Eating out — what are your expectations?

Written by admin on October 28, 2009 – 4:31 pm -

Eating at a restaurant should be a positive experience. But is it? After all, it’s the time when someone else shops, cooks, serves you what (you think) you’ve ordered and takes away the dishes and glasses to a mysterious place. Best of all, you’re not responsible for washing them. In spite of these definite pluses, people appear to have more gripes than you’d think. And they make no bones about voicing them.

Whether it’s your  local joint down the road,  a  recently opened trendy new café or a big name/big chef /big tab restaurant that’s drawing rave reviews, small and large irritations can mar a dining experience.

Pet peeves about dining out — Here’s a laundry list of what a survey of dedicated eaters had to say.

  • Dining rooms that are so noisy you can’t hear yourself think much less hold a conversation with your tablemates.
  • Tables that are placed  so close together you have to be a contortionist to get in and out and there’s no possible way to hold a private conversation.
  • Music too loud. People want to eat their meals in peace and relative quiet and not feel as if they’re in a high-decibel dance hall.
  • Lighting should be bright enough that you can read the menus; but not so bright that you feel as if you’re getting the third degree.
  • Restaurants should have coat rooms and sufficient space that you and your things aren’t competing for space on the chair and at the table.
  • Bathrooms should be clean and well stocked. More than a few people feel there’s a direct correlation between the cleanliness of a restaurant’s WCs and the kitchen.

Service irritations:

  • Being greeted at the door and grilled as to whether or not you have a reservation. If you don’t, the host or hostess will often shoot you a dirty look and lead you to a table as if they’re doing you a favor.
  • Finding yourself even more irritated because when you get up to leave, the restaurant is still half empty.
  • Sitting down and waiting more time than you care to before being handed a menu.
  • When you’re ready to order, being forced to wait. The group of people, who were seated after you, have the waiter’s attention and are firing away what they want to eat. You’ve missed your chance.
  • While you’re waiting, not being asked if you’d like to order a drink or being served water.  Some restaurants serve bread immediately, Others force you to wait so you’re crying, “bread and water — please.”
  • Waiter etiquette:  There are the ones who act as if they’re doing you a favor by serving you. Then, there are too many who want to become members of your family and participate in the conversation. I’m glad your name is John but please remember who’s the waiter and who are the clients.
  • The service personnel not being sensitive to your needs and wishes:  e.g. – when you want attention and when you don’t. There are times conversations are private and should remain that way. Professional waiters appear to have a sixth sense about anticipating a diner’s needs and seem to have eyes behind their heads.
  • Spare diners from waiters who refuse to write orders down. Being able to memorize a list of dishes may impress some people but others would prefer being served the correct dish.
  • Please don’t ask, “Is everything all right?” before someone has tasted the food.
  • Not serving everyone at the same time; Ditto for clearing the table. Many people find it offensive when a waiter removes a few plates at a time, as if to say to the diners who are still eating, “hurry up and leave.”
  • Meals that arrive so quickly that you know they’ve been sitting on a steam table or have had a quick zap in a microwave.
  • Having to wait forever to be served and then receiving the check before you’ve had a chance to drink your coffee. A meal should not be a marathon. Rather, it should be orchestrated to fit the scenario.
  • Some people complain that portions are so large they detract from the meal and its presentation. Not everyone wants a doggie bag.
  • Waiters who fail to check back with you after the meal is served.

There were complaints about parking, stratospheric menu prices, outrageous mark ups on wine. People jumped at the chance at adding their input. And I want to hear yours. You’re bound to have a lot of comments and post away.

Before you do, please stop and ponder what complaint is missing. It seems so obvious. But it doesn’t appear to be a high priority among the majority of people who eat out.

Karen Fawcett is president of Bonjour Paris

(Photo: seventh.samurai/Priscilla Flickr/Commons)

Tags: , , , , ,
Posted in Consumer Traveler |

Air travel – what happened to the glamour days?

Written by admin on December 3, 2008 – 12:49 pm -

Speak with anyone about the pros and cons of travel or ask what irritates them about flying and you’ll be barraged by responses. Travelers complain even before getting on the plane about security screenings. Then complaints abound once aboard. Here’s my whining list of procedures and passengers who bug me.

At security checkpoints:
• Inconsistent security screening standards between airports and in different countries.
• People who take too long to collect belongings. Or seem to be taking their time getting dressed after the mandatory strip act in order to walk through the magnetometer. People should collect their things and assemble them somewhere else so others can pass.

Passengers in general during boarding and deplaning:
• Those who are generally late boarding.
• Passengers who bring too many items on board.
• The clueless who bump everyone in aisle seats with their bags as they enter and haven’t a clue as to how to stow possessions in a selfless and logical way.
• Passengers who spend extra time in the aisle looking for a place to stow luggage.
• When deplaning, these same folk take too long to pull their luggage from the overhead.
• Passengers who take too long to get out of the plane, up the jetway and into the terminal.
• Those who stand in the aisle.
• Anyone who reclines their seat during boarding.

