Dining out is fun, but it can also be expensive and full of frustrations if you don't know how to properly make the most of a night out. These restaurant and fast food employees have some advice on how to get the most out of your dining experience as well as how to save money while doing so.
“If you’re vegetarian, or concerned about that sort of thing, Buffalo Wild Wings deep-fries everything in beef tallow. So, anything fried (including nachos) are technically not vegetarian. Yes, this includes any of the potato products.
What is actually vegetarian:
Soft Pretzels, Garden Salad, Side Salad, Flatbreads (without chicken), Black Bean Burger, Desserts, and Veggie Boats.
And that’s it.”
Yo Quiero Taco Bell!
“So you know you like the Cheesy Gordita Crunch. You also like the Dorito Taco. But did you know that for just 30 cents you can replace your plain Gordita Crunch shell with a Dorito shell?
Also, if you order anything at Taco Bell and ask for it without something (like no guacamole), they have to make it fresh. Another bonus with that is that they usually only have the big tortillas, so the food they make is WAY more than the food you would otherwise get. So custom-order, people!”
“Trust The Chefs”
“10+ year veteran of upscale restaurants and in my experience, in nicer restaurants, ask for the chef to cook what they want, and if you do not like a protein or whatever, just specify. I always hook these people up and go out of my way to make amazing food, and conversely, I have always gotten amazing food for cheap this way. For instance, I would go to a sushi bar occasionally and tell the chef I had $40 and didn’t like Escolar. I would get the fill for me and my date and it would have cost $200+ easily otherwise. Trust the chefs.”
Skip The Monday Special
“I was told by a restaurant cook to avoid eating out on a Monday, because a lot of places use all the leftovers from the weekend to create Monday’s ‘Specials.’ I was also told to never order the ‘special,’ because it’s usually something they are trying to get rid of as quickly as they can.
Usually if there is a ‘special,’ it means the kitchen has a surplus of that particular item and they are trying to sell it before it goes bad/spoils. It’s not that the item would taste bad, it’s just the restaurant trying to decrease waste and increase profits…like any good business aims to do! At the restaurants my chef friend was at, the ‘special’ item was not even offered at a decreased price. They just liked to say ‘special’ to give the illusion that you are getting a deal of some sort.
Unless, of course, the special is something that isn’t on the regular menu, meaning they had to order the ingredients specifically for the specials. A lot of places will use the special menu to try out different meals before deciding whether to put them into the regular menu.”
How To Tell If You’re In A “Real” Steakhouse
“Years ago, I was a busboy at a real steakhouse, one that does not use frozen or prepared cuts and instead gets a side of beef and butchers it themselves.
Two guys butchered the meat every day. One was the head cook. It was fascinating to watch this process and they took the time to describe how they would cut, the different cuts, how this translated to the menu, etc. They showed me where they had the aged meat; what they did with the bone, fat, and the rest. All really cool.
The gem of knowledge they passed on to me and I am passing onto you now was how they organized the standard menu.
They would have a top sirloin on the menu for those who wanted a standard steak; nice cut at a good price. But since they cut themselves, not all cuts were the same. So they would organize them by thickness and shape.
When they were busy and would get an order for a 4-top, and one of the orders would be a well done top sirloin but the rest were for a rare or medium rare, to keep orders together they would start them on the grill at the same time. Which means they would grab the thinnest slice for the well done and a thick cut for the rare. The thick cuts would be closer to where they get the tenderloin, t-bone region of the beef. When they were really busy, they were more interested in timing and grab and an aged slice of the tenderloin instead of searching for a piece that had the thickness they wanted (the sliced aged tenderloin was the filet minion and waaaaay expensive).
Every once in awhile I am at a super nice steakhouse and one of my idiot friends orders a well done top sirloin. By reflex, I order the exact same steak rare. More times than not I get a much better cut than my friend. When I don’t, I question the quality of the establishment.”
How To Save Big At McDonald’s
“Order a McDouble with no ketchup or mustard, and with extra Mac sauce and shredded lettuce. BAM! $1 Big Mac.
McDonald’s uses three different kinds of eggs for their breakfast. If you want a REAL egg, ask for the egg off the McMuffin.
Order a sweet tea for a dollar to get the huge cup and fill it at the drink station with whatever you want. The managers will yell if they catch you, but you save about $2 on soda.
If you want a mocha, ask them to put fudge in the coffee instead of the mocha syrup. They will probably charge you for the fudge but it’s worth it.
