10 tips for you to dine out with sophistication

A woman and man look at a phone while eating food. PHOTO/FILE/COURTESY

What you need to know:

  • Restaurant etiquette. You are at a fancy restaurant but you do not know how to go about business... there are endless tips on how to go about it. We have you covered. A. Kadumukasa Kironde II.

1. Wait to be seated 
Despite the fact that the custom of restaurants taking reservations hardly applies in Uganda, it is polite to wait and be seated. So, you spot an empty table and the maître d ’or hostess is busy seating another party, you get hold of a couple of menus and motion your company to take a seat. At this juncture, you are taking charge and in essence taken an item off the hosts to do list and done their job for them. This is not only wrong, but being presumptuous. To be fair, you have absolutely no idea what the restaurants policy is for seating parties. Wait to be seated until a member of staff arranges for your seating.  

2. Do not ignore the specials 
The specials are designed to bring out new ideas and recipes that the kitchen staff want you to check out. It could be that the restaurant is working out a new menu and they want to find out your reaction, in any case it is a good idea to be open-minded and try the specials. There might be something that will pique your interests.  

3. Never familiarise (as in chat up) yourself with the waitress or waiter
I  believe it is perfectly in order for you to follow your server’s lead when it comes to making small talk. But, avoid getting carried away. Despite the restaurant not being busy (as far your concerned), your server may have other chores lined up which include taking orders, which have to be passed on to the kitchen, filling drinks and checking on customers is not an easy undertaking. So flagging your waitress just to chat is a no-no. Needless to say, they are not going to rebuke you and at all cost must strive to always be polite. Idle talk may cause them to fall behind with orders from other diners.   

4. Avoid ordering from someone else
So you are ready to place your order, you look around but your server is nowhere to be seen. Waving over a different server and having them take your order could bring about untold confusion within the system. It would mean that you are being served by two different people who are dealing with your order ending up with errors on your bill. If you are unable to locate your server, get up and go to the cashier or ask to speak to the manager.  

5. Never “help” unload the server’s full tray
Whether the food is on their arm, in their hands or balanced on the table, never offer or try to unload the food. This is an absolute no-no. Unknown to you, your waiter has spent countless hours learning how to balance everything to perfection and the last thing they need is your interference. Lifting your partner’s drink off the edge can cause untold mayhem sending everything crashing to the floor. Exercise maximum patience and restraint and you will be served without any upheavals and embarrassment. Let the expert take charge and relax and enjoy your meal.  

6. Never offer or try to clean up your own mess
No doubt many of us have experienced that unplanned ‘accident’. You are thoroughly engrossed in lollygagging and sharing a story with your chums and lo and behold, you end up knocking a drink or two over the table. Yes, I am aware of how tempting it is to try and cover up your mishap by making a mad dash to the loo to look for some paper towels, or worse still; throwing every serviette you can lay your hands on at the mess. The answer here; alert your server and more so, if there is broken glass. The last thing you want is adding further injury and damage by cutting your hand in a futile attempt to ameliorate the situation. Take it easy and rest assured that they have all the necessary cleaning material required to get the job done with dispatch and efficiency.  

7. Never help yourself to a refill
Assuming that this is not a buffet, you notice that your (complimentary) glass is low, so you help yourself to the jug of iced tea or mixed juice which happens to be a few steps away. Bad move. If a manager sees you helping yourself, it will reflect badly on the server for not being vigilant and topping up as and when needed. The solution is for you to wave to your server and ask for a refill. If the problem persists, call for a supervisor and the matter will be handled expeditiously. Remember it is always better to voice your concern rather than try to attempt to fix the problem . 

8. Never stack your tableware 
You finish your meal and you are acting as Mr Big Guy and you begin to pile your empty tableware in a stack. While this gesture might outwardly seem like being kind and considerate, on the contrary; it is wrong and sends out a signal to fellow diners that this is what is expected of every one who dines at this establishment. Not to mention, your server has a system in place of balancing the tableware that ensures they get back to the kitchen without mishaps. At the end of the day, they will have to unstack them and restack them at your table. Leave it to them and remember that it is part of their job.  

9. Split the bill before the meal
Letting your server know ahead of time at the beginning of your meal that you wish to have separate bills, avoids confusion and time wasting. Rather than waiting until you have finished your meal and then when they present one bill, asking them to break it up is a no brainer.  

Avoid media noise…
10. Remember that to err is human and mistakes do happen. If you end up with the wrong dish or the service is not up to par, give the restaurant a chance to fix it before you air your views in the media; especially Facebook or Twitter. You will be surprised how a chat with the supervisor or manager about your issues could lead to quick fix and such problems would be avoided in future. Naturally, if nothing is done to resolve the issue, then by all means escalate matters and air your views in the numerous social media platforms.

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