Thursday, March 26, 2009

Eating Out

So, Adam and I went out to eat last weekend and as I stood in the entry way of the restaurant waiting to be seated, it dawned on me that not everyone in the world knows how this whole eating out thing works. Now, when I need to define the term "eating out". I am using this term to mean when you go out to eat a restaurant where the waiter comes to your table, takes your order, brings your food, you pay the check at the table (so this excludes those quick mexican restaurants) and then you leave. If you have to walk up to a counter at any time during the meal to order or refill your own drink, this is not the type of restaurant I am discussing here. So, here is some general information:

1. There are some things that you should just expect. If you show up at a restaurant at 7:00 pm on Friday night, you are going to have to wait. If you don't, you aren't lucky, you are probably going to be poisoned by the food you are about to eat and everyone else in town knows it but you. If you don't like to wait, you should probably go out to eat on Monday or Tuesday night.

2. When you pull into the parking lot and cannot find a parking space, then you have to push through 150 people just to get to the hostess stand, don't act shocked when she tells you it is going to be an hour to an hour and a half. Shockingly, all those people were here before you were and will be seated first. These restaurants operate on a "first come-first serve" basis, it is not hunger based. When the hostess tells you it will be 90 minutes, don't say to her "Oh, I'm not waiting that long!" As if she is going to come around the hostess stand, grab hold of your leg and beg you not to leave. Judging by the number of people in the waiting area, her job is not hinging on whether or not you eat there. Make her life easier...go to McDonald's.

3. The method the hostess uses to determine how long your wait will be is not a proven scientific method. She is ESTIMATING. She has no control over the table of four who ordered dessert and five cups of coffee after their meal. She is guessing. And, she is not going to walk around the restaurant trying to get people to finish faster because you keep coming up and asking her where your name is on the list. Slipping her money won't work either...this isn't a New York restaurant in a movie. You just have to wait your turn.

4. Nine times out of ten your little pager thingy is working. No amount of banging it on the seat you are sharing with five total strangers as you wait is going to make your wait shorter. It just annoys the rest of the people around you.

5. If you have a large party (like more than 6) try to call ahead and let them know you are coming. Most restaurants don't have rows of 12 top tables just waiting for a large party to fill them. The tables have to be set up and arranged and a server (or two) has to be ready. So don't act surprised when you refuse to separate your party and it takes longer for you to get seated. Be patient and enjoy visiting with each other.

6. Don't bring your toddler who absolutely has to eat at 6:30 pm or he will have a complete meltdown. We all know you're not going to be seated, much less eating, by 6:30 pm if you just showed up at 6:15 pm. Your toddler is going to have a complete fit and it really just makes everyone's experience miserable. Especially the wind up rushing through your meal and sweating before it is over. Is it worth it? Babies who are not mobile are excluded from this if they will happily sit or nap in their car seat carrier. I can remember a three year span where Adam and I only got to go to a restaurant if someone volunteered to keep the kids or our church had Parents Night Out. Yes, it's hard but the stage doesn't last forever and you will be able to go to a nice restaurant with the whole family eventually, I promise.

7. Anytime any little thing goes wrong or not just exactly like you wanted, it does not mean you automatically get a free meal. Yes, sometimes things are so wrong that they only way to fix it is to comp the meal. But, things happen. Kitchens get backed up...servers put in the wrong order or don't put the order in at server takes another servers food and the food has to be remade. If your server is communicating and trying to keep you happy, don't demand the manager. If the server is any good, he/she will know when to involve the manager and you can leave pleasantly surprised instead of being the person the entire staff talks about all night. That being said, if your server is terrible and has no clue that they are terrible, be sure to tell the manager, but don't look for a reason to get a free meal.

So there it restaurant lesson. Most places will let you call and put your name on their list when you are on your way, so jot down the number before you leave the house and call en route. This will expedite the process. PF CHANGS TAKE RESERVATIONS!

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