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afghanhound's avatar

What matters when you go to a restaurant?

Asked by afghanhound (150points) November 16th, 2015

Think about what matters when you decide to go to a casual/upscale dining restaurant.
What are the things you expect every time, just for you to have a decently good experience?
Now, what are those things that make the experience extra special?

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39 Answers

LuckyGuy's avatar

When I go out to dinner the food is secondary or even tertiary. The most critical factor is the person I am with and our ability to communicate. In general, I do not go to a restaurant for the calories. I go to enjoy the company of the person I am sitting near. If the place is noisy and there are TVs blaring I don’t care how good the food is: the experience will not be positive.
Second is whether or not I need to wait. If I must wait more than 5 minutes for a table I will move on to another place. I do not want to be rushed and in general if we must wait for table the place is crowded and I can’t relax.
Third is the waitstaff. If the waiter or waitress is so rushed they cannot say the specials or salad dressings without jabbering like an livestock auctioneer I will not be comfortable.
Fourth is the food.
Fifth is bathroom.

ragingloli's avatar

The food. Everything else is secondary.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

The quality of the food is the most important point. I’m going to a restaurant to eat well.

The service is next. I like friendly, knowledgeable servers.

The atmosphere of the restaurant is third. I want to be comfortable.

I don’t mind waiting for a table, but once I’m seated, don’t rush me.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Cleanliness/Don’t give me food poisoning. Been there done that.
Good food
Service. Does have to be waiting on me arm and leg, just be attentive.
Overall experience.who I’m with good conversation. At certain times of the day I don’t even need the food if the company is good.

thorninmud's avatar

I’m vegetarian, so I want some well-considered non-meat choices on the menu.

No themes, please. Spare me the faux Cajun or Parisian bistro decor. I don’t want to pretend.

Value. Don’t make me feel ripped-off.

Don’t try to astound me with the plate presentation. I don’t want my food to be doing gymnastics on the plate. I don’t want to have to dismantle my food before I can eat it. No garnishes whose only purpose is visual. Nothing I need to eat around.

Looking at all the above, it mostly comes down to authenticity: Let’s just keep things honest and unpretentious.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

That should have been doesn’t.

Cupcake's avatar

Well, now that I have multiple food sensitivities, I care that the staff are knowledgeable about food allergies and meal ingredients. I care that the menu is diverse and that I can find food that I can eat (no gluten/dairy/soy/corn/eggs… the list gets longer and longer). I care that the water tastes good (I don’t order drinks). I don’t like loud or being rushed. I don’t like non-food smells (perfume, candles, etc.).

Even though I’m not vegetarian, I mostly eat at vegan/vegetarian restaurants because they fit the bill (as long as they have soy-free options).

From my perspective, Five Guys is a better pick than a fancy place that puts a wine reduction with butter on every plate (and bonus: their fries are the only thing that go into their fryer… so no cross contamination!).

OriginalCunningFox's avatar

I’m a big cleanliness person.

I really need clean silverware. I wanna see that nice, clean shine. No blotchyness or, god forbid, old food stuck to it. Shudder
I’m kind of a freak about clean silverware. So much so that I’ll bring my own plastic silverware (seems kinda rude, I know) to a restaurant if I really like the food and everything else there, but I still have problems with their silverware.

Clean menus are a must too.

Clean bathrooms.

Of course, I’m obviously also looking for good food, and friendly and prompt servers.

Coloma's avatar

The food of course, but, just as important a friendly, preferably humorous and attentive wait staff. I never fault a server for inferior food, I do fault them for lack of attention, unless extremely busy when I make allowances for their frantic busyness. If my server/wait staff are friendly, playful and helpful I tip very generously. I enjoy people and if you behave as serving me is a PITA you will not be rewarded. lol

Lightlyseared's avatar

Not to get food poisoning.

jca's avatar

I don’t like packed restaurants, I don’t like a lot of noise, I don’t appreciate big screens over a bar, and I don’t like bright lights if I can avoid them. I don’t like sticky or otherwise dirty menus and I will run my fingers over the table to feel if I feel grime or crumbs. That will make me either get up and find a guy to wipe the table, or wet some paper towels and wipe it myself.

I do appreciate a nice restroom. In fact, what prompted my question above about the restrooms in restaurants was because I write online reviews and I rarely mention the restroom, but it’s always a thought, whether it’s nice or not and how well it goes with the quality of the restaurant.

I don’t usually wait long to be seated, unless I’m desperate and there’s not many other choices in the area.

