Top 5 Ways Restaurants Can Make a Bad First Impression

Some of the worst mistakes restaurants can make occur at the beginning of the dining experience or before you sit down. Many have to do with hosts and hostesses, but they are usually just  messengers delivering the repercussive news of bad management decisions.

1. When you're making a reservation by phone, the restaurant spokesperson reports the 8 p.m. slot you requested is all booked; the only time available is 7 p.m. So you dine at that hour, and when you leave the restaurant at 9 p.m., you note that there were plenty of tables empty during the whole time period -- and many still unoccupied. In other words, management doesn't allow customers to dine when it's convenient for them. Their first priority instead is to manipulate the seating timeline to try to fill the room during nonpeak hours. This makes business sense but doesn't seem right when the business in question is part of the hospitality industry.

2. The host/hostess greets you in a fake and frozen Stepford Wives manner. Hint to restaurant managers: Hiring people on the basis of looks rather than brains works out well only in the modeling business.

3. You arrive on time for your reservation, and a look around the dining room indicates there are plenty of tables available. Nevertheless, the host glances at the scheduling book with an expression of consternation, looks up, and suggests, "Perhaps you'd like to wait at the bar until we can get a table ready." This is often a means of selling expensive cocktails. Again, not very hospitable.

4. Once more, you arrive on time for your reservation and there are plenty of unoccupied seats. Just the same, you and your guests are escorted to a table in the rear of the space, right by the restrooms. Granted, this might happen to me more than to others because of my proclivity to wear a plaid sports jacket when dining out, but still. Seriously, though, there are valid reasons for saving certain tables (like when a patron requests a certain window table, or whatever, when making reservations). But otherwise it should be up to the patrons to select where they want to sit when there are lots of options.

5. The restaurant is humming when you arrive, and hosts behind the podium are exhibiting the sort of dramatic anxiety one might see at NASA control when a space mission goes terribly awry. "How about table 21?" one will shout above the din. "No, that's blocked for later!" another will respond with exasperation. "Eighteen?" (the phone rings: "Could you please hold?"). "Eighteen is dawdling over dessert -- let me go see if 29 is close!" No matter how busy the establishment, diners should expect calm. Many customers frequent restaurants precisely to escape the hectic nature of their work, and they needn't be reminded of such.

Well, those are just few pet peeves regarding the predining experience at restaurants. Feel free to share some of your own.

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