So you're planning a big night out on the town to celebrate a special occasion or woo a new date or business prospect. Everything must be perfect. You ask friends for recommendations or search your city's lifestyle magazine and make a reservation. Now all you do is show up and enjoy, right?
Not quite. In larger cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago restaurants have the upper hand and it's diners who must take responsibility for confirming reservations to ensure a table and prompt seating. Once you confirm, however, you may want to go the extra nine yards to ensure a pleasurable event.
1. Visit the restaurant in advance and select a table to your liking.
Though it may not be possible to get the exact table, if you visit the restaurant outside of the busy lunch or dinner period and speak to the host or general manager, you can suggest tables that you like. For some restaurant professionals, it may be correct to give the individual your card in addition to a gratuity for this service.
2. Study the wine list in advance.
You want to look good in front of your client or date, and studying a wine list at the table takes time away from your guest. Many times you will be able to find the wine list online. Choose a few wines in case they run out, and try to find some interesting information about the wine beforehand.
3. Act confidently when the sommelier offers you a taste.
This procedure is to ensure that the wine does not have cork taint (oxidation through a bad cork) or another fault. If you smell and taste the wine and it is fine, simply wait until the server pours everyone's glass and enjoy when the server pours yours. Ignore the cork that is placed on the table. There is no need to smell it.
4. For large groups, consider ordering a bottle of white and red wine so your guests can have their choice.
A good sommelier should judiciously pour the wine in the glasses so that it reaches just the fullest part (usually the lower third) of the glass, so your guests can swirl and smell the bouquet.
5. It is considered gracious and correct to tip between fifteen and twenty percent of the total wine and food bill, not just food.
As always, gratuity is optional. Many people think there is not much work involved in opening a bottle of wine or twisting open a screw cap and pouring; however, many servers and sommeliers went to wine school to help guests with their choices, and are responsible for polishing the elegant glassware on the table.
Some people find five-star restaurants intimidating because of their formality, so it's important to realize that everyone at the restaurant from the hostess to the chef are at your service. So walk tall and expect the best – you deserve it.