If you put one shot of fudge and one shot of vanilla syrup in the same coffee, it tastes like marshmallow hot chocolate.
The tip about being nice to the crew members is 100% true. We used to give away extra food to nice people and we’d charge the mean people for extra sauce. But it is also true that they will go more out of their way if it’s less busy.
The beef on your burger will always be freshest at exactly 10:30-10:40 am, 12-2pm (during lunch rush) or at 2:30 pm.
Most shifts finish at around 4:30 pm for the assembly staff who started at 7 am. Between 2-4:30, you will get no love if you order special stuff.
A McFlurry is made by putting the ice cream spiral around the edge of the cup, leaving a massive hollow middle. Give ’em a hard time and they’ll fill it up properly – be insistent, but again, don’t be a jerk. Or you’ll lose out on the topping.
I think one of the best tricks if you’re craving fast food, but don’t necessarily want it right away, wait until like 11 PM and go to a 24/7 place. The stuff is always made fresh then. Also, I found that the smaller the McDonald’s, the fresher the food seems to be since they don’t have near as much room to store precooked food.”
The Secret’s In The Sauce
“Papa Murphy’s – Most days, at least at busy locations, there are a set number of ‘pre-mades’ that are made around noon. About half are just sauce and base cheese so additional toppings can just be added on, then the pizza can be sent out. Some are fully made pizzas. The trick to make sure yours is fresh is changing the sauce, lite sauce or extra sauce. You aren’t charged for either and you get a freshly made pizza, not one that’s been sitting in the cooler for 4-5 hours.
This is an especially great trick for Valentine’s day and Halloween when they have the shaped pizzas for cheap. So many people order them that they pre-make dozens of them.”
“It’s My Job To Make Sure Your Dining Experience Is Perfect”
“Don’t be afraid to send back food. It’s my job to make sure your dining experience is perfect. I’ll deal with the kitchen and I’m not going to mess with your food. You might even get free dessert out of it if you treat me like a human being.
If you want the best service possible, admittedly at the expense of other guests, build a rapport with a server and ask for them each time you come in. I’ll admit that everyone gets good service, but I’ll go further out of my way for regulars.
Treat restaurant staff with the same respect that you expect to receive, and you’ll get the best possible service.”
How To Feed Two People At Chipotle For Under $7
“Let me start by saying Chipotle is my jam. I have eaten there 3-5 times a week for the last 5 years. I know every trick to getting an absolute feast for the same price of one regular sized burrito or burrito bowl. I don’t do this every time, but when I’m really hungry, I get crazy with it. Here’s how to get an insane amount of food from Chipotle for $8.50, if you include chips.
First off, get a burrito bowl. That right there gets you I’d say at least 25% more food for the same price. Ask for extra rice, then say ‘a little more, please.’ They don’t care, it’s just rice, they will pile it on there. Then ask for black and pinto beans. You don’t have to ask for extra, every Chipotle I’ve been gives me more than enough. Typically I say, ‘a little bit of both,’ and I’m telling you, their idea of a little bit differs from mine when it comes to beans. Obviously, if you’re going big, don’t ask them to go light. Duh. Then order your meat, I always get chicken. They seem to go a bit heavier on the chicken than the steak, plus the chicken costs less.
Here’s the point where you throw them a little curveball. Ask for two large tortillas. They’ll do it. Always. I’ve never been daring enough to ask for more than two, and trust me, two is plenty anyway. The benefit of this is that you can make two burritos and you won’t have to worry about them falling apart. It is absolutely awesome. Plus the tortillas are quite large, which gives you quite a bit of extra food for no charge. Then you get your salsa. I get the hot salsa which doesn’t add much to the overall amount of food, but if you get the tomato kind then you’re piling on to what is already a massive amount of food. Good for you, playa. You could even get corn if you wished, but I’m not a vegetable kind of guy. Sour cream? They’ll give you as much as that as you want. This is where things get tricky. Cheese. I don’t know what it is, but they just hate giving up that cheese. The cheese is my favorite part and I will go to great lengths to get the amount of cheese I want. I say, ‘Can I have extra cheese’…’A little more, please’…oftentimes there is still not nearly enough. At this point, I offer to pay extra for it. They put more on and they never charge me extra. Chips and drink are, of course, optional. Even if you don’t get chips, you’re looking at enough food to feed two people, plus it will only cost $6.70.”
