In the past few months of dining out, I have noticed some pretty atrocious behavior in the restaurants in which I've dined.
My brother has been in the restaurant business for more than 30 years, and quite a few of my friends are in the restaurant industry as well. They've all shared with me several tips that can help make everyone's dining experience a good one.
For starters, find out ahead of time if the restaurant you plan on dining in requires reservations. If it does, by all means, make one. One of the worst things for a host or hostess to deal with during a busy dining period is having a large party suddenly show up and demand seating at once. Trust me, everyone is going to be unhappy in this situation.
Dress appropriately for where you are dining. There is nothing wrong with wearing your work clothes to dinner, but if you are a chimney sweep, it's best to go home and clean up before you sit down in any dining establishment. If you are going to a more upscale restaurant, such as The Grill at Harryman House, in Reisterstown, or Glyndon Grill, it's best to put on a dress shirt and dress slacks or dressier jeans.
Be aware of the time the restaurant closes and show up at least half an hour before then. Some restaurants require you to be there at least an hour before closing time. There is a time to leave the little ones at home. I know that not everyone will agree with that statement but, seriously folks, if you are going out to eat at an upscale dining establishment, you — as well as the other diners — do not want to hear a screaming toddler or a fidgeting 8-year-old who would have preferred dinner from the local golden arches.
If you are dining with little ones, you as the parents are responsible for them and their actions in the restaurant. A few months ago, a friend and I met for dinner at a restaurant in Timonium. We watched two children at the table next to us crawl under the table and run around the dining room. We watched them trip a waiter carrying a heavy tray of food, causing the tray to go flying. The waiter had to be removed by an ambulance crew, and several other diners were burned by food or cut but the broken china. The parents were shocked and belligerent when the manager asked them to take their children and leave.
A cocktail now and then is a nice thing, but going out to dinner and getting drunk is not a good idea. I am not saying don't enjoy a cocktail or glass of wine, but keep it in check — no one wants to be around an annoying diner who has had a few too many.
If there is something you are unhappy about with your meal, speak up quickly. What is not appropriate is finishing your meal and then announcing that it was horrible and that you are refusing to pay for it. You should be able to determine within the first five forkfuls if your meal has not been prepared to your satisfaction. And, if it is not prepared the way you want it, call your server or even the manager and explain what the problem is. Waiting until you have finished your entire meal and then complaining and refusing to pay for it is called scamming.
Your servers depend on your tips. Their hourly wages are usually about $3 an hour. They have to declare their tips, therefore most of their actual paychecks go to cover taxes, and most servers get paychecks showing a $0 amount. Fifteen percent of your check is considered minimally acceptable, 18 percent is considered the norm, and 20 percent is consider acceptable for exceptional service. Do not leave a $3 tip for a $70 check — that is just rude.
And lastly, the No. 1 pet peeve of all restaurant folks: your cellphone. Most restaurants would prefer you turn your phone off altogether when you enter their establishment. There is nothing more rude than for your server to be trying to explain the daily special or take your order while you are busy talking or texting on your phone. Honestly, taking a break from your phone for the hour or so it is going to take you to have your meal will not kill you, and Doodle Jump will be ready for you to play at a later time. There is a small breakfast-only place not far from my home that has a policy that if your phone is even turned on they will not serve you. I love that policy.
Try to remember that being a respectful diner is as important to your dining experience as having outstanding food and service.
Terry Chaney is a Reisterstown resident and can be reached via email at