Passengers who irritate me during the flight:
• Those who put their seats back during food service (if there’s any) making it uncomfortable for the diner to eat without someone’s head above (or in) their food.
• Overweight people who should be required to buy two seats rather than occupying half of mine.
• People who hog the arm rests.
• A general lack of respect, courtesy or awareness by some.
• Passengers who walk through the cabin grabbing each seat as if it were a handrail.
• Those who place their knees firmly against seat-backs.
• Travelers who rest their feet on the bulkhead or the armrest in front of them.
• Chatty passengers who insist on talking to the person next to them when not invited.
• Or, aloof folk who are so rude that they don’t acknowledge there’s a person in the next seat.
• People who use airplane lavatories in their socks or bare feet.
• And those who use the lavatories as dressing rooms when there are lines of people anxiously waiting.
• Passengers who don’t take the time to wipe clean the WC before exiting.
• Besides loud cell phone talkers, people who don’t shut them off when instructed.

My airline irritants:
• Flight attendants with an “attitude.”
• Pilots who turn the seat belt sign on and off every time the plane vibrates or talk during a night flight.
• Worn out and dirty seat cushions.
• Late arrivals and the clear “we don’t care” attitude of the airlines about it.
• Pushing away from the gate and sitting on the runway in order to have an on-time departure.
• The lack of information or the total lies that airlines tell passengers about estimated takeoff and arrival times during inevitable delays.

And if the above gripes aren’t enough — don’t get into the subject of children, infants, cats or dogs or people who haven’t taken a bath — or those who’ve used too much perfume or shaving cream.

Why don’t you add what you don’t like about air travel?  Or better yet – please list something you like. There must be something!!

Karen Fawcett is president of BonjourParis. Ironically, she loves to fly on long haul flights because it’s where she sleeps the best. One caveat – it should be business class.

Tags: , ,
Posted in Consumer Traveler |

As the economy tanks, are people becoming less frustrated by travel?

Written by admin on October 13, 2008 – 1:28 pm -

Americans are concerned about overall higher travel costs, including ones associated with airline, hotel rooms, cruise line and train tickets, according to a recent survey.

The study, conducted by insurance company Access America, tracked travel costs, safety and service.

On the plus side, in spite of the increasing concern over costs, travelers are slightly more resigned to the hassles associated with air travel.

Is there a silver lining to this scenario? Mark Cipolletti, vice president of Access America suggests there might be.

The good news for the travel industry is that lower frustration levels in other categories, airline travel in particular, are moderating the spike in concerns over travel and lodging costs. While the trend line in overall frustrations is encouraging, it’s small comfort in the knowledge that more than one out of every two Americans is frustrated with various aspects of travel.

Results of the aggregated index over the past five quarters follows:

Topping the list of frustrations is the cost of gas (86 percent), followed by the cost of airline, cruise or train tickets (55%), airline/airport service (49 percent) and the cost of lodging and/or other attractions (49 percent).

Many Americans report feeling frustrated when it comes to “illness or injury” which causes a cancellation (37 percent), homeland security/safety (37 percent), labor actions (33 percent), “the weather” (28 percent), service by other travel suppliers (27 percent) and difficulty booking trips (21 percent).

When asked an open-ended question about the most frustrating aspect of travel in the last couple of months, one in three (31 percent) cited gas prices, while others report being most frustrated by issues related to traffic (18 percent), delays/timing (6 percent), airport/airline (6 percent) and security (4 percent).

The index also allows for comparisons among various demographic groups. For example, leisure travelers (55.2 percent) are more frustrated than are business travelers (52.9 percent). Women (57 percent) are significantly more frustrated with traveling than are men (53.2 percent) on the whole.

Other specific findings of note:

• Women (61 percent) are considerably more likely than men (50 percent) to be frustrated with the cost of airline, cruise or train tickets. Similarly, women (26 percent) are more likely than men (17 percent) to be frustrated with difficulty booking their trip.

• Younger Americans (52 percent), aged 18 to 34, and middle-aged Americans (52 percent), aged 35 to 54, are more likely than older Americans (42 percent), aged 55+, to be frustrated with the cost of lodging and/or attractions. Younger Americans (60 percent) are also more likely than their older counterparts (53 percent) to be frustrated with the cost of airline, cruise and train tickets. Older individuals (40 percent) are more likely than younger ones (35 percent) to be frustrated with homeland security. Booking trips also causes more older people (26 percent) grief than younger Americans (19 percent).

• Interestingly, few regional differences exist. However, those living in the Northeast (33 percent) are more likely than those in the South (29 percent), West (28 percent), and the Midwest (22 percent) to be frustrated by the weather while traveling.

Karen Fawcett is president of Bonjour Paris.

Tags: , ,
Posted in Consumer Traveler |