Eating out is an experience most of us have been through dozens of times. But when you stop to think about what's behind your experience at each restaurant, you will be surprised at what goes on behind the scenes; and how it translates to your plate.
What’s In The Coffee After 8pm
In most restaurants, after 8 p.m. or so, all the coffee is decaf because no one wants to clean two different coffeepots. I’ll bring out a tray with 12 coffees on it and give some to the customers who ordered regular, others to the ones who ordered decaf. But they’re all decaf. -Charity Ohlund
What’s In The Stock?
If you’re a vegetarian and you ask if we use vegetable stock, I’m going to say yes, even if we don’t. You’ll never know the difference.
Beware The ‘Soup Of The Day’
At a lot of restaurants, the special is whatever they need to sell before it goes bad. Especially watch out for the soup of the day. If it contains fish or if it’s some kind of ‘gumbo,’ it’s probably the stuff they’re trying to get rid of. -Kathy Kniss, who waited tables for ten years in Los Angeles.
How Many Calories Are In That?
If you ask me how many calories are in a particular dish, I’m not allowed to tell you even if I know. I’m supposed to say, ‘All that information is available online.’ -Waitress at a well-known pizza chain
It’s Not Really Skim Milk
Skim milk is almost never skim milk. Very few restaurants outside Starbucks carry whole milk, 2 percent milk, skim milk, and half-and-half; it’s just not practical. -Chris
Why Waiters Hate Hot Tea
The single greatest way to get your waiter to hate you? Ask for hot tea. For some reason, an industry that’s managed to streamline everything else hasn’t been able to streamline that. You’ve got to get a pot, boil the water, get the lemons, get the honey, bring a cup and spoon. It’s a lot of work for little reward. -Christopher Fehlinger, maître d’ at a popular New York City restaurant
What Your Scrambled Eggs Are Made Of
Even at the best breakfast buffet in the world, 99 times out of 100, the big pan of scrambled eggs is made from a powder. -Jake Blanton
Bringing Someone Along Who Isn’t Your Wife
When you’re with the woman who’s not your wife, you’re a lot nicer to us, probably because you know that we know it’s not your wife. -Caroline Radaj, waitress at a members-only club outside Milwaukee
Never Go On These Days
Avoid Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day like the black plague. It’s crazy busy, so they’re not going to be able to pay as much attention to quality. Plus, they bring out a special menu where everything is overpriced. -Steve Dublanica
The Best Tippers…
The best tippers tend to be middle-class or people who have worked for everything they have, not the really wealthy or the kid who inherited the trust fund. Which is not to say that we mind if you use coupons. But when you do, tip on the amount the bill would have been without them. -Judi Santana
Don’t Order Fish On These Days
Don’t order fish on Sunday or Monday. The fish deliveries are usually twice a week, so Tuesday through Friday are great days. Or ask the restaurant when they get theirs. -Steve Dublanica
Using Holidays To Your Advantage
On Christmas Day, when people ask why I’m there, I might say, “My sister’s been in the hospital,” or, “My brother’s off to war, so we’re celebrating when he gets back.” Then I rake in the tips. —Chris, a New York City waiter and the founder of bitterwaitress.com
The Real Reason Waiters Say “We Ran Out!”
If someone orders a frozen drink that’s annoying to make, I’ll say, “Oh, we’re out. Sorry!” when really I just don’t want to make it. But if you order water instead of another drink, suddenly we do have what you originally wanted because I don’t want to lose your drink on the bill. —Waitress at a casual Mexican restaurant in Manhattan
Horrible Food Prep
I’ve seen some horrible things done to people’s food: steaks dropped on the floor, butter dipped in the dishwater. —Waiter at a casual restaurant in the Chicago area
I knew one guy—he was a real jerk—he’d go to Costco and buy this gigantic carrot cake for $10 and tell us to say it’s homemade. Then he sold it for $10 a slice. Steve Dublanica, veteran New York waiter and author of Waiter Rant: Thanks for the Tip—Confessions of a Cynical Waiter
Don’t Stick Around
We want you to enjoy yourself while you’re there eating, but when it’s over, you should go. Do you stay in the movie theater after the credits? No. —Waiter at a casual restaurant in the Chicago area
Why You Sometimes Get Free Drinks
Sometimes, if you’ve been especially nice to me, I’ll tell the bartender, “Give me a frozen margarita, and don’t put it in.” That totally gyps the company, but it helps me because you’ll give it back to me in tips, and the management won’t know the difference. —Waitress at a casual Mexican restaurant in Manhattan
“I’m A Good Friend Of The Chef’s”
I get this call all the time: “Is the chef there? This is so-and-so. I’m a good friend of his.” If you’re his good friend, you’d have his cell. —Chris
How To Treat Certain Customers
We always check the reservation book, scan the names, and hope for someone recognizable. I’m happy if the notes say something like “Previous number of reservations: 92.” If they say something like “First-time guest, celebrating Grandma’s 80th birthday, need two high chairs, split checks, gluten allergy,” then I start rummaging through my pockets for a crisp bill for the hostess and I make sure to tell her how much I love her hair fixed like that. —Charity Ohlund
A Good Server Loves You When You Ask This Question
Trust your waitress. Say something like “Hey, it’s our first time in. We want you to create an experience for us. Here’s our budget.” Your server will go crazy for you. — Charity Ohlund
What A Pasta Alfredo Order Says About You
When you say, “I’ll have the pasta Alfredo,” it tells me two things: You aren’t interested in trying new things, and you don’t eat out much. Restaurants put this dish on their menus because it’s “safe,” it sells, and it’s cheap to make. —JR
Don’t Eat Then Complain
If you don’t like something, don’t muddle your way through it like a martyr and then complain afterward. If you don’t like it, don’t eat it. Send it back and get something else. —Christopher Fehlinger
What This Server Calls “The Touchdown”
Watch out for what I call the touchdown. That’s when the waiter comes around to refill your water and the pitcher actually touches your glass. If he’s touching all the other glasses with the same pitcher, think about all those germs. —Jake Blanton
The Bathroom & Kitchen
If you’re worried about cleanliness, check out the bathroom. If the bathroom is gross, you can be sure the kitchen is much worse.