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Originally published Tuesday, May 4, 2010 at 6:00 PM

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Servers — stop the annoying tableside questions

As a restaurant diner there are some questions that annoy rather than enhance the experience.

Detroit Free Press

We all have at least one or two things about dining out that drive us crazy. And the more time you spend in restaurants, the longer your list is likely to be.

Here are some of mine:

1. Being asked, "Are you still working on that?" What a poor, ill-considered choice of words. Eating is supposed to be pleasurable; it is not "work." Work is laying bricks or cleaning the basement. I'm having dinner, thank you. I'd rather hear the simple question, "Are you finished with your plate?"

2. Being asked, "Would you like to keep your fork?" No, if I wanted to do that, I wouldn't have left it on the plate that was about to be cleared. If the restaurant is nice enough to serve multiple courses and clear dishes, surely it can provide guests with more than one fork. Double demerits if my used fork is picked up and placed on the table.

3. Asking how the food is before I've tasted it.

4. Suggesting the most expensive wine on the list without signaling that it might cost more than I expect. The same goes for recommending a more expensive special without mentioning its cost. Some people may not care, but those who do shouldn't be forced to ask. No one likes feeling bushwhacked by the check.

5. Seating me at a table next to another party when most of the dining room is empty. Asking the hostess for a different location seems insulting to the people already there, but sitting beside them feels like I've crashed their party.

I don't mean to nitpick servers, whose jobs require a dozen different skills and the ability to juggle 10 tasks at once. The fact is, many of the little things that annoy diners are really the result of restaurant policies and training practices. And they come up over and over again.

Sometimes it seems they have no idea what we're thinking. Maybe saying something — politely — would help.

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