The ease of dining out is what makes it attractive: You sit down, order, eat, pay, leave. But plenty of restaurant patrons make mistakes, some innocent, others negligent, that can make a dining experience harrowing for both diner and server.
Perhaps we could look at the scenario from the mind of the server. I've got some experience here, as I supplement my writing career with restaurant shifts. And it's not rocket science, people.
Here are a few scenarios that could illuminate how to make your next restaurant dinner more delicious.
You refuse the host's seating arrangement or switch tables after being seated.
Know this: Most front-of-house restaurant staff in Texas are paid $2.13 per hour. That is not a joke. Servers make their money on tips. Thus, seats at a table are a valuable commodity for a server. As in: Seats represent potential tips.
By switching your seat, you're taking away from that server's earning potential.
You use phrases like "bring me," "get me" or "I need."
Here's what the server thinks: "I just asked you how your day was and you replied 'Bring me three waters' while you geo-tagged yourself on Facebook, never looking at me when I spoke to you. You're rude."
You have no concept of how busy the restaurant might be.
Your server has other guests to attend to. He or she is happy to explain the menu and tolerate a few of your stories. But let's not get into how you ran a construction company in 1992.
You repeat your dietary restrictions more than once.
Cool, you can't have dairy or gluten or shellfish or anything purple or orange. Yes, your server knows cheese is a dairy product. No, your salad will not come with cheese on it. He's got it.
You ask another server for help.
C'mon. Don't do that.
You're rude or condescending for no reason.
Don't do that.
You interrupt your server while he's at another table.
Don't do that.
You look around the table and say nothing when the server asks if everyone is ready to order.
Don't do that.
You touch, grab or hold onto the server.
Don't do that. Seriously, don't.
You order cheapest thing on the menu and sit at table talking for three hours.
Do that on a park bench or in a coffee shop. It is the middle of the lunch rush, and a $3 tip does not buy you this table.
You finish the meal, then say, "Is it OK if we just hang out awhile?" and your server says, "Sure, no problem."
Your server is lying. You're pulling dollars out of his pocket and he's too nice to say anything.
The list above may seem like minutia, but it's important diner etiquette.
The best way to be a good customer and get great service in exchange is to act as if you're meeting a new person: Ask for his or her name, smile, listen, ask pointed questions, don't drag on and know when it's time to go.
A final piece of information to keep in mind is how to tip properly. Automatic gratuity is not normally added. Proper tip percentage is 18 to 20 percent on the total bill. If an item is discounted or removed from the bill, tip on the full amount you would have been charged.
It is also important to know that your full tip rarely goes to your server in full. Servers have to tip-out to bartenders, bussers, food runners and hosts. At many restaurants, tip-outs from servers are based on a percentage of gross sales. So if a $10 tip is left on a $100 tab and the tip-out on gross sales is 5 percent, your server only pockets $5 ... ouch.
Try to be appreciative and generous. Trust me, it will SERVE you better.
Jackson Long is a local freelance writer.