THIS WEEK'S column will be a little different as the Buds, who normally write about their weekly eating adventures, will take a turn enumerating what we really, really, really want in a restaurant.
This turn is taken because, frankly, our latest dining experience was a complete disaster and we are trying to stick by the adage our mothers taught us about not saying anything at all if we didn't have something nice to say.
Our dream restaurant experience would include us being greeted by a smiling server who knew the specials and offered tasty suggestions. Appetizers and salads would be brought before the main course and refills would magically appear in our glasses. The meal would be sumptuous and priced reasonably. We'd leave with our bills paid, bellies full and plans made to return.
Unfortunately, this is a pipe dream and some fall short of the mark. So, here's what we really want ...
First and foremost, we want great service. This can make or break a restaurant in our books. We don't care how great the food is, if the service is lousy no one will want to eat there.
We want service people who know what's on the menu, are familiar with the specials and are courteous.
The Buds' recent disaster had the waitress reading the menu along with us to find the salad dressing choices and asking us if the sandwich we ordered had lettuce on it.
We want drinks brought to our tables in a timely manner and if for some reason you are out of iced tea at noon on a Friday, let us know beforehand.
And, for goodness sakes, don't smell our drinks in order to tell which is diet and which is regular!
We swear we saw this happen last week as a waitress actually SNIFFED two drinks as she handed them out in order to ensure the diet was going to the correct person! We can't make this stuff up!
Secondly, we want great food at a great price. That seems like a no brainer but for some eateries it is easier said than done.
We recognize times are tough for everyone and the price of food has increased. That means the customer expects better from the kitchen - better food, better presentation, better value.
Don't try to pass your sauce off as homemade when it came out of a jar. Don't forget to change the grease in the fryer more often than you change your socks. Don't defrost a pie and tell me it's from your grandma's secret recipe.
Don't try to price gouge the customer.
Charging $10 for a salad made up entirely of iceburg lettuce with two slices of grilled chicken thrown in is outlandish. Giving us a children's menu with macaroni and cheese that runs $5 is silly!
Third, there has to be communication in the kitchen.
Please, please, please don't send out the appetizer when we're halfway through with a meal. We also hate it when people who came in after us are munching away on their meals and we're still waiting for drinks to arrive.
Also, talk with the staff. Let them know what you're running low on and have a plan in place to substitute items if necessary. Don't have the waitresses selling sandwich platters if you don't have any more cole slaw!
And, in the event the forces of the universe align and make getting an order to the table akin to running across a battlefield, be honest with the customer. Apologize for running out of salad dressing, apologize for the lack of tea and cole slaw and try to make amends either through offering substitutions or a break on the bill.
Running a restaurant in today's economy has got to be a bear of a task. We couldn't do it but we recognize it when it's being done well. When a restaurant is run well with good food and good people, its a pleasure to dine there and tell our readers about it. When its done badly, we're left with a sour taste in our mouths and we really, really hate that!