Reader Feedback: What Ticks You Off Most at Restaurants?

Consumer Reports says dirty silverware is the worst offender in a dining experience. What's your unforgivable offense?

We all have something. That thing that just irritates you to no end when you go out to eat. If you’ve worked in food service, you know all the ridiculous things that can happen behind the scenes. It’s a lot to keep track of: the orders, the refills, the front-of-house/back-of-house interactions, the timing (the guests at this table are in deep conversation, but I really need to take their orders…). Even the best of restaurant workers make mistakes during busy service, but as a diner, certain things are going to drive you crazy.

Consumer Reports did a survey of which offenses are unforgivable, from diners’ perspectives. Apparently dirty silverware is the worst, understandably. Dirty restrooms are second, and that’s my biggest beef. Check out this infographic and then tell me: what are the transgressions you can’t dismiss?



  • Greg Brown

    Servers that describe dishes but don’t really know what the terms mean. This seems to happen more in high-end places interestingly enough.

    Great food but lousy cocktails, and vice versa.

    Dishes that don’t match up to the description on the menu. Your mind is ready for one thing and….wtf is this?

  • Melissa Chowning

    Dirty chairs, booths or dirty high chairs! Starts the whole meal off on the wrong foot.

  • JSSS

    Servers, servers, servers! Just ate at Al Biernat’s last week — the food was great, as always. But the server seemed to think that several talent scouts for comedy clubs were sitting at our table. I didn’t come to the restaurant to hear you make “jokes” or crack wise — I came to enjoy the food and the conversation with my guests!

  • Martin Klein

    Dirty ANYTHING is a big turn off.
    A close second is serving the appetizers close to or even together with the entrees.

    • twinwillow

      Exactly the reason why we always wait until we’re finished with our apps before ordering the mains.

  • rauldallas

    I have two.
    1) Loud people at other tables. I don’t care if you think you’re funny or if the gossip is great. I don’t wanna hear it. In the same category, restaurants with ridiculously loud music.

    2) Lukewarm coffee – I like my coffee hot. If I wanted iced coffee, I would ask.

  • ScreamingBabyDiner


  • Jim

    red wine served to warm (room temp in Dallas is not acceptable) and overly marked up wine.

  • chefjordy

    1. Hostess seats you at a table not completely bussed (not wiped down, no silverware, glassware, etc)
    2. Slow initial greeting by primary server
    3. Order iced tea, and server asks if you want lemon or sweetener AFTER tea is delivered, but never brings said lemon or sweetener
    4. Courses destined for another table presented to our table instead
    5. Server never follows up on actual order until courses 80% finished
    6. Server apologizes twice for his acknowledged poor service, yet fails to correct it…
    7. And my favorite…Server SITS DOWN at our table to apologize, says, “Now that I’m out of the weeds, what can I do for you?” My wife almost spit out her tea. What server would sit down at the table? I would blame the server, but I saw this twice by other servers at the same lunch service.

    All this happened at Tim Love’s The Woodshed in Fort Worth last week.

    Bonus content: My wife visited the WC, but had some trouble accessing the sink area, which had been taken over by a female server doing her hair and makeup post-shift while talking loudly about ex-boyfriend on her cell phone. As my wife paused to try and access the sink, the server slid over slightly to give access to the faucet. Didn’t bother to move her hairdryer, makeup kit, or anything else out of the way, however.

    • Rochell VanDeurzen

      So…not the best visit? Yikes.

    • Mike

      Timmy has much better things going on now.

    • rvponders

      Yikes. Hope this was an off night. Haven’t been to the Woodshed in a few months, but this has not been my experience.

  • Jeff Hayden

    When your server slices his hand up in the kitchen and has to be rushed to the emergency room by another server and then you and your table are completely forgotten by the remaining staff at the restaurant and 30 minutes later there is no sign of your food because the hand butcher never turned in your order because he was too busy bleeding.

  • Rochell VanDeurzen

    Ha! Gotta love the mystery dish.

  • Jeff Hayden

    “Server removing your plate or beverage before you finish” was lucky enough to make the chart twice.

  • Jeff Hayden

    ::Being able to see the dish washing station from my seat.
    ::When it is assumed we want to sit in the kid section because we have two teenage daughters with us.
    ::When the smoking section and the non-smoking section are separated by only a dessert menu.
    ::Losing arm hair to a sticky table.
    ::When parents let their 2-year-old stand in the booth and peer over the back directly at you throughout your entire meal.
    ::The phrase, “Is Pepsi OK?”
    ::When you get on Chili’s email list because you use their To-Go service and they send you coupons that all say Dine-In only.
    ::Servers who suggest I might want to try the lighter menu.
    ::When the ketchup isn’t fancy.
    ::Being asked to put my pants back on.

    • Schadenfreude

      where is there a smoking section anymore?

