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October 22, 2011

When Dining Out II – Group Dining

by thenattyurbanite

Recently I went out for dinner and the behaviour of the people at the next table was, in a word, abhorrent. My friends and I are loud definitely enjoy a good time, but we are always mindful of those around us. This table however, was just over the top. Firstly,  there was the entrance of a fellow with a retinue of tight-bodied twenty-somethings who announced his presence/arrival to the entire restaurant with a “Whoooooooooooo”. Yes readers, Jager bombs did follow. Secondly, the ad-hoc way in which they ordered, is every server’s worst nightmare. Sure you can change your mind. But four times and then splitting plates?! Too much [yes I was making detailed notes of all their transgressions]. Then came the time to pay the bill, clearly math or the simple use of a calculator was out of their reach. By the way there’s an app for that.

Below is a guide to dining out as a group –

Reservations – If you have  a table larger than six, it’s best not to ask for a 7pm or 7:30pm reservation. Seven to eight the busiest window for many restaurants and this may result in your table being served later than other tables. Whatever time you make the reservation for, tell your group that it’s half an hour earlier [ex. dinner reso at 8:30pm, tell your friends 8:00pm]. This will allow everyone to arrive on time. Speaking about that…

Arriving – Please, for the love of all things good, arrive on time and don’t occupy the table until the entire group has arrived. Sit at the bar, have a few drinks. It sets a lovely tone for the evening and shows your server that you respect her/him enough not to put her/him through “Ohhh can you give us a few more minutes we’re waiting on some more people” and the dreaded “just water for now until we all get here”.

Ordering – Decide as a group if you’re doing multiple courses. There’s strength in numbers, if only one person wants an appetizer and the others just want to jump straight to the main, well Mr. Scallop-Sashimi-with-Pea-Shoots can get his starter at the same time as his main or just skip it all together.

For the Table – Whoever organized the dinner should spring for some nibbles for the table. Whether it is some warm flatbread and white bean hummus or a couple of charcuterie boards, it’s a lovely gesture to offer the people who will be forking out money to celebrate/hang-out with you something to graze on.

Revelry – Ham it up, but just be mindful of the noise level. If you notice [aka receiving numerous stank eyes] that your fun is making other diners uncomfortable send a round of drinks to that table or have one person in the group go over and explain that it’s a special occasion and apologize for having your fun affect theirs. Believe me, they will appreciate it.

When you’re Finished – Close your knife and fork and place it at a 5 o’clock position, with the fork tines up. This signals to the server that you’re indeed finished. And once the plate touches the server’s fingers do not ask for it again. You’re done. End of story.

The Bill – Ahh the split bill. Here is my recommendation, when making the reservation over the phone ask the restaurant if they would be kind enough to do separate bills for the group. This eliminates the utterance, “oh how much should I throw in?” Here’s my beef, there’s always that one person who NEVER pays his/her full way thus forcing someone else to absorb the shortfall. Also, it’s unfair to the person who had a $14 main to pay part of the bill for someone who had a $38 steak. If the restaurant prefers to do one bill, pull out the smart phones and start calculating.

Tipping – Many restaurants will do an automatic gratuity for tables larger than eight. In this case the tip is pre-calculated, however, if the restaurant doesn’t do this please tip 20% to the server if he/she was particularly good and if not 15%. This 10% business is ridiculous; serving a large table is no walk in the park. If you were not happy with the service ask for the manager and have the dinner organizer speak with him/her. Leaving a crappy tip is just mongrel behaviour.

Leaving – Thank the server[s] and restaurant manager for accommodating you and your [loud] friends.

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