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Skip The Lemon: 20 Secrets Your Waiter Won't Tell You

Last updated on Thursday, August 9, 2012

(UNDATED) - ABC’s “Good Morning America” partnered with Reader’s Digest as part of its series “Things Experts Won’t Tell You,” honing in on the behind-the-scenes culture of restaurants.

It turns out, there is a lot that waiters don't share:

1. Is that coffee really a pick me up?

In many restaurants, Reader's Digest says after 8 p.m. or so, all the coffee is decaf because no one wants to clean two different coffeepots at the end of the day. Whether you order regular or not, you'll likely get decaf. If you want to make sure you get caffeine, order an espresso.

2. Kids menus are "sweeter" than you think.

Many restaurants put sugar in kids' meals so kids will like them more, including extra sugar in the dough for the kids' pizzas, Reader's Digest found. If the kids want to come back to the restaurant, then the parents will.

3. Fibbing vegetarian

If you're a vegetarian and you ask if a restaurant uses vegetable stock, waiters may say yes, even if they don't use it. Restaurants count on patrons never knowing the difference.

4. What's really in that special?

At a lot of restaurants, the special is whatever they need to sell before it goes bad. Especially watch out for the soup of the day. If it contains fish or if it's some kind of 'gumbo,' it's probably the stuff they're trying to get rid of.

5. Lemon in your drink?

Waiters might not tell you to never ask for lemon in a drink. Everyone in the kitchen touches them. Nobody washes them. Waiters just peel the stickers off, cut them up and throw them in your iced tea.

6. Looking out for your health

If you ask waiters how many calories are in a particular dish, many of them are not allowed to tell you even if they know. Instead, a waiter is supposed to say, "All that information is available online."

7. Do waiters mess with your food?

Investigators said they'd never seen anybody do anything to food, but they did see servers mess with your credit card. If a server doesn't like you, they might try to embarrass you in front of your business associate or date by bringing your credit card back and saying, "Do you have another card? This one didn't go through."

8. Every type of milk?

Skim milk is almost never skim milk in restaurants. Very few restaurants outside Starbucks carry whole milk, 2 percent milk, skim milk, and half-and-half; it's just not practical.

9. "Homemade" salads from jars

Some places buy salad dressings in one-gallon jars, then add a few ingredients, like a blue cheese crumble or fresh herbs, and call it homemade on the menu.

10. The worst thing to order

The single greatest way to get your waiter to hate you is to ask for hot tea. The restaurant industry hasn't been able to streamline hot tea. Waiters have to get a pot, boil the water, get the lemons, get the honey, bring a cup and spoon. It's a lot of work for little reward.

11. Scrambled eggs? Probably powder

Even at the best breakfast buffet in the world, 99 times out of 100, the big pan of scrambled eggs is made from a powder.

12. Remember the kitchen is a big place

People think that just because your food took a long time, it's the server's fault. Nine times out of 10, it's the kitchen. Or it's the fact that you ordered a well-done burger.

13. When you might want to stay away from fish

Don't order fish on Sunday or Monday. The fish deliveries are usually twice a week, so Tuesday through Friday are great days. Or ask the restaurant when they get theirs.

14. Ever had a date on the side? Waiters know

When you're with a woman who is not your wife, you're a lot nicer because you know that we know it's not your wife, waiters say.

15. The best way to become a regular

It's easier to become a regular when you visit Monday-Wednesday, and after you become a recognizable regular, good things will start to happen, like a chef's sample or a filled wine glass without charge.

16. Days to avoid

Don't come in on Valentine's Day or Mother's Day. Not only do restaurants have less time to pay quality attention, but it's a special, usually over-priced menu.

17. Shy kid? Order for them

Especially when things are busy, if your kid is shy and it takes them some time to make up their mind or are difficult to understand when they order, order for them so waiters can keep things moving.

18. Using coupons? Tip the difference

Waiters don't mind when you use coupons, but when you do, tip the difference to make up for it. Waiters say they best tippers tend to be middle class who have worked for everything they have, not the wealthy or the kid who inherited a trust-fund.

19. On a first date? You usually tip well

Waiters know that you'll tip better if you're on a first date because you're trying to impress the date.

20. Tips can be pooled

In many situations, if it's your waiter that offers the bad experience, by tipping less you may be affecting the bartender that made your drink, the water boy, the hostess and possibly other food runners who actually handle the whole experience together, so be wary.

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