Tips from an Industry Insider On Enhancing Your Restaurant Dining Experience
I have worked in restaurants for as long as I’ve been old enough to work. There was always something about the warm interiors and delicious aromas that was very comforting to me. I also enjoy watching people have a good time, and food and wine makes people happy. Over the years, I learned a lot about how to create the best possible experience for guests, but there are also some things that you can do to enhance your own experience. I would love to share some of my tips with you now:
Make a Reservation
Even if you don’t expect the restaurant to be busy, it’s always in your best interest, and the restaurant’s as well, for you to make a reservation. You would want to know what time and how many people were coming over to your house for dinner, right? This is also a great opportunity to request a good table or to let the staff know about an allergy or restriction.
Check out the wine list and menu ahead of time. That way, while you’re out, you can focus on conversation and less on studying the menu. You can get an idea of the food you want and pick out a few bottles to ask the sommelier about.
Come as You Are
Don’t overdress, you’ll just feel uncomfortable. Don’t underdress either- you are a guest at someone’s house for the evening. Mind the dress code when dining in more upscale establishments, which will be listed on the website. You can always call beforehand in order to find out what people usually wear.
Go ahead and ask what the most popular item on the menu is, or which dishes the restaurant is known for. Ask your server what he/she likes the most and why. If you don’t know what “mostarda” is, ask. You don’t want to end up eating this Italian condiment if you don’t like sweet and spicy pickled fruit. If you despise raw onions or cilantro, tell your server and ask if the dishes you want include these ingredients.
Don’t be afraid to ask for modifications. If you really want a dish but aren’t crazy about the accompanying side items, ask if you can exchange them for something else. Also, order something you may not normally eat. Be mindful of the theme and style of the restaurant you’re dining in. It’s probably best to avoid the roasted chicken if you’re at a place that’s well-known for fresh seafood.
Ask to Taste Wine
You don’t have to blindly order a wine by the glass and hope for the best. Servers are usually happy to bring the bottle over so that you can taste it first. I have let people taste three different wines by-the-glass before, although this takes up a lot of time and I would not recommend asking to taste more than two.
If you order wine by the bottle, unless you know the wine you are ordering, I would recommend asking the resident wine expert for their opinion. If the restaurant doesn’t have a sommelier, ask your server if you can speak with someone who can recommend wine. There should be a manager or well-informed server on the floor to help with this.
Ask to Pair Wine
I like to do wine pairings when I eat at nicer restaurants. There are a couple of different ways to do this if you are dining as a pair. You could stick solely to wines by the glass, starting with bubbles or white for the first course (or a lighter red if you prefer) and change between courses to a bigger red or more full-bodied white, depending.
You can also split half bottles if the restaurant offers these. A 375ml bottle, or “split” is two glasses, so this is ideal for diners who want to try different wines during their meals.
A third route to take is to start with a glass of champagne or lighter wine and order a full bottle of a bigger wine to drink during the main course. Ask ahead of time if the restaurant will allow you to take any unfinished wine in the bottle home.
Follow the Golden Rule
Be kind and polite to everyone. You are a guest in their house, and they should treat you as such. In return, treat them with the respect and courtesy that you would a good friend. You may just get a heavy pour of wine or a dessert on the house. You are your servers’ captive audience, but don’t abuse this privilege or take advantage of their time. He or she has other guests to tend to as well.
Split the Check Evenly
Asking a server to produce separate individual checks creates opportunity for errors and you will likely be waiting longer for your bill. If one person consumed more food or drink than others, he or she can make up for this in the tip. Just be sure this person tips appropriately if they are tipping for others.
Write a Review
Restaurants read reviews from websites such as Open Table, Yelp, and TripAdvisor. Often these reviews are emailed directly to a manager who will then follow up if a diner had a negative experience. Take the time to write a few words of praise or constructive criticism. It will not go unappreciated or unnoticed.
Everybody wants you to be happy. If air is blowing on you and you’re too cold, ask to change tables. If your margarita tastes off, send it back. If you receive the wrong dish or your food is cold, promptly tell someone. Your server wants to make it right. The chef wants you to enjoy your meal. The staff wants you to go home and tell your friends how great their restaurant is and to return soon.
Do you have any tips for enjoying restaurants and getting the most of the dining experience? Let us know in the comments below.