Things your waiter won't tell you
Get an insider's perspective on the business of eating out at restaurants.
Thinking of dining out this weekend? Get some insider knowledge to make your experience more enjoyable, you may even get a free glass of wine.
1. Home-cooked doesn’t mean home-made
See that “food solutions” van? It’s full of ready-meals for restaurants. You order a Brie-and-redcurrant filo or pasta Napoletana and all we have to do is heat and serve.
2. I can’t bear campers
The table’s not yours for the night. My rule is: the bigger the bill, the longer you stay, so I reckon on 50 minutes for lunch, an hour and a half for dinner. Caesar salad and tap water for two? You’ve got 20 minutes.
3. We make money out of side orders
Bread and olives, madam? Chunky chips, sir? And would you like a salad with that? They’re the extras that bump up your bill.
4. I love it when you ask for a soft drink
The law makes sure I sell beer, wine and spirits in set measures, but if you ask for orange juice, I choose how much you get.
5. If you want a safe bet, choose something grilled
If food’s covered with sauce, who knows what’s in there? Dodgy restaurants usually overcook meat, so if you pick steak, ask for one rarer than you really want. You can always send it back if it’s too pink.
6. Split the bill, not hairs
Please don’t keep me waiting while you argue about who had the chips, passed on ice cream, or needs to leave a tip.
7. If your child has a rear end, he needs a seat.
I can’t make a table for two stretch to four.
8. Would you eat in a place with filthy toilets?
Pay them a visit before you order, while there’s still time to walk out.
9. The chef who made his name here left six months ago
And those rave reviews in the lobby date back to 2003. By all means read what the critics have to say—just be sure to check the date.
10. Come for lunch!
It’s half the price of dinner and if you book on a weekday, there’s often a special deal.
11. The restaurant with the best view has the worst food
It doesn’t have to try, does it?
12. Email your special requests
Then we’ll have to find you the table by the window you asked for—or give you a free glass of champagne.
13. Hang onto the wine bottle.
Check the vintage and make sure I open it at the table so you know what you’re getting. Saying that you’ll pour it yourself stops me refilling your glass so you’ll order more.
14. Always check the bill
You won’t know if service is included or see that I’ve charged for an extra bottle of wine if you don’t. If you’ve had too much to drink, ask the driver in your party to do it for you.
15. Beware the specials board
It could be the food we need to use up.
16. If you want to eat out on a Saturday night, book a table by Tuesday
If they still have space the day before, ask yourself why.
17. Dine out early in the week at hard-to-book restaurants
It’s easier to get a table when we’re not busy. And once I identify you as a regular, I’ll fit you in at the weekends when we’re frantic. I might even refill your glass for free.
...AND before you ask...
The tourist office is first on the right. The market is on Wednesdays. The nearest bank is 100 yards away. And our toilets are for customers only.
Love eating out? Try the wonderfully hilarious A-Z of Eating Out for all wonders of practical eating out advice. All-you-can-eat buffet, Complaining, Family meals, Going Dutch, Invitations, Liquid lunch, Outdoor eating, Queuing, Star chefs, Tipping, Vegetables, Wine list, X-factor, and many more.