At most fine restaurants, servers understand that after they deliver menus to your table, you will eventually want to order. At the same time, well-trained servers do not want to interrupt your conversation or annoy you.
Instead, servers will wait until you signal them that you are ready to order. If you know the appropriate signs to use, you can easily catch a waiter’s attention without saying a word.
Why Your Server Hesitates to Hover
Although you might think your server is trying to ignore you after handing you a menu, you would be mistaken. Servers want you to enjoy yourself, and that means getting the opportunity to peruse the menu thoroughly.
A knowledgeable server will tell you about any specials upfront. Then, the server will move on to attend to other patrons. This gives you time to consider your options, as well as make small talk.
Only untrained servers keep coming back every minute or two to ask if you want to order. Those who have been in the business for a while will look for a few physical gestures and hints.
Closing the Menu
One way to show your server that everyone at the table is prepared to order is to have each person close the menu. When a waiter sees that everyone at the table is sitting with closed menus, the waiter realizes every diner has made up their mind.
It is perfectly fine to re-open the menu when the waiter returns, especially if you forgot the name of a certain dish. You can even ask your server to explain more about a menu item, such as how a seafood entree is prepared normally. Just because you closed your menu once does not mean you can never look at it again.
Making Eye Contact
Perhaps you closed your menu but the server has not stopped by. What happened? In many cases, the problem was a robust or intimate appearing conversation.
Waiters do not like to interrupt intense discussions. Consequently, they may wait to come back until everyone at the table seems to sit back and disengage from focused banter.
To let your server know that it is okay to take the order, you may need to make eye contact in addition to closing the menus. For instance, if you and your dining companions are chatting, be sure to look for the waiter. When you get the server’s attention with your eyes, a smile and a slight nod can indicate that everyone wants to choose from the menu.
Changing Orders Midstream
All seems to be going well. You ordered off the menu. But now you are having some second thoughts. After hearing everyone else order their meals, you want to change. Should you?
Your server wants you to have an amazing experience, so if you realize after ordering that you would rather try a different item, go for it. Before the server leaves, explain that you would like to change your meal choice. Chances are good your server will smile and go with the flow.
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Others Articles in our Dining Etiquette Series
- Dining Etiquette – How to Let Your Server Know You’re Ready for the Check
- Dining Etiquette – How to Get Your Servers Attention When You’re Done Eating