Here are some strategies for dining out, from scoring a table to sending back food.
Problem: The restaurant is fully booked.
Solution: Put yourself on a waiting list. Don't be afraid to emphasize how much you want that table, as your eagerness may help persuade the staff to fit you in, even when they're booked.
You can also get lucky by checking the restaurant for cancellations around the time the staff may be calling to confirm parties for the evening (often before or after lunch). Surprisingly, weekends can be the best time to land these last-minute tables, as the reservation lines are not tied up by office assistants phoning in requests for their bosses. If you still can't snag a coveted Saturday-night table, consider making a reservation on a Wednesday or Thursday, when you're nearing the weekend
Problem: You hate your table.
Solution: Speak up quickly. Most hostesses say they prefer to know before a diner has been seated. Of course, you yourself may have no way of knowing if you're happy until the hostess walks away. In that case, don't waste your time complaining to the waiter. They don't decide where you sit.
Instead, find the hostess or the manager. If you don't, you have the waiter acting as a go-between, which is inefficient and annoying to the staff. Next, express your specific issue with the table -- too loud, too small, too central, too close to the bathroom -- and request a spot that better meets your needs.
Restaurant aficionados avoid this altogether by always letting the reservationists know where they prefer to sit when they book: a romantic corner for a special anniversary, or in the thick of things, for that out-of-town guest eager to take in the local color.
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