Large servings, carpeted dining rooms, and other restaurant sins

Over the years I’ve found that there are a few basic signs to be aware of that will make your dining-out experience better.

Now, if a place you like to frequent ticks off a few of these boxes (three max, but never the terrible food one, that’s just a restaurant to avoid) you could give it a pass. Not everyone can be 100 percent on the ball all the time, but if you see more than a few of these signs, just run away.

I serve these up in no particular order, except for maybe the bad food one; that is simply unforgivable.

Bad Food

I mean really. You are going out and spending money on food. It should at least be edible. And the bare minimum it should elicit a shrug of “it’s okay.” but if the food is bad, just don’t go, ever. If you are served something inedible don’t go back. Someone made that food and another person took it out to your table without once thinking, “Would I eat this?” That’s the question everybody that works in a restaurant needs to ask themselves everyday. If the answer is: “No,” then you should stay away.

Large servings

A large portion does not mean it’s bad per se, but some places like to disguise the fact that their food is bad by giving you more of it. Then at least you can’t complain that they were cheap. If you have a friend that recommends a place and the first thing out of their mouth is, “The servings are huge,” you need to not go to that restaurant and maybe reconsider your relationship with this monster. Because we all know it’s not the size but the execution.

An even larger menu

A large menu means a large freezer with a lot of plastic wrap. No chef worth his salt (wink, wink) can manage a four-page menu written in 11 point font and do any of it justice. So there is a heavy reliance on pre-packaged frozen food. You would be better off getting a Hungry Man. This is a restaurant that is also trying to appeal to everyone and pleasing no one really. I like a place that has one page with no more than 15 or so options. That means the kitchen can execute every dish competently and won’t be relying as heavily on processed foods.


Why oh why are there carpets in dining rooms? They are impossible to clean, they hold odours indefinitely, and they also date the decor. Hardwood, composite, or tile are easy to clean and you don’t need a vacuum cleaner. We don’t put carpets in our bathrooms (right?) so let’s keep them out of our dining rooms.

Lime bar mix

Oh god, the 80s (and 90s) want their Tom Collins’s back. This is actually now a rare sight but back in the day lime bar mix was a standard ingredient in many cocktails and you would almost always find it in the speed rail of most bars. If you go to a bar today (in the year of our Lord 2019) and see any form of lime bar mix behind the bar, this is a sure sign the bar is stuck in the past. The gross, artificially flavoured and coloured past. Although I suppose there could be an ironic resurgence. Let’s all agree to not do that, okay?

Still smells like smoke

It’s been almost 15 years or so since most provinces (looking at you Alberta) banned smoking in public places including bars and restaurants. If you walk into a dining room today and it smells like smoke something is wrong. Either staff are smoking after hours or the dining room hasn’t replaced the carpet (!) in 15 years. Neither is a good scenario. Just turn around and walk away.


If there is no one there, why are you? Obviously there are certain slow times of day for any business, but if it’s lunch hour on a Friday and there is no one there this is not a good sign.

Dirty menus

What else aren’t they cleaning?

Dirty restrooms

Oh, that’s what else. If the staff or management can’t wipe a menu down (with a clean cloth not a greasy one), then of course the bathroom is neglected. If you feel like washing your hands has had the opposite of the intended effect, then this is not the restaurant for you (or possibly anyone).

Indifferent staff

This is a sign that the management doesn’t know what they are doing so therefore neither does the staff. In the mid-aughts it was a thing to have cool detached wait staff in certain restaurants and bars. It sucked. It still sucks. Don’t support those places, but more importantly let the management know that it sucks. They won’t change unless they know. Even then they might not do anything about it, but some will.

Disagree with me on these guidelines? Have an interesting restaurant story either as staff or as a guest? Be a part of this series by submitting firsthand experiences of imperious bosses, difficult guests, odd service, and your own and others’ gaffes. Please send stories to or private message Salty on social media.

About Rod Weatherbie

Rod Weatherbie is a writer working in the hospitality industry. He spent a number of years in Toronto as a member of the financial press before returning to PEI. Rod has published one piece of short fiction, one book of poetry, and has had work published in Red Shift, the Antigonish Review, Mitre, and the Toronto Quarterly. He has also recently co-produced, co-directed, and acted in a stage production of old television shows.

He also likes writing about food. Go figure.

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