Gauging Quality At Restaurants When Traveling
If you have concerns on the cleanliness of the kitchen, make a b-line to the bathroom, for if they don’t take care of the restrooms, odds are their kitchen isn’t immaculate. You can also observe the bubbles in your draft beer to gauge cleanliness. If the bubbles cling to the sides of your pint glass, then the cup is dirty and, probabilistically, so is the kitchen.
Just like flight attendants and hotel desk managers, restaurant hosts and hostesses are usually susceptible to bribery. So you forgot to reserve a table? Better bust out the chocolate. If you do find the time to make a reservation, though, inquire about parking, handicap accessibility, operation hours, and other specific questions, as these are often asked by highbrow restaurant reviewers for whom restaurants go out of their way to please.
Hacking The Wine Menu
Once you’re satisfied with the restaurants hygiene and have taken your seat, you will likely turn to the wine section for a nice bottle of vino. If you are on a budget but don’t want to appear like a tight-ass, avoid the urge to buy the second cheapest bottle. Restaurants know people’s behavioral proclivities for ordering the second cheapest bottle on the menu and often slot a poor-value, overpriced blends at this price point. This is a rare instance when the cheaper option is in fact the better value.
Another tip notorious among restaurant employees is to never order the daily specials. While some restaurants may indeed have fantastic specials, many are simply discounted dishes that contain old ingredients.
Treat Your Server Right
Obviously, being nice to your server and treating them like a human being is a good way to engender superior service, but there are other simple things you can do to help your server help you. Asking for everything at once helps the server avoid unnecessary trips to and from the kitchen, so order efficiently. If you are not in the states, be cognizant of the tipping standards. Many countries don’t tip or automatically add the gratuity to the bill. In some countries it is even considered rude to tip, perceived as a gesture of pity or an act of social superiority.
If you are a fraudster or in a serious pinch, you can always do the old jacket trick (that is, if you have a jacket you are willing to part with). This is easily done by going to a restaurant, finishing your meal, and calmly walking out without paying. Suspicions aren’t aroused because you leave your jacket on the back of your seat, fooling the workers into believing that you haven’t left or that you’re coming back. You can even make a few bucks with this trick by bringing someone else along who pays you (less than the cost of the meal of course) to take the brunt of the risk. Your partner finishes the meal and leaves a few minutes ahead of you, where you then do the jacket trick as if you had eaten alone. Although I don’t typically condone theft, if you are in a tight spot it sure beats starving to death.