When you need a new napkin, don’t just grab one off another table next to you. We totally just saw you do that. If you drop your fork–it happens–get a server’s attention and ask for another one. Don’t just grab a new one from the perfectly-set table next door. Nothing will draw a server’s ire more than messing with his finely-manicured, detailed station. Would we walk into your office and grab the stapler off your desk without asking?
When asking for wine recommendations, be specific about what style of wine you prefer. You can help your server make better suggestions if you avoid generic, subjective terms like “dry,” “smooth,” and “big” in favor of more specific descriptors like “spicy,” “earthy” or “fruit-forward.” Instead of critiquing a wine because it has “a bite”— which can have a different meaning to different people—say it has “too much acidity.” It can also be helpful to let the waiter or sommelier know what other kinds of wine you like to drink. Saying “I’ve been really into Spanish whites lately,” for example, can help the staff better understand your palate. If you can articulate your preferences in wine more clearly, your server will have a much easier time finding something that suits your taste.
We know a lot of sommeliers would try to upsell their mothers to boost check average. To neutralize potential unwanted solicitation, offer a price range you’re comfortable with when you ask for a wine recommendation. This should avoid the inevitable offense when you are steered toward options that are inappropriate to your budget. (ie. “Can you suggest a Tuscan red under $75, preferably not too polished or oaky?”) Though it’s possible they may still try to push your price boundaries, most sommeliers will be relieved to avoid the awkwardness of trying to blindly ascertain how much you’re comfortable spending.