthusiastic nearby table, or just one diner who emotes like he’s trying to project to the last row of the theater. Of course, this rowdiness only gets worse with the addition of booze.
• Overly cuddly couples: We know that dining out can be a romantic experience, but when the PDA crosses the line from G-rated to PG and PG-13 (and sometimes X), well, it’s just distracting.
• Nosy neighbors: Unless you’re one of the aforementioned diners who make spectacles of themselves, there is no reason for the people at the table next to you to eavesdrop on your conversation. And if you’re going to listen in, at least do it subtly!
• No substitutions: Yes yes, your menu is precious and a work of art. But some people have legitimate allergies or simply don’t want one of the items on the plate. If a substitution is reasonable, there’s no reason a restaurant shouldn’t honor it.
• Water-downed drinks: A lot of restaurants charge more for cocktails than you’d pay at the local bar, so it’s infuriating when you pay top-dollar for a drink and a cheap restaurant bartender cuts corners by watering it down.
• No partial-group seating: It’s one thing when it’s two people trying to hold a table for six, but if a group of three people is ready to sit and order, should it matter that one person hasn’t arrived yet? The users of UrbanSpoon don’t think it should.
• An unexplained wait: We’ve all been there — the half-empty restaurant; no one in front of you; people apparently working, but no one who will actually seat you.
• Dirty silverware or glasses: Management should be demanding that both the dishwashers and the servers inspect all the utensils, plates, and glasses before they go back on tables because dirty dishes can drive customers away permanently.
• Menu typos and indiscernible menus: The first peeve demonstrates a lack of care on behalf of the ownership, the second demonstrates an above-it-all haughtiness that can make diners feel like they are being talked down to.