I appreciate the server coming within five minutes for drink order, letting me know when things are held up in the kitchen, and I don’t expect the entree to arrive when I’m still eating the salad or having an appetizer. I don’t have appetizers too often, but if we are having one, don’t pile the entree up on top of it and then something is going to get cold.

I like a server who is personable. I like a server who doesn’t disappear after we’ve eaten whatever we ended with. I don’t like to have to hunt the server down to ask for the bill. If we’re not in a rush, the bill can sit on the table.

Of course, the company I am with is of the utmost importance, because the restaurant can be the best in the world but if I can’t stand my companion(s), then I’m happier eating a bagel at home in front of the TV.

ucme's avatar

The food, the drink, the ambiance, but most of all, the service needs to be at least as good as I get at home. If it’s better, then i’m hiring & firing.

JLeslie's avatar

The food isn’t saturated in fat.

The food tastes good.

Reasonable amount of vegan choices. I’m not vegan, but I watch my cholesterol and fat intake.

Clean. Everywhere. So many restaurants aren’t and I still eat there though.

I’d rather they don’t automatically put lemon in my water.

Quiet. No loud music, unless it is the type of place that is music oriented. No music suits me fine when I am eating.

In expensive restaurants I love a warm hand towel before the meal. Menus and chairs are germy. I’d love it at every level of dining, but we don’t do it in America. In Japan they often give you wetnaps before the meals at moderate restaurants and chains.

jca's avatar

I should add I appreciate when the bread is warmed and also when the butter is not freezing and hard.

Seek's avatar

A-number-one for me is atmosphere. I don’t mind busy sports bars, but if the tv or music is so loud I have to raise my voice to speak to my companion or the server, I’m likely to leave.

Service is second. If, upon entering, there’s a sign that says “please wait to be seated” and four servers gossiping by the soda fountain, they have about a minute to acknowledge our presence before I’ll go elsewhere. I’m a very easy-going patron, but I don’t like standing by the front door twiddling my thumbs while people stare at me with mouths full of food.

I like a menu that is brief, easy to read, and in a casual restaurant it should include an ingredient list for each item. I don’t care for mayonnaise – it’s one of about three things that a hard “no” for me – and being surprised with a sopping-wet burger is not pleasant. I’m not likely to send it back, because then I don’t get to eat at the same time as everyone else, it just ruins the meal for me.

Bonus stuff:
A restaurant that knows what it is and does it well is preferable to one that makes 800 different things poorly.

It’s ok to specialize. You don’t have to have burgers and tacos and pizza and steaks and fish and chips and pasta and open faced thanksgiving dinner sandwiches, all of which kind of suck because they’re all cooked on the same equipment.

JLeslie's avatar

An option for a small portion.

marinelife's avatar

Usual experience?
Attentive, knowledgeable server.
Good food for its price range. That is to say, I don’t expect haute cuisine when I“m in a diner, but I do expect good quality diner fare.

An exceptional experience?
Locally sourced and seasonal ingredients.
Unusual menu items or twists on familiar dishes.
A good wine list and a sommelier who is good with food pairings.

cazzie's avatar

I need the lighting to not hurt my eyes. These days, that is rather important. Otherwise, it really depends on why I am out. I go out with my son these days once a month to a burger place that has really loud music. Normally, I’d hate that, but it suits the place and we have fun. They have awesome boardgames to play while you eat the best burgers in town. If I’m going out for a grown up thing (it has been quite a long time….) I want a decent selection of wine on the menu as well as a cozy place to sit and talk while not having to listen to or be over listened to. I expect the service people to have some sort of light on behind their eyes. I don’t expect to have to wipe off or bus my own table. (THAT really gets me here…. really nice places can have messes on their available tables still, and if it is a nice place to sit, I sit there, but I clean it up and put everything on a spare table.)
We don’t have a tipping culture because we have laws that make sure everyone is paid a fair wage… (watch Adam Ruins Everything… episode 5. He’ll explain it.)
So, I don’t go out much, but I do remember when I did and could easily afford it. Now, it is rare and expensive, so my expectations are high, due to experience in different countries and cultures. I want decent food. I don’t want to pay for eating crap. If my son wants to go somewhere I don’t like the food, I simply don’t eat. I think we found our groove in this city now with a sushi place that offers a special if you go before 6pm and an AMAZING burger joint run by a guy from London who knows his shit. Super Hero Burgers Trondheim… FTW.

stanleybmanly's avatar

1 quality of the food.
2 quality of the service
3 size of the crowd (waiting time)
4 accessibility
5 value (price vs product)
6 compatibility of diners in the party with the menu

Cruiser's avatar

Great food, great service and a great atmosphere. If I am going to go out to dinner I look for and expect all three. I am very loyal to restaurants that provide a great dining experience. I like to relax and enjoy myself when I am out to dinner.

