It takes a lot to have a successful restaurant, particularly in Houston where almost everyone is a foodie and the competition for dining dollars is fierce.
But there are few things that restaurants can do to increase the bottom line and benefit the diners. These five hacks (what the Urban Dictionary refers to as “a clever solution to a tricky problem”) are very welcome little things that will make your dining experience more enjoyable.
It’s nice to have a little mood music, but let’s face it, you want to be able to carry on a conversation with your tablemates. Even if you are dining solo, it can be a distraction to reading, taking pictures of your food, whatever, if the “background” music is set at the level of the local metal club. Of course there are some eateries that are just not built to handle sound well.
There’s nothing worse than not having an extra chair at the table and you have to sit your purse on the floor where the waiter trips over it and someone spills queso on it.
I find it really annoying to eat in a place where the acoustics are so bad that you can’t hear the mood music over the clatter of silverware and the chitchat at surrounding tables.
It’s ridiculous to be expected to pay for bread or chips, unless it’s something special like garlic bread you want. And even then, at most Italian places where you pay for garlic bread, they have some kind of bread or bread sticks that are free when you sit down.
And I know that in some places they do charge for a basket of tortilla chips and salsa, but this is Texas and it’s practically a state law that Tex-Mex restaurants serve them for free. And it doesn’t really hurt the restaurants to offer this combo, particularly if the customers are drinking margaritas as the liquor prices more than make up for the cost of the tortillas.
Ditto with warm bread and butter at dinner when guests may enjoy it with cocktails or wine before they order entrees.
There’s nothing worse than not having an extra chair at the table and you have to sit your purse on the floor where the waiter trips over it and someone spills queso on it. Luckily, more and more restaurants are wising up to this and adding purse hangers.
I love a bar that has little purse hooks underneath (I always look for them), as it’s so easy to hang a big bag from them so it’s out of everyone’s way. And even better are the places that have standing, portable purse hangers that sit by the tables and can hold multiple bags. And guys, these are great as hat racks as well.
A huge thank you to Steve Christian, the former owner of Christian’s Tailgate Sport Bar & Grill, who came up with a simple way to fix wobbly tables. You know how annoying it is when you’re seated at a wobbly table: You lean an elbow next to your plate and the table slants 10 degrees.
Then you and the wait staff spend time searching for beer coasters and sugar packets to stuff under the offending leg, but it still doesn’t work very well. There have been little plastic wedges that slide under the table leg on the market for a while but Christian invented the Table Jack, a simple little plastic device that works kind of like a car jack. Put it under the bad leg and just tap the lever with the tip of your toe and voila! A steady table.
Etch A Sketches
And here’s a tip for any restaurant. No need to ban kids from nicer places, just keep them entertained!
Pico’s Mex-Mex has a supply of Etch A Sketches that they let kids play with while dining. At a recent, and crowded, Sunday brunch we were seated in a room with three nearby tables with little kids. Let me tell you there was not a peep out of any of those children. They were too busy playing with the toys.
They didn’t fuss. Their parents didn’t have to yell at them and other adult diners where hardly aware of their presence. Absolutely brilliant idea. A quiet toy makes for quiet kiddos.