Things to consider next time you dine out

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In a culture where food, fun and fanfare are at the epicentre of socialization. We are often flooded with options for recreation and dining experiences. However, to make the most of these options and variations here are some pointers to base and judge your next dining experience off of. We know, there’s definitely more to a restaurant than just food. Once we’ve made our commitment to spend our money, it’s up to fate to decide whether or not we’ve made the right decision. While certain purchases immediately let us know if we’ve made the right choice or not (it didn’t take very long to realize buying that cheaper off-brand ketchup was a bad idea), a poor restaurant experience takes its time, unfurling over the course of a meal. A couple glitches here and there can be a minor nuisance in an otherwise spectacular meal, but string a whole bunch of them together and you’ve officially made a poor dining decision.

 

Taste

Expensive ingredients and labor-intensive dishes will cost more, and unless it’s all been microwaved you should be okay with shelling out a little more for it. If it’s a blatant price gouge because you’re in a touristy area, then there’s no excuse. Quality, top shelf ingredients usually make for an optimal dining experience. Exotic” or “spicy” references rise the price of a dish. Targeted at food tourists who presumably don’t eat these dishes every day–and thus don’t know the real value of the meal any emphasis on how exotic or spicy the food is means the meal will be more expensive. However, that does not discount the fact that great meals can come from diners, drive-ins and dives. At the end of the day fresh ingredients (and a little love) make all the difference when it comes to taste.

 

Service

Friendly, attentive and knowledgeable servers, hosts and wait-staff also impact your dining experience. They actually hold most of the power to make or break your overall experience at any given establishment. You can tell pretty quickly when you ask a server a question about an item on the menu if they’re genuinely excited about the food at this particular restaurant or if they’re delivering a rehearsed speech. The telltale sign is when, in the middle of describing a special, they consult their notebook. What this indicates is that the server probably wasn’t even allowed to try this dish; so how could they be expected to remember it? At the best restaurants, servers have a deep familiarity with the menu because they actually get to eat the food. The plates are cleared quickly but not too quickly. Again, another delicate subject. I don’t like it when servers take away one person’s plate while someone else is still eating. That makes the person who’s still eating feel bad. Also, it makes you feel like you’re being rushed out the door. On the flip side, when you’re sitting there with dirty plates in front of you for a long while, you can start to feel neglected. So the clearing of plates, and how that’s handled, is a good way to judge a restaurant.

Be mindful that servers work tirelessly on their feet, to cater to the needs of many customers throughout the day, a gratuity  of 10 – 20 per cent should be given for their efforts.

 

Value for money

The bill is larger than it should be? The price should always reflect the labour and quality of ingredients used. Dan Myers of The Daily Meal explains it the best, If you’re paying $25 for a hearty portion of homemade filled pasta, tossed in a fresh-made veal ragu and kicked up by a splash of brandy and topped with freshly grated Parm, then the manpower and ingredients that went into it most likely justify the price tag. If you’re paying the same amount of money for an overcooked piece of chicken breast on a roll with some melted cheese and fries on the side, then you’ve been ripped off and should have probably looked for a restaurant that wasn’t right in the middle of Times Square. Expensive ingredients and labor-intensive dishes will cost more. If it’s a blatant price gouge because you’re in a touristy area, then there’s no excuse.

 

Ambience

Are you comfortable? Is it welcoming, accommodating, clean and neat? Your first impression of the restaurant is typically a telltale sign of the experience you are about to embark on. After all, you are going to spend a good portion of your day here, you should feel relaxed and secure with the surroundings. Atmosphere is usually determined the staff, menu and price range. If you spend more than $30 a plate, expect a more formal service, and if you spend $12 a plate you’ll likely see a more boisterous crowd. Select an atmosphere that suits your mood and will leave the intended impression on your guest or date.

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