These Are Some Juicy Tips
“I used to work at a Jamba Juice. You can order any drink and ask us to replace anything with anything. You can also order ‘light’ of one ingredient and ‘substitute’ something else in place of that. You can get away with ordering no/light ice, and substitute a fruit instead. Also, our scoop formula is flawed. Basically small drinks get a small scooper, and large drinks use a large scooper. For small drinks, there is no ‘half’ scoop or any fraction, meaning if you order something with a small scoop, and you order ‘light strawberries’ and substitute it with another, you may just get an extra scoop of something if they’re nice.
Also, as for our ‘hidden’ menu: these items don’t have anything special in them. They’re just our normal ingredients, but with more ice cream than fruit, and since we’re supposed to be a healthy store, we just don’t advertise it on the menu. Also, it’s completely free to substitute OJ or Carrot juice for fresh OJ or fresh carrot juice.
If you tell us you have deadly allergies to a certain kind of fruit, we’ll scoop the ingredients right out of the back freezer fruit, rather than the fruit that’s in the mini-freezer you see in the front of the store. Although the front of the house fruit is just as good, unless it’s obviously disgusting.
Also, our policy is that if you don’t like your smoothie, we’ll replace it with another one. If you ask real nicely, sometimes we’ll let you keep the first one, so don’t abuse this one too much.”
Get More Bang For Your Bawk!
“I’ve worked at KFC:
-Potatoes and gravy usually sits there all day. If you want to know yours isn’t the old stuff, buy it at opening or at about 3-4 pm. That’s when they make new stock.
-I hate when people do this, but it works: if you really want a sauce pack, but don’t want to pay for it, wait until you’ve received your food (and paid for it) and ask before you leave/sit down. Most of the time, we can’t put it into the register. But note: KFC is not like McDonalds – we don’t give out 10 ketchup packets for free. Ketchup isn’t supposed to be free at KFC.
-Make sure you familiarize yourself with the menu if you come to KFC. There are A LOT of deals. If you don’t ask for the specific deal, we don’t have to put it in the register. I can charge you for each item separately which can end up costing more than $20 extra if you’re ordering for your family.
The Best Tip? Leave A Tip!
“I know this tends to be a contentious topic, but freaking tipping is the best ‘tip’ I can give you.
No, it’s technically not required for you to tip on take-out orders. However, doing so at places you frequent will establish a bond between the employees and the customer. You will generally receive better, friendlier service and it will often pay off in the long run. Plus, it’s just a decent thing to do and you’ll feel good about yourself for not being a stingy jerk. If you can afford to go out instead of cooking, drop a buck or two in the jar. It’s not gonna kill you.
-Sit down service – 20% if there are no noticeable hiccups in service that cannot be explained and apologized for by your server. Increase if you’re feeling generous; you might make somebody’s day.
-Bars – Buck a beer, $2 for mixed drinks, 20% if you’re tabbing it out. If you order a mixed drink and it tastes weak, ask for a double next time. The bartender will get the idea and appreciate you being a gentleman instead of a prick. Never piss off a bartender.
-Coffee shops/take out – As stated above, dropping a dollar in the jar is plenty and they’ll appreciate it.
-Delivery – 20%, at least. If you have a small order and they’ve driven a fair distance to get to you, bump it up a little. They will remember you, whether you’re a good customer or a bad one. Which ones do you think get better service?”
Upgrade At Jack-In-The-Box On The Cheap!
“At Jack-In-The-Box, all the vegetables and sauces are free, so you can take a big cheeseburger as a template, add all the veggies, and it turns into a cheaper Jumbo Jack. You can take a kid’s cheeseburger and turn it into a hamburger deluxe as well. You can also switch out buns so you can order a big cheeseburger and turn it into a cheaper Sourdough Jack (I think a Sourdough Jack is 5-ish dollars usually, so that makes it like 2-3 dollars). If you order a big cheeseburger and order an extra patty and add it yourself, you save a dollar off from their deluxe cheeseburger.”
Drive-Thru Etiquette For The 21st Century
“I used to work grill and board at a Whataburger; I think the best tips I would give is:
When you order, know what you want. As a grillmeister, as soon as we hear through the headset what you are ordering, we’re putting meat on the grill. (Especially at Whataburger where they are anal about drive-thru times- literally you basically get bonus checks for good drive-thru times) So if you order four kids burgers but then decide you actually want 2 regular sized burgers half way through your order, we have four extra small patties that we won’t use before they get cold. and then we have to throw them out.
Make your order in a logical fashion. This one kinda depends on the style of the drive-thru register, but your order should go from things that need to be cooked longest to shortest. So, it should be burger (or sandwich), fries, dessert item, drink. If you make it in this order we can begin cooking your order while you are talking.
