“Etiquette means behaving yourself a little better than is absolutely essential.”
– Will Cuppy
Before heading out to your favorite restaurant for a lovely evening out, there are a few things that you may want to consider in order to have a better dining experience. Before a server comes to the table, keep in mind these simple tips in order to make your life easier…and your server’s as well.
1. Do not order unless you are ready to order.
This unfortunately happens very often in restaurants. A server goes to a table and asks “Are we ready to order?” and the guests reply with an enthusiastic “Yes!”. The problem with this is sometimes you actually…well, aren’t ready. The server then prepares themselves to write down your order and stands there while you desperately glance through the menu, trying to find something that suits your fancy. Feeling pressured to make a decision? Don’t. Ask the server to come back in a few minutes, giving you enough time to make your choice and giving them time to server their other customers as well.
2. Know and remember what you are ordering.
Sometimes menus can be overwhelming, especially if you are dining out at a restaurant you’ve never eaten at before. Make sure you take a good look at the name of the plate you wish to have, along with the description. That way when your plate arrives there are no mishaps. As servers, sometimes we witness diners who exclaim “This isn’t what I ordered!”, to which we reply something along the lines of “Did you order the barbecue chicken?” and their reply is usually “Yes.” The waiter or waitress then has to explain that this is the plate you ordered. It wastes a bit of time, plus makes you nervous thinking that the server got your order wrong.
Also, it sometimes happens with larger groups that a server will say “Caesar salad to start?”, glancing around at all the diners looking for a hand raise or look of recognition and gets none. Customers sometimes forget that they had a salad to start, forcing the server to take the plate back to the kitchen as a mistake. What happens then? You may miss out on your starter salad.
Be aware of what you have ordered (the same goes for bottles of wine – check that the server has brought you the correct bottle). It makes things easier for everyone.
3. Place your orders one at a time.
As servers, we want to be sure you have your complete order, knowing 100% what you ordered (including all exceptions and specific demands). Our priority is to make sure we understand and know what you as a diner are ordering. Problems arise when diners all speak at once to place their order. Speaking out of turn will draw the server’s attention to you, in which case they may miss what the other person is saying. If you have any changes to make after placing your order, please wait patiently until the server is finishes writing down the order and then ask if you can make a change. You want your order to be taken correctly, right? Then speak one at a time, letting the waiter as the correct questions per order, and make changes later.
4. Be patient and understanding.
There are some demands that are physically impossible to ask of a waiter. Be patient and understanding of their limitations. For example, if the server has not yet left the table after taking the order of a large group, think twice before asking the server if the plates are arriving soon. If they haven’t had the chance to leave the table yet, then no order has been placed with the kitchen or bar.
Try to stay seated at the same place.
The way some restaurants work is with a certain system that allows them to know and remember which customer ordered which item. Some restaurants call it “Seats” or “Pivots” or “Clients”. Not only do restaurants have specific table numbers, but also numbers designated per seat/customer. If you get up and constantly change seats, it will confuse the wait staff, especially when you are in a large group. It will be hard for everyone to know where you are sitting when it comes time for the food arrive, drinks, appetizers, and most of all the bill. If you know you will be moving around a lot, inform your waiter of which seat or chair is actually yours and when your drinks, food, or bill arrive, always go back to your seat. It will help the waiter stay organized. Also, if you are changing seats for the entirety of the evening, inform your waiter so they will be up to date with the seating arrangements.
Sometimes, it’s the little things…
We all have to keep in mind that sometimes the littlest things can make a big difference in our experiences. Following these steps will not only improve your dining experience, but there will be less mistakes and mishaps. Remember, if you are ever unsure of anything, the waitstaff is there to help you with anything you may need. Feel free to ask questions :)
Enjoy your meal!