Since I've been reviewing restaurants, I've been thinking a bit more about what makes a good experience. But typically, it's easier to carp than praise, so here's some things that annoy me. I invite readers to add more...
Vegetable and salads as extras
I always want some salad or vegetables with my meal. I do not want a plate of some beautifully cooked meat in a pool of delicious sauce all by itself. I want a decently balanced meal. At a pub or club, when I order the schnitzel they ask me "salad or veggies?" and "chips or mash?" If they can do it, why can't a good restaurant?
This is extremely common in the higher end restaurants, and it is annoying. And what's more, most of the time you have no idea how large they are, or how much you need. Should I order one salad per person, or one between three?
BYO Wine Only
Snobs. You can get away with it if you have a decent beer list. But I bet you don't. If I want a James Squires amber ale with my dinner and a Kriek lambic for dessert, you won't fob me off with a VB or one of those supposedly premium, but deeply ordinary, Crown lagers. Good beer is readily available. Stock it, or let me bring it.
Bad Attitude Service
It is not my duty to bring semaphore flags to get your attention. It is not my fault that the drinks didn't arrive for half an hour, or that the chef put onion in the salad when I specifically asked you not to. It's your mistake, you fix it. An apology helps, as does some compensation - a free drink or dessert is a good idea. Actually, I can forgive a great deal with an apology alone. Anyone can make mistakes, or have a bad night now and then. It's how you deal with the mistakes that matters.
No vegetarian options
Get with the 21st century already.
I know restaurants are doing it tough and need to increase the prices to stay afloat. I sort of understand this one, but again it's about how it's done. I don't mind paying corkage or "cakeage"; I am asking for service in those cases. Waiters and dishwashers are working for me.
Charging extra for vegetables is just one aspect of this. But what really gets to me is when there are a lot of little fiddly hidden charges that add up. Vegetables, corkage, bread, water, Sunday surcharge, sometimes even more obscure things. I hear crazy things from America, like a surcharge for splitting a plate, or varying a menu item, and even health insurance surcharges. I hope they don't catch on here.