According to a collective profile of the British diner-out emerging from a survey by the Automobile Association of 1,000 restaurateurs, the most common breach of good manners is not saying please or thank you. Next comes putting elbows on the table, treating staff like inferiors and blowing noses on linen napkins.
The customers dreaded most are drunken men and women in groups - cited by 32 and 31 per cent respectively; 60 per cent of respondents complained of diners' impoliteness.
The survey was carried out by the AA to coincide with the publication of its new guide, Best Restaurants in Britain. Among the changing habits identified are the demise of prawn cocktail, steak, chips and Black Forest gateau, the increased popularity of fresh al dente vegetables and wholemeal bread, and the arrival of bread-and-butter pudding as the hot sweet of the Nineties.
Almost half of us decline wine at lunch and sales of fizzy water have soared. Australian wines are second in popularity to French; German are the least popular. Only 12 per cent of restaurants said cheese was eaten.
Americans, vets and people from the North-east are the most generous tippers, but the British on average tip only 8 per cent of the bill.
Among examples of unusual behaviour quoted are a request for brown sauce on lobster thermidore, a budgerigar who dined out with its owner - it became anxious if left alone - and a woman who complained that her starter and main course were the same colour.
Restaurateurs can even be held responsible for events far beyond their control. In Argyll, the sheep outside were 'too loud', in Lanark, the cows an 'objectionable colour' and in Wallingford, wildfowl on a lake spoilt one couple's meal by fighting.Reuse content