Questions Of Restaurant Etiquette

What’s the best way to nab that unattainable table or bounce back from a missed reservation? It’s not necessarily bribery. An article in Restaurants and Institutions this week indicates that the best solution may be a mix of common sense, basic manners and flexibility.

If you are so late that your table has been given away, apologize and ask, “Is there anything you can do for us?”. Most restaurants get far more last-minute cancellations than they’d like to admit, so the chances are slim that there will be nothing available for you all night. Many restaurants also have at least one reserve table that they reluctantly bring out for unexpected situations.

If the restaurant truly cannot offer you a table, try eating at the bar, as you’ll get a sense of the restaurant’s items and the chef’s style, and the food might even be cheaper. As a bonus, you can forge a relationship with the staff, increasing your likelihood of getting – and keeping – future reservations.

Well, maybe. This strategy probably won’t work in the more competitive restaurants. We can’t decide whether to get a reservation at New York’s 12-seat Momofuku Ko or go on a date with Mareva Galanter. They’re both about as likely.

But other solutions are equally as practical and more employable. for example:

Problem: The waiter tells you all about the special but doesn’t mention the price.

Solution: A good way to get at the question without seeming rude is to ask, “What price point are the specials?” This phrasing is a little less specific and better than saying, “How much is that?” If you are with people you don’t know well or are treating someone and don’t want to seem stingy, keep in mind that specials are generally the same price as the more expensive menu items.

It’s often good to have a script in these situations, as it can be a higher-pressure exchange than you thought. Same with sending back a dish you don’t like, which is also covered.

Experienced diners know all this stuff, but it makes good reading anyway. And even you, savvy Menupages reader, may pick up a hint or two.

Restaurant Etiquette 101 [Restaurants and Institutions]
Momofuku Ko [Official Site]
Image: Timon [Flickr]

Questions Of Restaurant Etiquette