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Dining out opens doors to new cuisines and brings us closer, sharing cultures in a very intimate way. Not to mention, it gets us out of doing the dishes. When dining out, diners should prioritize etiquette and friendliness, which can make restaurant staff feel respected and appreciated. Why, because it’s important, and connected, in so many ways.

A 2016 Gallup poll found that 61 percent of Americans eat dinner out at least once a week, and 16 percent are frequent diners, eating out three or more times per week.

According to restaurant.org, there were over 40,000 restaurants in Florida in 2016. The National Restaurant Association says that the restaurant industry brings in around $800 billion in sales each year, around $40 billion estimated sales in Florida’s restaurants alone. The industry provides jobs for 14.7 million people – making up 10 percent of the American workforce. There are roughly 1,054,000 restaurant and food service jobs in Florida; 12 percent of employment in the state. By 2028, that number is projected to grow by 15.4 percent (162,100 additional jobs).

Line cooks, bussers and servers work hard, and many do so for low pay. According to the employment salary comparison source Glassdoor, restaurant servers typically earn an average of $21,000 per year. The job-search site Indeed says some servers earn $10.70 per hour, and most rely on tips to make ends meet.

While there are some written rules about social etiquette, there also are unwritten rules rooted in courtesy. By following these guidelines, any dining experience can go smoothly.

Make reservations

If possible, or if it's a requirement on busy nights, take the time to make a reservation. Reservations help establishments ensure they will have enough staff on hand to meet customers' needs, which can lead to better service. Show up on time or even a few minutes early.

Patience is a virtue

Restaurant wait times are not an exact science. Restaurant hostesses can offer an estimate, but it's impossible to say exactly when you'll be seated. Do not take frustrations out on the staff. If time is of the essence, dine during off-peak hours or visit a less busy establishment.

Put your phone on silent

Just because someone can reach you at all hours of the day doesn't mean you should always answer a call or text. Staring at the screen or talking on a call is not only rude, it also can delay table service, which may cause a trickle-down effect that affects others' dining experiences.

Don't make a scene

If you find a foreign object in your food or need your steak cooked to a different temperature, signal the server and handle the situation discreetly. He or she has no control over the quality of the food or how long it takes to prepare it.

Know when to leave the kids home

Children should be taught proper restaurant etiquette, but not at the expense of other diners or the restaurant staff. Inquire if a restaurant is family-friendly before booking a table. Start the kids in family-friendly places and gradually move up to fine dining as they prove themselves capable. If a child has a meltdown, go outside or get the food to go.

Tip accordingly

It is customary in many North American restaurants for diners to offer a gratuity to their servers and other staff. It is in poor taste to withhold a tip, even if service was not up to par. If service is subpar, it's still proper etiquette to leave a tip and then voice any concerns with the manager before leaving the restaurant or the next day. Even if a waiter or waitress is not up to snuff, tips may be pooled and are typically shared with bussers or even kitchen staff.

Go sparingly on substitutions

Restaurants should be willing to cater to certain requests, especially if food allergies are a concern. However, do not act like the establishment is your personal kitchen. Make reasonable requests.

Following dining etiquette rules can make meals more enjoyable for everyone.

 

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