Whether you’re dining alone or with a group of friends, eating in a restaurant can be an intimidating experience the first few times you do it. You might worry about what to order, how to pay for your meal, or even where to sit. But after your initial awkwardness subsides, dining out can be a fun and cost-effective way to try new things without investing in new cookware or buying lots of ingredients. If you’re new to eating in restaurants, here is some helpful advice on how to order a meal efficiently and effectively in one. It might seem simple, but as with most things in life, the details are what matter most. Proper planning will help ensure that you get exactly what you want from your dining experience – whether that means staying within your budget, avoiding particular foods (or adding them), and so on.
Know the Menu Before Going to the Restaurant
The best time to study the menu is before you even leave the house – especially if you’re dining with a large group or have specific dietary restrictions. Even if you’re dining with a small group, it can still be helpful to skim over the menu ahead of time, as the options and prices often change. If you have time, you can visit the restaurant’s website to view the menu, or call and ask for a copy. If you don’t have time to do all of that, you can also try to guess what kind of food is offered at the restaurant, based on its name or location. For example, a Thai restaurant is likely to serve Thai food, while an Italian restaurant will most likely have pasta, pizza, or other Italian dishes on the menu.
Have a Plan (and a Budget)
If you’re dining with friends who might want to split a few appetizers, or you’re on a date and want to treat your partner to a nice meal, you might feel pressured to order an expensive entrée. If you’re dining alone, you might feel like you want to order the most filling meal possible, just so you don’t leave hungry. You don’t have to worry about any of this. You can simply order what you feel like eating. If you do want to splurge occasionally, you can do so without feeling any pressure. But if you want to keep your meal costs down, it’s helpful to have an idea of how much you’d like to spend on each meal. You can do this by researching the menu, checking online reviews, or asking the server.
Ask the server questions about the menu and the ingredients in the dishes. Restaurants generally have no issue with this, and the more you know about what you’re ordering, the less likely you’ll have an adverse reaction. If you have allergies or other health considerations, it’s especially important to ask questions and be knowledgeable about menu items. If you have any questions about portion sizes, feel free to ask for a sample of the dish you’re considering ordering. This is especially helpful if you’re at a sit-down restaurant and want to try different things, but don’t want to order a large amount of food.
Decide what you want to order before you sit down.
If you’re dining alone, or with one other person, you can order as soon as you sit down. You don’t need to wait for the rest of your party to arrive. If you’re with a group and want to wait until everyone is present to order, that’s fine too. However, you can still decide what you want to order while you’re waiting for your group to arrive. You may want to write down your meal choices and/or bring along a cellphone with the menu pulled up.
Ordering Your Meal
If you’re dining with one other person, or with a group but haven’t ordered yet, you can simply ask the server to wait until everyone has arrived and is ready to order. If you’re at a sit-down restaurant, you can serve yourself. But make sure that you don’t eat too much. It’s easy to overeat when you’re dining out, especially if you’re eating with a large group. If you are eating with a small party, it may be more polite to wait for the server to serve you. And when it comes time to pay, don’t forget to ask for the bill. Just because you’re in a restaurant doesn’t mean you have to rush. You can take your time, enjoy your meal, and pay only when you’re ready to go. You can also ask for the bill as soon as you sit down, if you’re in a rush.
You don’t have to wait for the server to come back to ask for the bill. Just flag down the server, or call out to them. Be polite, though. There’s no need to be impatient or rude. The server will likely be happy to bring the bill as soon as you ask for it. And remember, the next time you go out to eat, you’ll have this whole process down pat.