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Pub and Restaurant Dining: Things That Make You Go Hmm

I’ve been thinking about pubs, restaurants, cafes, bars and clubs and the things that make me want to jump with joy or cry in despair when I visit them!  The staff at Pub Stuff spend every day talking to and visiting Managers and Landlords advising how to make the very best of their pub or restaurant space, maximising their appeal to customers and offering advice on pub and restaurant furniture that is most suitable in the venue.

The negative things we encounter when visiting pub, bar and restaurants regularly include:

  • Exposed or broken Light bulbs
  • The smell of old chip fat
  • Black ‘tar’ on carpets
  • Net curtains
  • Ripped upholstery
  • Whole rooms of wheel back dining chairs (yawn)
  • Dead plants
  • Broken windows
  • Too many posters pinned up with Blutak
  • Gaffer tape on carpets hiding splits.

On the brighter side:

Of course, the best one of all is Smiley staff!

So you can see that in fact, the list of things to make us happy is actually pretty short and the things on the ‘bad’ list are, in the main’, easy to put right.  I guess it’s just little bit of attention to the small details within the restaurant, cafe or pub and sometimes it can help to have someone else make the ‘things to do’ list.

Managed houses have that dubious luxury with Property Managers, Area Managers and Regional Managers all having their say.  For the Tenanted and Leased estate it’s a little more ‘lean’ on the personnel front so we have to be much more vigilant.

Confirming our own thoughts is Carol, Wilson, Food Writer for the BBC who says ‘Good food isn't the only ingredient of an enjoyable dining experience, ‘

What makes you choose a restaurant?

The food obviously - but what about the location, the seating, how far apart the dining tables are, service, the staff in general, the surroundings, the general ambience and of course the price?

Particularly in the current climate, pubs, restaurants, cafes and bars have to make us want to go there, whether for a coffee, quick lunch, dinner with friends or a special occasion meal.  But what makes one better than the other?  Do you follow the recommendations (or otherwise) of food critics' reviews or food guides?

Personally, I go for personal recommendations from friends and colleagues as to which pub, restaurant or bar to visit, but if I'm in a strange town or abroad, I generally choose a place that's busy - especially if it's full of locals, always a good sign that the food is freshly prepared and will taste good.

What I find off-putting is drab, tired décor, ear-splitting background music and dining and restaurant tables packed too tightly in a small space; some restaurants are so keen to squeeze in as many diners as possible, that on occasions I've sat so close to the next table that I could have joined in their conversation!

A huge menu in a smallish restaurant or cafe isn't a good omen either - it usually means the food is bought in.  I once stopped at a remote country 'gastropub' in the Highlands of Scotland where an item on the menu was chicken breast in a wild mushroom sauce.  My husband asked for his chicken without the sauce and was told this wasn't possible, so it was obviously boil in the bag!

A stop at another country fine dining pub had a menu full of bizarre and outlandish dishes.  The chef obviously thought he was another Heston Blumenthal in the making, but unfortunately had confused novelty with innovation and used weird combinations of flavours and ingredients just for the sake of it.  But whereas the talented Heston's dishes are well thought out and meticulously researched, tested and developed, this menu clearly was not and offered delights such as Smoked Haddock and Roquefort Fishcakes with a peach and raspberry sauce... yes really!

My favourite restaurants and cafes have tasty, freshly cooked food by a proper chef (no bought in ready-prepared meals), are value for money, have a relaxed, unhurried atmosphere, welcoming staff and friendly and knowledgeable service.  Good restaurants deserve to be rewarded with our custom.

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