  • Cole Daugherty

    Don’t replace dirty utensil with … dirty utensil.
    Don’t make someone with a reservation wait more than 10 minutes without offering a beverage.
    Even if I’m not your table I might need help. Don’t ignore me, the patron looking around desperately for someone.
    Yes you can sit an incomplete party if 3 out of 4 or 5 out of 6 are standing there.
    Please don’t interrupt a conversation.
    I really don’t want to have to ask the price of the special.
    Try to stay on top of what you are out of and let me know…NO that doesn’t mean saying “we only have two” of something just announce what’s no longer available.
    And please, please don’t touch me on the shoulder to emphasize a point.

  • B in TX

    Tables jammed so close together,that I bump the chair behind me trying to sit down
    Background music so loud that I cant have a conversation
    Shrill children
    Smug waiters
    Disappearing waiter when ready to pay and leave.

  • Maria Whiteside Mejia

    The worst is to be served wine at Texas room temperature. Restaurants should invest in at least in small wine fridges.

  • tdiner

    Asking how the food is before we’ve had a chance to try it.
    Asking how the food is/was and not knowing how to respond when the response is less than favorable. Don’t ask if you’re not willing to do something about it!!
    Adults with wild children and are completely oblivious to how they are behaving.
    Servers who carry glassware around the rim (ick)
    Biggest pet peeve — when a hostess seats us next to other people in an otherwise empty restaurant. Or when hostess takes us by 30 open tables and seats us in a corner, or a less desirable room of the restaurant or next to the kitchen or bathroom and asks “is this ok”? NO!!!
    And restaurant owners who mock their customers on social media

  • twinwillow

    I hate when a server asks, “How is everything tasting”?

  • Ellie

    I only have one big one: when servers say “we” instead of “you,” e.g. “how are we doing over here? Are we having dessert?” Oh, are you joining my group?

    • Jeff Hayden

      Of course it’s always “you” once the check comes.

  • rvponders

    I’m pretty tolerant of many things – the only thing that will absolutely make me never come back to your restaurant is rudeness. There are several high-end restaurants around town where the food was good-to-outstanding, but the open rudeness from host/hostess on down ruined the evening. Sorry, being treated like I’m less interesting than the gum on your shoe (or whoever you’re texting) does not make me want to come back and give you my money…

    • Jeff Hayden

      You would really hate Ed Debevic’s.

  • joeat

    1) Loud music
    2) Being asked if you want more water in your glass. Just fill it up, what have you got to lose??

  • Lauren

    Being held hostage waiting for the check loooooong after the food has been finished and cleared away, and no more drinks have been ordered. Just let me go!!

  • rvponders

    I don’t mind evenly distributed sass, especially if that’s what you’re known for. I mind the “we suspect you are not as cool/wealthy/whatever as our preferred customers, thus we will treat you like a second-class citizen.”

  • Nick

    1)PLEASE don’t ask if I’ve dined with you before. Why does that matter? So I can prove I’m an adoring repeat customer?

    2)I don’t need to be asked 6 times if I’m loving my food. By the server (multiple times), manager, hostess, spare server, etc. See 1) above – I’m not here for your ego feed

  • LaLa

    Asking for something and the response is “no problem”. Whatever happened to “I’ll be right back” or “absolutely, on the way”? I didn’t ask thinking it would be a problem!

  • Dena

    Bringing my meal about 3 minutes after you bring my appetizer. And, asking if I want to order dessert while I’m still eating my entrée!

  • MarySunshine

    Pouring good wine into a dirty wine glass…no one enjoys lint floaters.

  • Kristen Wheaton

    Bad food critics that don’t know what they are talking about and rate restaurants based on personal grudges…and talk about things that have nothing to do with food, service, and/or atmosphere. Yep…the worst thing about restaurants and Dallas restaurants especially are the food critics (the ones that think they need to go incognito and all)…ha! Idiots.

  • Loki965

    There are some pretty serious concerns in here, but there sure is a ton of petty BS…Let’s make an issue of the use of pronouns…. Jesus. As a former server from 12(wow) years ago, I found the people most often frustrated by waiters disappearing when it’s time to pay the check were the ones that had been sitting at the table an hour or more after closing when they were the ONLY people in the restaurant and not ordering anything but generously giving the waiter attitude for checking in with them.

    • Tammy Onufreiczuk

      My husband and I usually like to get in and out of restaurants fairly quickly, and we’re not the type to stay until closing. We’ve had the problem of having disappearing waitstaff so often that we just started telling them up front that we have somewhere to be (even if we really don’t) just so that we aren’t forgotten about once the food arrives. It’s completely unacceptable to be finished with a meal then have to sit around for 20+ minutes with empty glasses and no check.

  • Loki965

    “Go away go away go away”….”Where’s that lazy waiter????!!!!”

  • Tammy Onufreiczuk

    The thing that irritates me most frequently is needing your server and not being to find them anywhere for a long time. This happens most frequently when I’m ready for the check and am held hostage in the restaurant until the server decides to come around.