It's the little details, at least for me, that make a fine, and even an upper-casual dining experience just that: an experience rather than simply an amount of time and a spot to squat and eat stuff. So forget the food itself for a moment. This list is made up of some bottom-line expectations, some small niceties and even some things that surprise and delight, catapulting a restaurant into the "above and beyond" category.
Next time you dine out, pay attention because these things are part of the experience of dining, and they should be appreciated as such. Sometimes just a few of the following is enough, and sometimes it's safe to expect that most of these boxes be checked.
1. You're greeted sincerely when you enter.
2. You're seated at a table that is ready for diners, not one that needs to be cleared.
3. You're given a reasonable amount of time with your menus before being asked for your drink order.
4. You are given a reasonable amount of time with your drinks before being asked for your food order.
5. When the food comes out, the women are served first.
6. All plates of food look pretty and appetizing, as if someone gave it careful attention.
7. All the finished plates are taken at once, so nobody feels like they've eaten to quickly or taken too long.
8. They bring that shiny little metal scraper thing out and clear off your crumbs.
9. There's a fresh linen table cloth, not a sticky surface or leftover crumbs as evidence of previous diners.
10. There are linen napkins rather than paper.
11. Coffee and or tea is offered with or before dessert.
12. Checks are handled any which way you ask, without protest from the staff.
13. Once the bill is settled, your water glasses continue to be refilled and you are not rushed to leave.
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14. You are thanked for your business upon your exit.
15. Your valet, if offered, is quick and polite -- and complimentary, provided by the establishment for the convenience of its patrons.
And that, my friends, is how a bitch like me gets served.