If you come in at an odd hour and there is a long wait (or it’s really busy), don’t get angry, please. We’re probably understaffed in the kitchen. Managers schedule skeleton staffs to work the odd hours to save money. At peak hours (breakfast, lunch, dinner), we can have up to 12+ people in the kitchen pumping out orders. At odd hours it can be run with three, maybe four people. If lunchtime crowds come in at odd hours, it’s gonna be terrible. I guarantee the receipts are stacked in back, and it’s gonna take a little while.”
“Nice Customers Were Rare And I Treated Them Like Royalty”
“I worked in a crappy theme park eatery when I was 15. The average person I served was a miserable parent who just wanted to murder their child and would take it out on me. I wasn’t one of those snot nose kids with an attitude problem, I was just a normal, average kid trying to make some cash and I was really polite. I had food thrown at me for a lack of ketchup, I’ve been spit on for being sold out of the one thing their kid wanted…It was a crap job.
The nice customer was rare, and I treated them like royalty. I would give you free pop for simply smiling at me. I’d take off the extra charge for bacon if you said please and thank you. I did little things like this all the time. I figured if you didn’t make my day crappy or even made it a little more bearable, I would take the extra step to make your day a little brighter.”
A Hot Tip For Hungry Night Owls
“If you’re a night-owl, get crispy chicken sandwiches at Arby’s after about 10 pm. They usually stop pre-frying the chicken around then (they don’t sell enough chicken to do so otherwise). It takes about 5 minutes for those suckers to cook, so be patient if they say it’ll be a couple minutes. It’s a great sign that you’re getting freshly fried chicken, and man, is it worth it.”
Ask About The “Oldies Page”
“I don’t know if every restaurant has this, but I’m a server at Chili’s and in the computers we have an entire page dedicated to food that isn’t on our menu anymore so we can put it together for people when they ask for it. Some of the stuff I’ve never even heard of when people order it and they tell me, ‘I use to come in here and get it all the time.’ Sure enough, I’ll check the Oldies page and there it is. So if there’s something you use to order and we don’t have it anymore, tell your server to check the Oldies page.”
“When They Say ‘No Rules, Just Right,’ They Freaking Mean It”
“After working at Outback for over a year, when they say ‘No rules, just right,’ they freaking mean it. I’ve legit seen the cooks make custom omelettes and go to the gas station just to pick up Mountain Dew bottles for customers that don’t like Coke products. You can be as big of an jerk as you want, and Outback will still do anything for you in order to get a decent survey back. Don’t hold back on anything.”
Don’t Forget Who REALLY Runs The Show
“In every non-corporate run restaurant and even some corporate ones, the cook runs the freaking show. Cooks usually have attitudes, maybe bad, maybe not, but they can get away with a LOT. They do not put up with crap from anyone, even management, and they rule with an iron fist. You do what they say. So, if you send a tip back to that mofo, he/she is going to hook you the freak up. The best meals come from happy cooks, and most, if not all, real cooks take pride in their work. They can mess with you if they want to, or they can hook you up amazingly. Just remember cooks are the epitome of the ‘zero crap given’ type.”
Do NOT Fake Allergies
“I was a server for several years, and I HATED it when people would order food and say that they were allergic to gluten. The great majority of them weren’t, but they wanted to try and be sure that their meal was gluten-free (for health reasons).
Any good restaurant takes allergies VERY seriously. A good cook will stop what they are doing, disinfect their entire working station, go to the back and get a new set of knives, put on new gloves etc. Allergies are serious business, and should be treated as such.
If you want a gluten-free meal, just tell your server. They, as well as the cooks, are almost always happy to accommodate you. Don’t however, tell them you have an allergy when you don’t. It slows down everyone tremendously.
P.S. When I was still working, I couldn’t figure out for the life of me why so many people were all of a sudden ‘allergic to gluten.’ I then found out that it was a health craze. My mom got on the bandwagon and bought a couple books on the subject. It turns out that many of the books on living eating a gluten-free diet advise people to tell their servers they have an allergy to gluten, or ‘they won’t be taken seriously.’ This simply isn’t true.
Furthermore, restaurants oftentimes have great dishes that have literally milligrams of gluten in the dish. You are really minimizing your options if you say you have an allergy, as opposed to just saying, ‘I’m trying really hard to eat gluten-free, do you have any food that is gluten-free or has only a tiny amount of gluten in it?'”