When you eat out at a restaurant, the quality of your dining experience will normally depend on how good the food is and what kind of service was given to you. Sometimes you luck out and end up having the time of your life, but there are also times when you’re just unlucky and everything seems to go wrong.
No matter where you’re eating though, you have to remember that you shouldn’t’ take it passively. You have a say (and in fact you have the biggest say) in how enjoyable your experience will be, and that’s because you’re the customer.
Oftentimes when we dine, we have these nagging questions in our minds that we’re either too shy to ask or we just think we can’t be bothered. Asking these questions though can help you ensure that your dining experience is truly memorable and worth what you’re paying for.
Can I replace the… with …?
Diners are sometimes afraid to ask for substitutions because they think they’ll be judged, or worse, charged for it. But there’s no harm in asking, now is there? Believe it or not, waiters and chefs have heard all kinds of crazy requests and you’re not the first person to ask if you can substitute French fries for salad, or sugar for a low-carb sweetener.
Food substitutions are common and you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for it, especially if you have a particular dietary requirement (say for instance you’re allergic to chicken). You can also ask how food is prepared and ask if this can possibly be modified. Instead of fried potato wedges, can you have it baked instead?
Naturally, you should ask nicely and don’t be shy to ask if this has an extra charge. It’s just good to be aware of all your options so you can make better decisions.
What is the serving size? Like really.
You should always ask for the serving size, especially if you’re dining as a group. While there’s no harm in ordering too much food because you can always take the leftovers home, sometimes you end up paying more and eating more simply because you weren’t’ aware that the serving sizes were too big. Don’t assume anything when it comes to serving size, even when it’s stated.
This means that even if the menu is filled with clues like ‘single’ or ‘good for 2’, you shouldn’t be afraid to ask your waiter how much food is actually on a plate. Go for actual grams if you have to.
Can I have the nutritional information?
The answer to this question is particularly important if you’re trying to lose weight or you have dietary restrictions. There are many restaurants who put the nutritional information (especially the number of calories) upfront on their menus, but if they don’t, you shouldn’t be afraid to ask.
You can also ask information that’s crucial to your diet, for instance, if a particular dish contains gluten or any possible allergens – peanuts and seafood for instance. Many restaurants these days have special icons for those with such restrictions: gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, etc.
What are your deals for the day?
Sometimes you should look beyond the regular menu and actually ask if they have specials for the day. Sometimes you can find this on the board near the counter, a flyer or poster near your table, or even a special insert in the menu. Or you can always ask your waiter.
There’s no harm in asking for deals and promos that they might have, and in fact these deals were crafted with you in mind. Sometimes restaurants also have loyalty schemes, birthday specials, and all kinds of gimmicks. If your waiter isn’t proactive enough to inform you about them, you shouldn’t be afraid to ask.
What do you recommend for…?
‘What’s your bestseller?’ is one of the most common questions people ask their waiters, and there’s no harm in asking especially if you’re not familiar with the restaurant and there are just too many good options in the menu. However, this generic question can also be met with a generic answer.
Instead of asking what the bestseller is or what the waiter’s recommendation is, be more specific. Don’t simply ask ‘What pasta do you recommend?’, ask ‘What pasta do you recommend if I want something light but mildly spicy at the same time?’ You can also ask for recommendations if you want something low-carb or low-fat, but filling as well.
Just remember that not everything can be taken from what you’ll find on the menu. Even the detailed descriptions can be incomplete (and sometimes misleading), so if you have very specific cravings, the best thing to do is to ask your waiter.