Insider advice to get the best seat and service at a restaurant

October 9, 2015

Ever wondered what restaurant owners do when dine out to get the best seat and service at a restaurant – the tips they'd offer if you asked them directly? Here's some insider advice from people "in the know" to help take your next dinner out to the next level.

Insider advice to get the best seat and service at a restaurant

Don't avoid the bar

Manager of a northern California seaside restaurant and a frequent restaurant customer, Karen B. has a favourite way to enjoy great service while having a wonderful time when she dines out.

Her solution? "Eat at the bar."

"I recently read a complaint from a woman who felt she was getting the single-woman treatment when the host suggested she eat at the bar. Wrong. Eating at the bar is more fun, whether you're single or a couple."

However, there's another advantage.

Befriend the bartender

By way of example, Karen related a recent dining experience.

"A friend and I tried a fairly new restaurant with a good reputation. We sat at the bar, of course."

Karen immediately learned the bartender's name and asked him about the new chef. Connection made! She then ordered martinis before lunch, asking him to suggest an appetizer. Rapport established! She finally let him suggest the glass of wine with their entrées. Friendship confirmed!

"At the bar, there's a more open camaraderie with the diners and drinkers around you, not to mention having your waiter standing right there the whole time."

Says Karen B., "Besides having a great time, we got extra scallops and our wineglasses refilled at no charge!"

"When we go back, we'll make it a point to remember the bartender's name and ask him about the vacation he told us he was about to take. And he'll remember the large tip we left and how much fun we were."

Know when to avoid the bar

For maximum bar dining pleasure, Karen B. offers a few words of advice.

  • Don't sit at the bar with a large party. Bartenders count on turnovers for tips and that can't happen if diners take up all the seats.
  • Don't sit at the bar if all you're having is herbal tea and a salad.
  • If you're out with the kids, stick to the main restaurant floor. Bars are for adults.

Forge an alliance with your server

A discreet, professional waiter or waitress would never mention it, but the truth is that most of the mix-ups at a restaurant are not his or her fault.

  • Your server is only the most visible link in a chain that includes chefs, sous-chefs, line cooks, prep staff, bussers, cleanup crew, hosts, managers and owners.
  • It's not the waiter who overcooked your veal, forgot to hold the onions or sat you at the table by the restrooms.
  • Unfortunately, most customers will jump all over the person who brought the food to the table when things go wrong. Frankly, that's a mistake.

Use kindness to your advantage

Remember, your server is on your side and nobody has more at stake in your satisfaction.

  • Let your waiter or waitress know early on that you consider him or her your ally.
  • Instead of saying things that point the finger, e.g., "You brought me the wrong dressing," consider more neutral words, "It seems they put the wrong dressing on the salad." A professional server won't hesitate to replace your salad if you ask politely.
  • Say "thank you" and "please" often. Who doesn't like good manners? It's also a good way to make your server feel appreciated and respected.

Even if the error was due to the waiter or waitress (because we all make mistakes), your server will be thankful for your sympathetic approach, do everything to make it right and take better care of you.

The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
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