WHEN IT COMES TO RESTAURANT ANNOYANCES, DOGS ARE A LONG WAY DOWN THE LIST
Fellow EDP columnist Steve Downes got the bottom half of the internet twitching last weekend when he wrote a typically provocative article praising pub chain Wetherspoons for banning dogs.
I’m a dog owner myself, although I don’t take my pooch into restaurants, because I know he would embarrass me and disrupt others by cadging for food, squeaking with excitement and ensuring the whole establishment was aware of his presence.
However, I happen to think Steve is wrong, because there are many dogs which are better behaved than my own spaniel. Go to any restaurant in France, and you will see them quietly sharing the space with their owners. They are not spoiling anyone’s dinnertime.
There are many things more annoying in restaurants than a well-behaved dog. Here are just five of them.
Selfish dog owners
It’s not dogs themselves which are to blame, but those owners who think that their own rights somehow trump those of everybody else to eat their meal free of barking, wet dog smells and dog hairs on the seats.
Well behaved dogs sitting quietly under the table are no problem; it is those which are allowed to run riot which cause the problems. Which brings me on to…
Selfish children owners (aka parents)
Children in restaurants is yet another area where our continental neighbours seem to have got it right. In France or Italy, children are taught from a very young age how to behave in a public dining room, how to eat with good table manners, and how to respect everybody else’s right to a pleasant meal.
Children will only run riot if parents allow them to, and unfortunately this is so common that many reasonable people (some child-owners themselves) support making restaurants child-free. I think this is a shame – if we don’t teach the next generation the joys of eating out, what future is there for our hospitality industry?
So by all means bring your kids to a restaurant. Just make sure they know the rules and that they understand respect for other people; take responsibility for keeping them engaged; and accept that if they become bored and disruptive, you may need to take them outside for a while.
Yes, this may interrupt your meal, but they are your kids, and they don’t have the right to let them interrupt mine.
Mobile phone addicts
A restaurant should be a place of joy, and there are few things guaranteed to suck the joie de vivre from a dining room than that table for two occupied by people who are more interested in their phones than what is on their plates, or indeed on each other.
You know the type: they barely say a word to each other, the only time they smile is when they happen across an amusing cat video on Facebook, and the atmosphere in a ten metre radius of their table is as frosty as the nitrogen-cooled foam that the chef has worked so hard at, and which they are studiously ignoring.
If the person on the other end of your Whatsapp conversation is so interesting, why aren’t you having dinner with them?
Given that food is something that we mainly appreciate with our senses of smell and taste, why is it that so many people are obsessed with taking photos from multiple angles of every morsel of food they are served? Whoever do they think has the time to appreciate these photographic masterpieces?
Meanwhile, the rest of us have to suffer constant flashes, while these people repeatedly stand up to get the signature Instagram ‘from above’ angle. And spare a thought for the poor waiters whose work is forever being interrupted while they wait for these budding David Baileys to get the perfect shot.
The irony is that most restaurants have much better Instagram feeds than you will ever have, because unlike most restaurant photographic menaces, they actually know how to frame a good photograph.
Partly this is the fault of restaurants themselves, who do seem to be deluded that they can create ‘atmosphere’ through the use of deafening music which makes conversation all but impossible. But even in music-free restaurants, you will always get the group who think their conversation is so witty that they should share it with everyone in the place, by conveying their inane witticisms at maximum volume. We’re not interested, just put a sock in it.
By the way: have you noticed how all of these annoyances are human-based? When it comes to spoiling our dining experiences, dogs have so much to learn…
This article was first published in the Norwich Evening News and the Eastern Daily Press.