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Melanie Morris: No wonder the restaurants are empty, they can't do simple things

Dear restaurateurs of Ireland, I know you're having a really tough time right now and every day open is another hard slog and, frankly, another miracle.

But at the risk of being unpopular, can I draw your attention to a few things?

A few things that drive us customers bananas and, if you just did something about, might see us frequenting your lovely establishments a little more frequently.

Just a dozen things that drive me, a lady who lunches (and breakfasts and dinners) quite a lot, positively mental ...

1. Don't seat me at the table beside the bathrooms, or the waiter's station, or in the draught of the door when there are others available, I'm only going to ask you to move me.

2. Please stop hawking the wine. There's nothing more irritating than the waiter who takes the wine order, serves it immediately, tops up at every hands turn and then delays with the food in the hope that you'll order another bottle, and then, because you're half plastered and beyond the point of no return (possibly due to drinking on a still empty stomach), order another. I'm on to your game. If I order an aperitif, I don't want the wine presented, uncorked and poured at the same time.

3. If you've got a special deal, an early bird or an offer, stop trying to add on extras. I've come for lunch because it's two courses for €19.95 -- I don't then want to be charged a tenner for coffee. Or a supplement of €2 because I choose cheese. Or €3.50 for prawns. Or €5 for the steak. It'll only hack me off, I'll moan to everyone I know and I won't come back.

4. If I've arrived before my dining companion(s), offer me a newspaper or something to read. Any restaurant that does this can then do no wrong in my opinion and I remember it forever, Stephane Robin in Guilbauds.

5. Come over to me when taking my order. I might have a request I don't want the whole table to hear. Like what's an ingredient or method of cooking I don't understand? I don't know how many times I've had to holler out my delicate enquiry and, frankly, it embarrasses me.

6. It also embarrasses me when dining with business associates, or a gentleman friend, that I have to spell out, in no uncertain terms: I'M ON A DIET. Can you not get the hint when I say "I'm trying to be super-healthy, so can I have the baked cod with very little oil," that no, I don't want it swimming in sauce. And when I then ask for "steamed vegetables", that means without butter. The last time I tried this and asked for "sauce on the side, with steamed vegetables, no butter", I got the vegetables, possibly steamed and served smothered in the sauce ... on the side.

Sometimes plain is good, and when people (like me) eat out a lot, we'll come back time and time again if we know there's a nice, understanding waiter who'll get our gist without a kerfuffle.

7. However, when dessert time comes along, please ignore I said I was on a diet, and make that order for Banoffi Pie a generous one. With ice cream. Oh, and we love little tasty treats with coffee too.

8. Back to the diet. When you say 'low-fat', or 'low-carb' on your menu, I believe you. So why do those stir-fry prawns taste so sweet and, er, sugary?

9. Send the jazz band home. I've come to dine out with my friends and don't feel like competing all night with the bloke on the saxophone.

10. Let me pay the bill without having to send up smoke signals or do the YMCA dance at my table. You want to seat more customers surely, and I want to go home.

11. Give me a chance to tip you on my credit card. I know it might not be as convenient for you, but if I'm putting this on my work card, you'll get more if I can tap in a number than if I have to go fishing about in my bag for change ... and then have to fill out an expenses form to claim it back. I want to leave a tip, but not if you are dictating to me in what form you get it.

12. Please, even after reading this rant, still smile and talk to me when I come into your restaurant. I speak on behalf of myself, and the many who don't have to courage -- or platform -- to say all that I have just done. Whether a burger or a gastronomic feast, eating out is one of life's great pleasures. I just want to enjoy it to the max.

Melanie Morris is editor of IMAGE Magazine


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