I also like to send a message to the chef of a great job and they often will come out to talk about the meal. I will also make sure the manager knows they hit the mark with a great meal.

filmfann's avatar

I try not to noticeably pass gas.

Keenanduey's avatar

-the environment
-the worker
-quality of the food

chelle21689's avatar

Main important factors:
Great food
friendly service

Price for food

Dutchess_III's avatar

The service, then the food. The server can really affect your dining pleasure.

jca's avatar

The last two restaurants I’ve been to in NYC, in the last three weeks, have had unisex or “gender neutral” bathrooms. I am not sure if it’s a law or just coincidence, or to avoid controversy.

Seek's avatar

I have no problem with gender neutral bathrooms. In fact, I think it’s about time we got over that little hangup.

jca's avatar

I think they’re great. No long lines for ladies like there used to be.

talljasperman's avatar

Good food with no food poisoning.

clairedanajames's avatar

Quality of food matters the most, of course. But even if the best of a ‘caviar recipe’ was served in an unhygienic way, it won’t go down your throat that easily. And what if it was dark and a grumpy guy was taking your order? I guess, cleanliness and ambience are quite important as well.

Seek's avatar

The family and I went to dinner at a local Mexican restaurant today.

They had every sportsing-thing in town on big-screens – on silent. The place was packed. Wait-staff was friendly as you could ask for.

They brought out chips and salsa when we were seated.

And all the tacos were $1.


It fails my “industrial-scented bathroom” requirement, but I give it a pass.

jca's avatar

You know what I just remembered? I get annoyed when the wait staff doesn’t take the dirty plates off the table. I like when the table has on it only what we’re eating at the time.

@Seek: Dollar tacos sounds great. I wish we had something like that around here, that I knew of.

Seek's avatar

Yup! They turned their slowest nights (Tuesday and Wednesday) into an awesome easy night out. And unlike some other places, they don’t scoff at you and roll their eyes when you order ten chicken tacos and a couple of glasses of water.

AND the water glasses are ginormous, and they keep them refilled.

JLeslie's avatar

@jca Do you want them to remove a dirty dish during a course if not everyone at the table is done yet with that coarse? Does it matter whether the waitperson has to reach over others who aren’t finished or not? Like a booth vs. a table?

jca's avatar

@JLeslie: No, I mean when we’re all done with the entree and are ordering dessert, for example, and they leave the entree plates. I think of it as the wait person feels it’s the bus boy’s job and so she doesn’t want to do it. I have no problem stacking the plates, which customers are not supposed to do, but I do it to make it easier on the wait person and to get them out of my way. I will sometimes hand them to the waiter if she is making no move to remove them on her own.

JLeslie's avatar

@jca I have mixed feelings. I actually like when there are busboys to clean up from a germ perspective. From an esthetic (aesthetic?) and comfort perspective I like the waiter to remove the plates as you said, especially if the table is small.

Response moderated (Writing Standards)
Dutchess_III's avatar

Remember that Neives’ nightmare I told you about, with the $16.00 cheese sauce? Yeah. Went back there last night with my daughter and the twins, to watch her other daughter sing there with her Dad. So, we all ordered a little bit of food. I got one cheese enchilada for $3.00. It was just cheese rolled up in a flour tortilla. I made it decent by putting on a bit of the special cheese sauce and some salsa.
The twins each got a cheese wrap, which was just cheese rolled up in flour tortilla for $1.50 each. Say WHAAAAATTT?? It was the same thing I got!
When it was time to go I asked the server for a to go box for the bit of left over food, which he brought, and then I asked no less than 4 times for a to go-cup for the extra cheese sauce. He got me the box for the food, but never did get me one for the sauce, so I finally said, “F-it!” and threw the actual small cup it was served in in the to-go box.

But the dumbnitude was worth it for the time I got to spend with the twins and their older sister. Anyone want pictures?

LadyInRedd's avatar

I have to agree with @LuckyGuy in his response that the most important thing is who I am with.. sharing with… this in itself is a part of the atmosphere.. It makes the “experience” ...even more so , than a lousy waitress or so -so food… we can laugh that off – or complain together.. if need be..

We visited a restaurant last week for my Birthday where the Japanese waiter cooks our meal right in front of 9 of us sitting there…. he sets the grill on fire, juggles an egg with his utensils.. (Ichiban Steakhouse) that was a lot of fun!....the price was reasonable.. the food was great… now we want to go back & bring all the kids for another trip, bought 2 gift cards on the way out too.

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