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How To Be a Better Diner, Step 2: Don't Be Shy

Welcome to our third guest blogger series written by Ella Lawrence, who works as both a freelance writer and a server at popular restaurant in San Francisco. Lawrence has been published in Travel & Leisure, Time Out, and the San Francisco Chronicle and has her own blog, Restaurant Girl Speaks. Every Tuesday for six-weeks, she’ll be dishing out the tips on how to be a better diner, something about which she has a lot to say.

It's happened to you, no doubt: a caesar salad that only tasted of anchovy (or maybe you forgot that caesars have anchovies) or an overly-salted bowl of soup that you choked down because you didn't want to be a pain (something that happens more frequently than you might think, as addressed by my esteemed colleague Michael Bauer in his blog last week).

My advice? Tell your waiter. Your waiter wants you to be happy. We're not the one that cooked your food; we won't be offended. Our job is to be the intermediary between you and what's often a not-that-socially-gracious kitchen. And if the kitchen has made a mistake (pork chop undercooked or pasta too mushy) they need to know it—it’s a part of service to make mistakes like this, and though we all try to get through a night without a hitch, sending back a bad dish will ensure that same mistake hopefully won’t happen again.

I recently had a table of two typical Saturday-night Marina dudes: Red Sox caps, cocky demeanor. They were in a rush and didn't tell me that anything was wrong when I stopped by to check on them about five minutes after I brought them their food. After chugging a bottle of California Syrah, they ordered my busser to clear the table while there was still plenty of food on their plates, assuring me that "Yes, yes, everything's fine, now just bring the check."

On their signed credit card slip they left a note saying their salad was terrible, and they subtracted the amount of the salad from their check and tipped me on the smaller amount. I could have cared less about the tip; what bothered me was that they left unhappy. Had I known they didn't like their salad, I'd have offered to have another one made or have had it taken off their bill.