Tips For Diners to Make Each Meal Dining Out More Pleasurable
Most people think they should just walk into a restaurant and just be themselves. I encourage you to do that, unless you’re a jerk. If you’re a jerk, please be nice. Okay, now that I’ve taken my shot at levity, let’s get down to some serious tips for diners frequenting restaurants.
Plan your visit if this is a new restaurant. Send directions to your phone, find out about parking, and check the dress code. All of these things can make your initial visit off to a good start.
Call the restaurant and find out if they take reservations or do call ahead seating. If you do have to wait to be seated, consider this a good sign. The restaurant is good enough so that people will wait for their food. The time the hosting staff gives you is an estimate, not a prediction. Don’t freak out if you see other parties seated that arrived after you. Remember that the staff is trying to fill tables based on the size of the party and they may have room for two but not a table for the four people in your party. If you are able, grab a seat in the bar and ride it out. Remember, we’re dining out not just to fill our empty stomachs but also we’re here for a dining experience!
If you prefer a booth versus a table, or vice versa, let your hosting staff know this up front. If you want a table with a view, ask for it. If you don’t want to be seated near the kitchen or by the entrance to the restrooms, tell the hosting staff what you prefer. Bear in mind, when we make special requests we sometimes have to wait longer.
Seriously, we do want to be nice. If you’re grumpy, your server is going to pick up on that and they won’t be themselves either. If I’m in a good mood, your server will be in a good mood. It just works out that way. Whatever you do, please don’t take your bad day out on your server. They are trying the best they can, we hope, to make your experience a pleasurable one. My mother used to say “you get more bees with honey than with vinegar”.
Once seated, set the expectation with your server politely. If you’re under a time constraint, let your server know you’re trying to get to a movie in an hour or something like that. On the other hand, if you’re in it for the long haul and you want to make an evening out of it, let them know that as well so they know to allow you to enjoy the company of your dining companions without being disruptive. Sometimes, I can just tell the server is tired or flustered and I just say “Take a deep breath. You are among friends.” It’s amazing the change in a person after you make that statement.
When ordering, understand what’s going on in the kitchen. If it’s slow, chances are your special requests will be fulfilled to the letter. The more meals being prepared, the greater the chance that someone might miss your special request. It doesn’t hurt to ask but don’t allow that to ruin your meal. Obviously, if you have some type of food allergy make this known to your server in the clearest of terms.
During the meal, be considerate of the other patrons in the restaurant. We’ve all been by the person who’s talking too loud or having a conversation on their cell phone undoubtedly trying to impress the other diners with the importance of their business deals. Frankly, it’s just rude and inconsiderate. We want to have a pleasurable dining experience for everyone around us.
For those with children, the dining experience can be a wonderful way to teach manners and the proper way to conduct oneself when out in public. For older children, explain the placement of the silverware, how and when to use your napkin and the other fine nuances of dining. It’s easy for me to tell during business meals, the people who were instructed properly by their parents in this area and those that were not. For very young children, bring cheerios or crackers with you to entertain youngsters while waiting for the meal to arrive. Naturally, if your children become disruptive to the other diners, remove them from the dining area until they resume their composure.
If you partake of alcoholic beverages, consider the number of drinks you’ve had and its effect on you. It’s embarrassing and uncomfortable for a server to have to “cut you off” and the diner’s reaction to this has been known to ruin a perfectly good meal. I believe the Greeks put it best, everything in moderation.
When your server offers dessert, one of my pet peeves is the person who tells the server NO as if they are speaking on behalf of the entire table. ALWAYS offer your dining companions to make their own choice. I don’t even like to prejudice their response with an “I don’t care for any” because I want my guests to feel comfortable ordering dessert even if I choose to not have any. This can be a very sensitive topic for some people, so please be delicate in this area.
One of the primary concerns of many diners is how to handle the tip. Tipping depends not only on the level of service, but also on the type of service offered and if you’ve experienced any problems with the service. Its important to understand the difference between problems from the server and problems from the kitchen or another source from which the server has no control over. Don’t take it out on the server that the room was too cold, the kitchen was late getting your food to you or the bartender screwed up your drink order. First, we start at 20% tip and work our way down. If the service from your server was acceptable, you should tip 20% – period. Many people have been brought up with the 15% gratuity and that was fine – for 1975. It’s 2015 and 20% is what you need to be tipping. If there was a problem with the service, I generally drop it to 15%. If I feel my server just flat out ignored my table, I drop it down to 10%. I never, ever fail to leave a tip unless I personally tell the server “this is why I’m not leaving you a tip”. It’s got to get pretty bad before we get down to that and I normally involve the manager in that conversation as well.
If you are not at a full-service restaurant but you still receive table service of some form, consider tipping 10%. For example, if you order at the counter but they bring your food to you and get drink refills tip 10%. These places are typically $10-15/meal so you’re looking at $2-3 for a couple. At fast food places where they accept tips, I throw in $1/2 just to help the folks out. This is a hard business with crappy hours and 99% of the people aren’t getting rich working there.
Finally once you pay your bill, take notice if others are waiting to be seated. If so, don’t dawdle and have an extended conversation. If you do want to extend your evening, move your conversation to the bar area and find some comfortable seating there so as to allow others to dine.
I don’t think any of this is too terribly controversial but, if you have a different opinion than I do, or if you agree with me entirely, we’d love to hear your comments below. Guten appetit!
Randy & Melanie