7 Things Your Restaurant Server Won't Tell You

Pick up restaurant tips that can save you money, get you the tastiest meals and moreBy Tracy Saelinger

1 YOU CAN HAVE TWO MEALS FOR THE PRICE OF ONE

At many restaurants, the portions at lunch are only slightly smaller than what is served at dinner, and for much lower prices. Some of the best deals are at chains like The Cheesecake Factory, where the lunch servings are quite generous. "People will often come in for lunch and take the rest home for dinner," says David Gordon, the company's chief operating officer. Photo by Getty Images

2 IT'S OK TO SEND ORDERS BACK!


If something is wrong, speak up. The management would rather give you a new dish than have you hold on to your displeasure and write a bad review on Yelp later. And don't worry-a waiter isn't likely to defile your food if you politely point out that it was too salty, says Alison Owings, author of Hey, Waitress!

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3 TOSS US A COMPLIMENT!


Be as vocal with your praise as you are with your complaints, suggests Patrick Maguire, a manager at Boston's jm Curley restaurant and author of the blog ServerNotServant.com. A little kindness can go a long way. He recalls a woman who went back to the bar after dinner, shook the bartender's hand and said, "They are lucky to have you here." It makes the worker's day. "Those are the customers I'll bend over backward for," says Maguire.

4 DON'T SIMPLY ASK, "WHAT'S GOOD HERE?"


Many servers are required to chirp, "Everything!" To get an honest answer, ask what they eat, or for their opinion on two dishes you're deciding between, says Steve Dublanica, a former waiter and author of Waiter Rant. Most servers will be truthful and not just recommend the pricier dish.

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5 SODA IS A RIPOFF


The profit margin on fountain drinks is astronomical, even in comparison to booze. "Soda costs the restaurant pennies," says Dublanica, and there are some places that charge $2.50 per glass. "I've seen parents run up $60 soda bills," he says. So if your server asks, "Can I get you another Coke?" find out about the refill policy before saying yes.

6 WE CAN GIVE YOU SAMPLES OF DRINKS


If you're not sure whether you'd like a glass of the house Merlot or the Pinot Noir, ask if you can try them. At many places, diners can sample wine, beer or even a signature mixed drink, says Rosie Wilk, a waitress at Yardbird in Miami. The bartender or server won't think you're picky. "I never want to have someone eating or drinking something they don't like," she says.

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7 WE SPLIT OUR TIPS


Servers make a base wage that can be as low as $2.13 per hour, and they often turn a percentage of their tips over to bartenders and busboys-those behind-the-scenes workers who make your dinner go smoothly. "I couldn't do my job without them," says Wilk. The bulk of a waiter's income comes from your generosity, so bear that in mind if the service is good.

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