10 Things to Know If You're Dining Out

As a server at several restaurants over the course of 5 years, you learn a lot about the business. It may just seem like a casual dining restaurant, but oftentimes the hospitality business is one of the most dramatic out there and has a lot of nuances diners might not even know about. Here are 10 things to keep in mind if you're going to eat at a restaurant.

10. Give your feedback on the restaurant's website

While it's obvious you can always tell a manger in-person what you think, some restaurants also offer cash prizes for giving feedback online. That feedback goes directly to managers, too, and servers hear all about it and may be praised/punished appropriately. It also really helps the servers, who sometimes have quotas they need to meet when it comes to getting online feedback.

9. Don't ask us a billion questions then change your order five times

Part of eating out is being adventurous and trying new things. So instead of asking servers a ton of questions, just pick something and order it. While we're happy to explain the menu, most of the time your questions can be answered by simply reading the descriptions. And don't change your order after it's already been placed. Chances are, it's already started cooking, and you've killed perfectly good food. Think of the kids in Africa.

8. If you make a mess, tip more

If you bring devil children to the restaurant who mash up crackers all over the ground, or if you're a slob and spill salad dressing all over the table and mess up all the sugars in the caddy, you need to tip more. Servers and bussers have to spend extra time cleaning up those messes, and anything that's not civilized should be remedied with some moolah.

7. If a server is sweeping next to you, that means it's time to go home

At many restaurants, servers have side work and clean-up to do before they get to go home. Usually, they'll wait until all their tables are gone to start doing this, so you can still have a meal in peace. But, if you've been there for longer than you should be, they might want to give you a bigger hint that the restaurant isn't the ultimate hang-out spot and you should get the heck out. And for gosh sake, stop making out and get a room. Last time we checked, the smell of grilled onions wasn't the most romantic.

6. We won't spit in your food, but there are other forms of payback

There's no way servers or cooks will mess with your food as long as the restaurant is reasonably supervised, so don't worry. However...if you're a jerk or a regular who is notorious for tipping poorly, we focus on your table less and give our attention to other tables--or to our server friends, or to our cell phones. If you want excellent service, be an excellent customer.

5. You should order a freakin' drink

Adding a lemon slice to your tap water does not count as a drink. It still costs $0 and adds nothing to our tips. If you're going to get water, at least get bottled water. It tastes better, and we'll love you for it. Water doesn't mean you're healthy; it means you're cheap. If you do order tap water, add at least $0.50 to your tip.

4. You should sit where the host puts you

It's acceptable to request a booth over a table, but don't just pick your own spot. There's a host for a reason--restaurants have seating charts servers are assigned to, and there's a rotation to prevent servers from getting overloaded or from dirtying a section that's now closed and has been cleaned. When you don't sit where the host seats you, it messes everything up for servers and is downright selfish. We will not like you.

3. You should always tip at least 15 percent

You really should always tip at least 20 percent, but 15 will do here in the States. Most servers don't even earn minimum wage, so we really rely on your tips for our livelihood. And, unless your server completely ignores you or says something outright rude, they deserve at least 15 percent. Some things are beyond the servers' control (food coming out late, cooks messing up orders), and everyone has bad days, which diners must understand. Tipping is a must, not an option. It's part of the dining experience, and if you don't want to put down at least 15 percent, you should order delivery. Speaking of tipping...

2. For every 15 minutes you stay past an hour, you should tip $1 extra

This may not apply to fancier eateries, but at fast casual establishments, you should only be there 45 minutes to an hour. They don't call it "turn and burn" for nothing. If you over-stay your welcome with idle chit-chat or have to finish that novel you brought because you came solo, you're wasting a table for your sever and therefore should tip extra.

1. You shouldn't bring your baby--or any kid who might act up

If you can afford to eat out at a restaurant, you can afford a baby-sitter. Babies scream, cry, throw food on the ground and bring down servers' per-person-average. Plus, you never know if they're thinking evil thoughts. Hitler was a baby, once, too, and people probably thought he was cute. Ha.

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Nicki Escudero
Contact: Nicki Escudero

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