By Tamatha J. Brown
If you're like most people, you're eating out more
than ever. With a little effort, however, you can have almost as much
control over what you eat when you dine out as you do at home. The following
tips give you the tools you need to win at the restaurant game.
1. Get a Little Something on the Side. Salad
dressing is not the only topping that can be served on the side. You can
make the same request with sour cream, sauces and most seasonings. Unless
the dish is premade, such as frozen lasagna, having the kitchen omit a sauce
or serve a topping separately is perfectly acceptable.
2. Ask Until You're Satisfied. Perhaps the
most effective method of getting what you want in a restaurant is to ask
questions. Whether your question is about ingredients, preparation methods,
price, portion size or substitutions, don't settle for a half-baked answer.
If your server seems unsure of the answer to your question, have him or her
ask a manager.
3. Know When to Go. If you have special
instructions for the kitchen, you may want to eat out during nonpeak hours.
Between 7:00 and 8:30 pm, most good restaurants get very busy, and your
special order may take a little longer or--if you end up having to send it
back--a lot longer. Try going before the dinner rush.
4. Fib a Little. What's the best way to be
sure the oil is left out of your pasta primavera? Tell your waiter you are
allergic to an ingredient in the oil, or you have a dangerous reaction to
oil because of a medication you're taking.
5. Use Threats. Politely ask your server to
tell the kitchen you will send your food back if it's not prepared to your
specifications. This ensures the kitchen will make it right the first time.
Remember, it's usually the fault of the cook, not the server, if your food
is not prepared properly.
6. Try to Be a Kid Again. Many restaurants
have a special children's section on the menu that you may be able to order
from. If not, ask the waiter--or the manager, if necessary--if you may have
a half order of something. Managers are usually eager to please.
7. Don't Be a Softie. When the dessert cart
comes around, don't feel bad about saying, "No, thanks," even if a waiter
pressures you. The same goes for unwanted appetizers, drinks or "extra" side
dishes. You will not hurt the waiter's feelings by saying no.
8. Stop Eating When You Are Full. Ask
someone--your waiter, a busboy, a manager or another waiter--to take your
plate when you have had enough. If you can see as soon as you get your plate
that the portion is too large (as it will be in some restaurants),
immediately divide the food in half. Put one part in a to-go box or just
place it to the side.
9. Be a Regular. If you go to the same place
often and get to know the staff by name, your requests and questions are
more likely to be taken seriously. Who knows, maybe you'll even have a dish
named after you!
10.Tip Generously. Like it or not, the
restaurant business is a service industry where you are the boss. If you
take care of your waiter or waitress, he or she will take care of you.*
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