Two New Yorkers spend six months 18 months!?! in Bangalore and other places in India.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Would you recommend this restaurant to your friends?

QuestionnaireMeals at all but the simplest restaurants here end with a final flurry of objects: finger bowls of warm water with a small chunk of lime floating in them for dissolving all that butter chicken residue, toothpicks in a holder, and sugar-coated saunf (fennel seed) and other chewables to freshen your breath. And then the bill, of course, but not before the waiter has earnestly encouraged you to answer some questions.

Dreaded by some and loved by others (like me), questionnaires appear probably about half of the time we eat out. The top half is full of blanks that only the most naive or starved for attention would fill out completely and honestly: full name, address and phone and email of work and home, names of your wife and kids, and the birthdates of all concerned. And your anniversary.

After trying and failing to think up jokey answers for all those blanks, it's time to move on to the multiple choice questions, which take their cue from Lake Wobegon children. You can always rate the ambience, service, food and whatever as "Excellent," or "Good" -- and yes, even "Average" if you're the sort of jerk that's never satisfied. Very few questionnaires have boxes for marking "Poor" or that teacher's favorite, "Needs Improvement." On occasion I've been moved to shade in my own little "Needs Improvement" box, but it's just not the same.

If you've finished with the boxes, you can move on to the short-answer portion, which is often equally optimistic. One I got a couple days ago asked "What is your favorite thing about [this restaurant]?", but it didn't want to risk finding out what I disliked. (It was the questionnaire.)

If you find yourself filling out one of these puppies yourself, for God's sake be prepared to back up your answers. Once, after we wrote a chi-chi restaurant that a couple dishes had been slow to appear and that a drink had never come at all, the waiter followed us toward the door, told us it wasn't his fault, and seemed to be asking us to take it back. When we showed up at the same restaurant the next day, he came over for more profuse apologies. It made us glad that we hadn't had anything to actually complain about, but also thinking that the whole questionnaire thing Needs a whole bunch of Improvement before it'll be worthwhile.

No comments: