Communication is Key
Communication is Key / UW-Milwaukee / Media Milwaukee
By Ashley Brandt
This year’s Downtown Dining week has come and gone leaving many dirty dishes and exhausted servers in its wake.The special that has twenty plus of the cities most popular downtown restaurants featuring ten and twenty dollar three course meals showcasing their most delicious dishes draws in large groups of coworkers for lunch and friends for dinner. After waiting my fair share of tables, I have witnessed many awkward moments when the check comes and the guests at the table each brings out their own credit card. Sometimes it’s followed by a polite “Is there any way you could split this up by what we all had please?” or sometimes the less polite “We are going to need separate checks”. Either way, it is time consuming and inconsiderate to the server and is the least favorite part of the meal for many diners. But it doesn’t always have to be that way. I have compiled my experiences into three easy guidelines to avoid those awkward moments with your fellow diners and disappointed glares from your wait staff.
Communication is key. Dining in a restaurant is equally about the social experience as it is the food, so why not include how you are paying and how you are splitting up the final bill in the conversation. You are all friends, so why not talk about your concerns? If you are dining family style and you do not like something or have an allergy, make it known at the beginning of the meal so that your needs can be accommodated. It is easier to take care of it before the order has been placed rather than at the end of the meal when you feel like you should pay for a lesser share of the tab than the rest of the group.
Plan ahead. Sometimes you go out with a group of friends and everyone orders a fancy, pricey handcrafted cocktail and all you feel like is a diet coke. If you feel like it is unfair to pay a share of everyone else’s meal and drinks when all you order is a house salad and a soft drink you are completely justified. After you communicate with your group, politely ask the server to start a separate tab for you. By letting her know in the beginning she can keep everything organized better and have more time to give better service instead of standing at the computer for 15 minutes trying to remember what you had. If you are dining out with 6 or more, make sure it is known before you arrive at the restaurant or before you are seated how you plan on splitting the bill and if everyone is expected to pay their equal share in cash. It gives diners time to run to the ATM before hand, avoiding awkward moments at the end of the meal.
Be considerate. If you find yourself going out with the same group of close friends once a month, take a tip for Sex and the City and offer to cover the entire tab this time and then the responsibility will be passed on to someone else the next time. Just make sure to plan your outings at restaurants in the same price bracket so that one friend doesn’t feel taken advantage of because her turn just happened to fall on the day you all went to the four star French bistro. If you are going out with a group of friends and everyone plans on ordering a sandwich with a side of fries, don’t make yourself the odd one out by ordering appetizer, entrée, and dessert with the appropriate wine pairings. Not only be considerate to your friends, but also be considerate to your server. If you ask her to split the check based on what each individual had at the end of the meal, it is going to be time consuming and it will take time away from your service but also her other tables. Also, if she comes to the table to order drinks and not everyone is ready, ask her to come back in a few minutes. Do not make her make eight trips to the table because all eight people in your party decided on a drink at different times. In addition, if you like lemon with your water, ask for it when you order the water. Oftentimes when she comes back to the table with a round of drinks, her mind has moved on to expediting your meal. She is ready to take your order and get the ball rolling so that you are not sitting there hungry.
Dining in a restaurant is all about good times, good people, and good food. In order to make the most of those few hours at the table, there needs to be clear communication, plans for how the meal is going to go, and consideration for your fellow diners and service staff. By following those three guidelines we can make next years Downtown Dining week an even greater success.