It’s Saturday night and you’re trying to tie the perfect Windsor for a first date dinner. It’s Wednesday, you’ve just left the office and you’re calling that new steakhouse to make a reservation to celebrate your unexpected promotion. It could be Friday’s ‘Mom doesn’t want to cook’ family outing, or appetizers and wine on Tuesday with the girls. Whatever the occasion, eating out is a staple activity for celebration and social interaction. Naturally, you want the experience to be as positive as possible, which means making the job for restaurant staff as straightforward as possible to avoid mishaps and sent back dishes.

Knowing proper restaurant etiquette will make the entire experience a whole lot better. Here are some things to remember.

If you’re uncertain of a drink or food order, tell your server so they may leave and comeback, rather than them having wait

Maybe you didn’t get a chance to look at the menu, or maybe you’re very indecisive today (or always). Your server will likely be juggling multiple tables and tasks, and thus be aiming for as much efficiency as possible. Rather than having them wait a minute or two for you to make up your mind, invite them to return shortly for your order. This, in turn, shows consideration and respect for their time and won’t go unnoticed.

Speak loud enough and clearly when ordering

A restaurant, when busy, is a noisy place. A table, when drinking, is also very noisy. When you’re asking questions about certain items, make sure your waiter can understand the first time and the whole process will be short and sweet. This is especially important when ordering. Look at your waiter and speak loudly, and he will correctly write the order down, every time. It sounds nitpicky, but some items sound like others or are similar – like a chipotle mango chicken and a chipotle chicken quesadilla.

Make sure the table orders all their waters and drink refills when the server is checking up

A good server will be checking up from time to time to ascertain everyone’s satisfaction with the food and to inquire about more drinks. If you know your wife will want water with her meal but she hasn’t said anything, go ahead and mention it. If you haven’t finished your beer but are on the low side, order it alongside Chelsea’s glass of water or little Tim’s chocolate milk. You’ll save your waiter a trip and not feel the need to (awkwardly) waive him down later when your glass is empty and you’re three bites into your burger.

Be polite!

This point may seem obvious but there are a few common blunders: When you’re in deep conversation it’s easy to forget that the world is still spinning around you. A server approaching your table is simply trying to do their job – put the conversation on hold until you’ve given them some direction. If something is wrong with your order or you don’t like the food, be as likeable as you can. It’s sometimes hard to control anger, especially if you’re had a rough day, but it’s not necessarily the server’s fault and being harsh won’t undo the damage. It will only make things uncomfortable for everyone.

Feedback is always welcomed

Is the steak cooked to perfection? Tell your server and you’ll get a smile. You’ll also get better service. Serving can be hectic during the dinner rush and If you let your waiter know your happy, they will feel more comfortable going over to your table to check up on you. If everything went well and your server did a good job, tell them. Your appreciation of their service is just as important as the tip. Well, almost. Kind of.

When the server is clearing plates, help him out!

Cleaning up after a large table is a daunting task. It requires good watchfulness and timing, and the server has to run to and from the table with piles of dirty dishes. When a server is busy they may not get to the table the second you’ve eaten your last bite, so do them a favor and do yourself one at the same time and pile what needs to go on your plate, like napkins and utensils, so your server can pop in and grab it quickly. This also helps the waiter know when you’re done eating if there’s food left on your plate.

Never tip lower than 15 %, ever, unless you really, really didn’t like the service. Really.

Servers are paid under minimum wage so most of their earnings are from their tips. A portion of their sales they need to give to other members of the staff like the kitchen, the bussers and the hostesses. Sometimes that percentage is as high as 8% and often it is no less than 4%. So a 15% tip is only fair. The restaurant industry is unreliable – sometimes entire months are very slow. Servers get no benefits and are disadvantaged with banks and credit companies so they rely heavily on the 15% standard gratuity you’re supposed to give them. Tips also act as motivation for servers to fulfill and surpass what guests expect them to do. And justly so – when eating out it is the extra thoughtfulness and flair from your waiter that can make the night much better. Tips are the oil that run the service industry, so if you’re going out tip appropriately, or order in.

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