Dining out can be a great experience if all goes well, but most of us know from experience that things don’t always go as planned. Bad service, poor quality food, and high prices all can play a part in making what should be a nice night out feel more like a nightmare.
While nothing is guaranteed, there are some things you can do to ensure you get a good meal, and that doesn’t mean cooking at home every single night. Follow these tips to help increase the chances that your restaurant meals are memorable for the right reasons instead of the wrong ones.
Look at The Menu
You want to look at the menu, but not just for the obvious reasons. You can tell a lot about a restaurants menu just by the number of menu items it has. You may think that a wide variety of dishes of all different types is a good thing, but the truth is this could mean they don’t really do anything outstanding.
A restaurant that specializes in one type of dish or cuisine (like pizza, or authentic Korean) is much more likely to have a dish that will wow you since the chefs work on the same thing day in and day out. It’s more likely to be something they really care about instead of being all over the map when it comes to cuisine.
Do Your Research
You have a variety of options when it comes to finding out the truth about a restaurant. In addition to review sites like Yelp, you can also check out a restaurant’s Facebook page, or do a search on Twitter for the restaurant name. You may find some honest reviews that point you in a different direction. Of course, don’t forget to check out the restaurant’s actual web page if they have one, where you should be able to see pictures, a current menu, hours, and more. Good restaurants will direct you to their other pages on the web, while a not so hot one may not. Let technology be your friend.
If you have friends or relatives that like the same types of foods you do, ask them where their favorite places are. You’ll probably learn a lot about not only the best restaurants, but which ones are overpriced, have bad service, and more.
Be Nice and Polite
Of course you should expect a friendly staff and pleasant atmosphere when dining out, but sometimes, you get what you put in. Make sure you are as nice as possible to the hostess, bartender, and wait staff. They will be much more likely to help you get a drink as opposed to the grouchy guy at the end of the bar. This isn’t a guarantee; some restaurants have bad service, plain and simple, but it does significantly increase your chances of getting good service. A good tip certainly helps too.
Ask the Waiter For Recommendations
A good waiter, hostess, or bartender knows the menu inside and out and should be able to tell you his favorite dishes without hesitation. He should be able to explain what any ingredients you may not be familiar with are, and he should be able to answer questions. A great waiter may even tell you what menu items he doesn’t like. If you go to a place where the service staff doesn’t know a thing about the restaurant or menu, you may have a bad time.
Make a Reservation
For a high-end establishment, you always want to make a reservation, especially on weekend night, holidays, or special occasions. You can do it online for most places these days, and the sooner you do it, the better your chances of getting a table. If you prefer a booth to a table, or to be seated near a window, mention it while making your reservation. A good restaurant will do whatever possible to make sure you get what you want, although they may not guarantee it.
Go During Non Busy Times
A Friday or Saturday night, or even a holiday like Valentines day is going to be busy. The staff will be tired, your waiter will want to clear tables as quickly as possible, and the restaurant will be loud and crowded. You’ll wait for a drink at the bar, and your service may be rushed.
If you go on a weeknight or during lunch, you’ll have a much more relaxed experience. Special orders won’t seem so difficult, and the restaurant will likely be quiet and peaceful. Getting a seat on a busy patio will also be much easier on a Tuesday night as opposed to a Friday.
Ask About Parking
What should be a nice relaxing evening out on the town can turn sour quickly if you have to search everywhere for parking. Do yourself a favor, and ask the hostess where to park when you make reservations. If you’re going in a group, see about carpooling, especially in busy downtown areas where parking is an issue.
Become a Regular
You want the best possible service every time you visit an establishment? Find a place you love and go there often. When the owner, a server, or bartender knows you’ll be back, they are going to go out of their way to make sure your experience is good. It also helps to ensure that a restaurant you really like stays in business. Make sure you tip well, though, or this plan may just backfire.
Learn How to Complain to Get What You Want
If you have a genuine gripe, do not hesitate to complain, but make sure you do it correctly, and definitely don’t shortchange the wrong person (such as a waiter for cold food) because of a problem. Don’t complain to your server; he or she may not be able to do something. Instead, talk to the manager. If it’s a busy Friday night, call the next morning, but always let the right person know. Do not, however, complain just to complain so that you can get free food.
Leave an Honest Review
You have plenty of ways to leave reviews for restaurants these days, and by all means you should use them. It’s important though that you are truthful (lying can get you into legal trouble — seriously!).
When leaving a review, make sure to talk about the entire experience so that others can get a good overview of the restaurant. You don’t have to be overly critical in the hopes that the restaurant will close; bad restaurants tend to shut down on their own. Just tell the truth, but don’t be downright mean, offensive, or vulgar. Just like telling lies, these things can come back to haunt you should someone decide to take legal action.
Sometimes having a good experience in a restaurant can seem impossible, making dining out more trouble than it’s worth. It doesn’t have to be this way, however. By choosing the right places, being nice and polite, and frequenting establishments that you really like, you can ensure a rewarding experience that makes you glad you don’t have to cook again. Then you can relax, eat good food, and enjoy a night out.