Zagat recently released their list of “The 10 Most Annoying Restaurant Trends“. You can see their entire list and commentary here, but you know me, I have to put in my .02.
Items I agree with –
Communal Tables: I understand why some restauranteurs like communal tables. Start-up costs are cheaper than regular tables. You can pack in more diners per square foot. That makes sense. On the other hand, I have friends that don’t go to restaurants where communal tables are the sole seating. They certainly are not conducive to romance.
I think communal tables can be nice when I’m dining alone. When I happen to be seated with the right mix of people, they can also be fun. I’ve had a few splendid dinners at Beast because of my table-mates, and have made some friendships there that continue today. However, when I am seated with some obnoxious putz who thinks he’s the world expert on food (and everyone knows I am), it gets annoying. When his wife makes more noise than a cow chewing her cud, it is also annoying. The same goes for noisy over sexed women who squeeze my leg during dinner – it’s a good story. Either way, I think they are on the way out. Er… the tables, not the women.
Chalkboard Menus: I carried this over on my list because chalkboards seem to be a new trend in Oregon, and it needs to stop. It is one thing if you are a deli, like Bunk. When I go to Thistle, and am told to check out the menu on the chalkboard, and then remember what I want when I am seated, I get annoyed. I’m old and slow… don’t make me memorize a chalk board when I’m trying to stand! An equal annoyance are specials that are written on some obscure menu just inside the front door. I never seem to notice them until I’m on my way back out. At least be classy and put a copy in my menu, like Zell’s does. Yes, Zell’s. My guilty secret pleasure. Give me a few of those lemon-ricotta pancakes and a cup of that lousy coffee, and I’m a happy man. More cream please.
Pop-Up Restaurants: Zagat puts it best “Pop-ups are to real restaurants what hot, emotionally unavailable men on motorcycles are to love-starved 38-year-old single women – a pointless tease. The allure of pop-ups is clearly their impermanence, but are they merely a way of dodging failure? Some brilliant person thought to himself: “Most new restaurants fail within the first months of opening, so, hey, why not just open one for only that long?” Note to that dude: um, no. The odds of anybody making a profit during such a short run are slim, and what’s worse, fans of the eatery will have to say buh-bye to it the second they get hooked. Le sigh. Pop-ups are a lose-lose for everyone.”
Items from their list that I disagree with –
Iceless Table Water: I’m going to break contrarian disposition, and argue for this one. I was in the lowlands of Scotland many years ago. My boss wanted every drink to be cold. “Ice cold”. I told him that if god wanted us to drink everything cold, we’d be surrounded by ice. That night we had a freak snowstorm. I had to drink a snow-cone beer with my eggs and black pudding. That actually sounds good now, but I digress. Cold deadens taste. Does ice-cold wine taste good? Beer? No! Serving water in bottles that people pour from themselves is more efficient (Ignore my comments about communal tables above – I’m fickle. If it is a cheap beer, yes, drink it ice-cold).
Sliders – Real men like sliders. Everyone likes sliders after one too many martinis. Would you turn one down? Here is my recipe for a good evening: three drinks, two sliders and a cab; hold the communal table.
Bread Baskets You Have to Pay For – I really dislike paying for bread. However, back in my working days, I can remember people parking over a bread basket and ordering very little else. One could give the first basket for free, but that can be awkward when the customer wants more. If, as is often the case in Portland, the bread is really good, I can see the argument for charging. Throw in some excellent butter like Bar Avignon does, and I won’t argue. They also give the server a chance to flirt and win difficult tables. “I really like you guys, so I heated up some buns – on the house”.
One night many years ago, when I was still tall dark and handsome (now I’m short, pallid and corpulent), a woman “of a certain age”, kept coming on to me. She wouldn’t take no for an answer, and was obnoxious about it, so I went in the back, looked up the local coroner/mortician, and gave her that number. I thought I was clever, until a few months later she came in, pulled me aside, and said, “You tried to screw with me by giving a phony number… but I’m marrying the guy who answered, and he’s rich!”
That story had nothing to do with this list, but it popped into my head.
So what restaurant trends annoy you the most? Educate our restauranteur readers. I’d like to know.