"The Unwritten Rules of Restaurant Dining" The restaurant. A wonderful concept. When the turkey gets burned or there just wasn't time during the week to go grocery shopping, the restaurant pulls through. For the right price you can get a meal that's just as good as, or in some cases better than, one you can make at home. A steak and shrimp dinner with a baked potato and sour cream, a cheeseburger with sauteed mushrooms and swiss cheese with fries on the side, tortellini in a creamy marinara sauce, an all-you-can-eat sushi bar... The choices are endless. You just have to find the right restaurant. Rule One: Remember that you're in public. And certain things shouldn't be brought into public. Unless you're a doctor, cellular phones should be turned off. It's a restaurant, not a phone booth. Pagers are okay, but set them to vibrate so the incessant beeping doesn't annoy those around you. A restaurant is a place for eating, not for making business deals with partners across the country. Save that for the office. It's called a lunch BREAK for a reason. And if you must use your lunch break to make business plans, order take-out or delivery. Rule Two: Also, because you're in public, remember that not everyone wants to hear about your cousin in Albuquerque who had an enema last Thursday. Actually I'm sure most of us don't, especially while we're eating. So remember what you learned in kindergarten about using your indoor voices. A restaurant is a loud place, sure. But if everyone wasn't trying to talk over everyone else, the noise would be much more bearable for all. Rule Three: You know that person who's always coming to your table with drinks and food? That's your server. You're THAT person's priority. You're not the priority of the other servers you see going to other tables. They have their own customers, their own priorities. They'll be happy to deliver an urgent request, but otherwise ask your own server the next time s/he comes around. Rule Four: An expansion of Rule Three, try to think of everything you might need for your meal at once, and ask your server for these things all at once. It might be amusing to watch your server run back and forth between your table and the kitchen, but in the meantime you're taking time away from the server, time that would probably be spent helping other customers. Wasting your server's time by sending her/him on multiple trips is comparable to stealing from people at other tables. Rule Five: And remember that you're not your server's only customer. Most restaurants give each of their servers between five and ten tables at a time. If your drink is served a little later than you expected, it's probably not because your server decided to shoot the breeze with the other servers instead of bringing it to you. Sometimes you'll have a server like that (see Rule Ten), but it's most likely to be because other customers had other requests so the server's time was otherwise occupied. You aren't the only one getting your request fulfilled later than optimally desired. Rule Six: If you have a complaint about the food, if the portion is too small or the food isn't what you ordered, tell your server immediately when you realize the problem. It couldn't be all that bad if you ate everything and THEN complained about it. Most restaurants will be more than happy to fix a meal if you tell them the problem right away. But if the soup is too cold and they bring you a hot bowl, don't leave the bowl sitting on the table for five minutes before tasting it. That's probably why it was cold in the first place. Rule Seven: Tipping is not a city in China. Well it might be, but T.I.P.S. originally stood for To Insure Prompt Service. And if you have a moderately competent server (they are generally easy to find because they're the ones who still have their jobs) you'll receive the promptest service as is possible for the circumstances. Generally the amount of tip is directly proportionate to the amount of time the server spends at the table, and one customer can easily take that amount of time and reduce it dramatically. Try to be sympathetic of your server. If s/he is exceptionally busy, s/he is probably trying to remember several orders, several special requests for condiments, and several other requests, while also trying to maintain some level of sanity. For single parents, this concept is easy to realize. The years of life that the stress takes from the server are precious. Leaving a decent tip is the least an understanding customer can do. Rule Eight: A specification of Rule Seven, a tip that is fifteen percent of the total bill ($1.50 per $10, move the decimal point one space to the left and take half again that number. Or round up to the nearest dollar if your math skills arent that great) is customary to recognize good service. If the service was better than good, twenty percent (move the decimal point one space to the left and double the number) is in order. If something arose that was the server's fault and caused a problem with the enjoyment of the meal, ten percent (move the decimal point one space to the left) may be left. If you feel the urge to leave less than that because of bad service, leave nothing and explain your reason to a manager. Leaving a quarter or a couple pennies is not only incredibly insulting to the server, it also demonstrates the ill manners of the customer. Rule Nine: And an expansion of the previous Rule, remember that it isn't your server's fault if you aren't very hungry. A tip may be based on the total amount of sales, but the server's time is unreplaceable. If you only order a salad but spend as much time eating it as you would eating a full entree, leave a larger tip than fifteen or twenty percent. Generally one or two dollars per member of the party, minimum. Because no matter what you order, you're still occupying a table and preventing that server from waiting on hungrier customers. Rule Ten: If your server seems to be incompetent in her/his job, remember one simple truth. If the behavior is common with that server, the server will quickly lose her/his job. The server still has the job, so therefore the behavior must not be common. Simple deductive logic. And if a competent server seems incompetent, perhaps the one making the judgement should look somewhere other than at the server. Rule Eleven: Tables come in all shapes and sizes. Round, square, rectangular, oval; there are tables for two people, tables for four people, tables for twenty people, all kinds of tables. Shape isn't entirely important. But size is another story. If you're given a choice in where to sit, find a table that's no bigger than your party needs. Two people sitting at a table designed for ten means that if a party of ten comes in, there is one less option for where to seat them, sometimes meaning that they will have to wait until the two are finished. Again, a restaurant is a public place. You're not the only one there. Rule Twelve: If you have a few people who always want to pay for the meal, sort out who will be paying beforehand. DONT hand your server a credit card and tell them not to let anyone else pay. Because if more than one person does that, suddenly your server is put in a pickle. Who should s/he let pay? The first one to give the card? Or the one who made the better argument? Either way, at least one person will be unhappy with the server. Your server does not deserve to be put in that position. Rule Thirteen: If youre going to have a relatively large group (eight or more), make a reservation if the restaurant accepts reservations. More often than not, such get-togethers are planned at least a day in advance, which is ample time to let the restaurant know so they can arrange to have someone serve you. A large party is served better when the server is focused only on that party and not on other tables, and its unfair to the servers other tables to have so many people occupying her/his time. Again, it is comparable to stealing from other customers. Making a reservation also assures that a table will be ready so you wont have to wait so long. This Rule becomes more crucial as the size of your party increases, and (depending on the seating capacity of the restaurant) is an absolute for groups of more than ten or twelve people. Rule Fourteen: When eating with friends, there should be no need for each person at the table to have a separate check. If you're close enough to your companions to share a meal with them, it follows that you should be close enough to give or take a few cents for said meal. Remember what you ordered, remember the approximate price listed on the menu. Then pay approximately what your portion cost. A little over to compensate for tax. And a little over that for a gratuity. If your friendship is so fragile that a couple dollars at a restaurant will throw off its balance, then perhaps sharing a meal is not the best idea for you.