It really annoys me how arrogant restaurants are getting these days. Gone are the good old days where you could ask for what you wanted and businesses would happily cater to you. Here in Canberra, and even more so back home in Perth, the culture seems to be more and more of “this is what we’re giving you, take it or leave it.”
Hell, some of them don’t even seem to care whether you stay or leave. And a lot of them seem keen to kick you out the minute you’ve finished eating, quickly whisking away the plates and asking if you want to order desert.
And last night’s dining experience in Canberra would have to top them all. The restaurant where we went for dinner with the family was one of the most bizarre places I’ve ever eaten in. Some of the things I had to hear in that restaurant were beyond a joke.
We wanted to order some bruschetta for a shared entrée, and my brother asked the waitress how many serves came on the dish. “It doesn’t really come in pieces. Its just one big piece, it’s not meant for sharing,” she replied. We got it anyway, figuring that we could just cut it up.
I overheard the large table behind us requesting a jug of soft drink, to which the waitress replied “we don’t do jugs, we only serve soft drinks by the glass.”
My sister also ordered a Pasta dish, and specifically requested it without Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top, as she normally does. “Is that because you’re allergic?” The waitress asked, to which my sister replied “No, I just don’t like it.”
When I thought about this bizarre question my sister was asked, I remembered something odd that I had seen on the front page of the menu. I had struggled to understand what it meant up until then. It read something like:
“We will cater to allergies, but otherwise menu dishes cannot be changed.”
I could really empathise in this situation. I don’t significantly restrict my diet choices when I eat out. And I think a big part of that reason is because there aren’t a lot of restaurants that make me feel comfortable enough to ask for special requirements. It’s a big part of the reason why I’ll opt for table water rather than asking if there is a sugar-free beverage other than diet coke. And it’s a big part of the reason why I’ll shy away from sandwiches rather than asking if I could have multigrain bread.
Look, I’m not asking for a huge diabetes-friendly-carb-free-sugarless menu here. Part of the reason I do go out is to enjoy some of the foods I don’t get to have on a daily basis. But it would be nice if they could make an effort with some of those smaller things. Things that I know other health conscious people would appreciate, too. It would be nice if I could just ask a simple question without getting the third degree.
Melbourne seems to have the right idea. Walk into any of their laneways. Walk onto Lygon Street. You’ll quickly be greeted by a sea of restaurant owners vying for your business. They’ll ask you what you like, and they’ll make you some of those too-good-to-refuse offers. Like a free glass of wine, or a three course meal for $30. It’s a friendly, relaxed atmosphere. I feel comfortable, I have a great time, and I actually want to go back there.
But when I see restaurants who make a big deal over silly things like dinner condiments and drinking glasses, it makes me more inclined to stay home. And if that’s what eating out has become, then I’m sorry but I’ll have to leave it.