By Miranda Carter
Ordering at restaurants varies from country to country. There are many slight differences one should be aware of when traveling in order to avoid offending wait staff (= the waiters) or other patrons. For example, in America it is expected that tips be given at every dine-in restaurant. This is a very different practice from dining in other parts of the world, such as most European countries, where you don’t give tips unless the waiters really did something special for you, or if you suspect that the waiters only get a very low salary. Below are some common “going out to eat” terms and practices used by waiters and customers alike.
Common terms and phrases used by waiters/servers:
1. “What can I get you started with?”
This is often asked by servers at restaurants. It is a way of saying “Would you like a drink or an appetizer?”
2. “Do you want to hear about our specials?”
Specials are menu items that change on a daily basis. They are called “specials” because they aren’t every-day options.
3. “Would you like a refill?”
A “refill” means another beverage. Usually these are free, but be careful – sometimes they cost the same amount as your original beverage.
4. “Are you guys doing okay?”
After serving your entree, waiters will often approach your table to make sure you are happy with your food. In casual settings, this is often phrased in the form of “Are you guys doing okay?”
5. “Here’s the check for whenever you’re ready.”
Waiters and servers will often leave a check on the table near the end of your meal (sometimes before they have removed your dishes). This is meant to signal that you can pay whenever you please – you are welcome to linger or “hang out” for awhile after eating, or you can pay your bill immediately and leave.
Here are some Restaurant Etiquette Rules: How to be a Good Customer
Do Leave a Tip in America
When dining out in America, is very important to leave a tip between 10% and 25% for your server. This percentage is based on the total of your bill. The amount you choose to leave depends on the quality of service you received. If you were very happy with the service, leave a larger tip. If not, leave a smaller tip. No matter what, always make sure to leave something. It is frowned upon if you do not.
If you happen to be sitting at a bar and not a table, make sure to tip on each drink you order. One dollar is standard for a beer, while two dollars is acceptable for a cocktail. In the case of ordering drinks from a bar, “tip” stands for “To Insure Prompt Service.”
No slurping! Slurping is the practice of noisily eating soup or noodles. In many countries, slurping is considered a normal part of eating these meals. However, in most Western countries, slurping is viewed as rude and impolite.
Wait to be Seated
In many casual restaurants and most always in fine dining spots, you must wait to be seated by a host or hostess. They will meet you in the front of the restaurant and lead you to your table.
Asking is Okay
Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. Even if your English is not perfect, waiters and servers are there to help you enjoy your experience dining out. If there is something you want, feel free to ask for it. If you have allergies or any dietary restrictions, make them known. More often than not, restaurant staff will be delighted to help you (helping you means they have a better chance at getting a larger tip!).