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Sometimes when eating out, I'll be asked by the wait staff "Do you want to have the starter first or both courses at the same time?".

I actually just want each food item to be brought as soon as it's ready, so I'll not have to wait for longer than necessary. For all I care, the main course can be served before the starter if that means I'll get something to eat sooner.

Given this, I'm never sure which option to choose. I imagine starter first would mean they'll not bring (or possibly not even start preparing) the main course until I've finished eating the starter, so there'll be a wait between courses. The other option means that if either item takes a lot longer to prepare than the other, it would take significantly longer to start getting any food at all.

How do I convey my preference to the wait staff without sounding rude, disrespecting their dining etiquette or making it seem like I'm in a hurry?

  • Welcome to IPS! I like your question but what's wrong with sounding like in a hurry? – Ael Jan 19 '19 at 21:31
  • It is just a weak preference and I don't want to throw off their processes. I would be alright with choosing from the two provided options if I at least knew which one is actually the faster one. Sometimes I'll just say "I don't mind", hoping that they'll understand that I'm here to fill my belly and not for the dining experience, but I'm not sure if they do. – sunbart Jan 19 '19 at 21:53
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A simple statement while ordering, in as polite a tone as you can manage, along the lines of: "We would like our items as they are ready, please." should suffice. "Please" and "Thanks" are important to any interaction with your waitstaff. Basic courtesy and a nice tone go a long way with most waitstaff in my experience. "as they are ready" is a common industry way of saying what you are asking.

One simple caveat on top of all that: Most kitchen staff have been trained to approach making the food a certain way. They look at a group of orders a certain way. It is hard for them to do differently and you may end up getting your food in exactly the same manner as you would if you had said nothing. I'm not saying not to do what you ask, just be aware that it may not happen the way you want.

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I would be alright with choosing from the two provided options if I at least knew which one is actually the faster one.

I asked my brother, who works in a restaurant, about those two options. He says the main result of asking for the app first is that they'll serve it when it's ready, as opposed to holding it till the main is ready as well. So your ideal may already one of the options presented to you.

That seems to minimize the time to get you some food. Even if they were then to withhold serving the main till you'd finished the app, you'd at least have something to eat all the way through.

But he conceded that depending on how the kitchen staff work, this might indeed lead to them preparing the main a little later (probably not after you finish the app, but lower priority since you have something to work on in the meantime!). He suggested this simple formula that more or less mirrors your question title:

Please make everything at once and bring each thing as it's ready.

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I have been on both sides, so I know how you feel and what the constraints are. So I'd recommend, as for many service-based business, to ask for a favor, as the persons will be more willing to try and please you.

As a waiter, you ask the kitchen staff according to the dish preparation time (rare steak usually needs a 10mn call while a stew needs only 2 or 3mn, for instance). So, if you know how long you dish needs to be done, ask the waiter with just the right amount of time ahead of schedule.

This makes his work easier. And then, justify why you ask, because a true reason, different of the usual "I'm in a hurry (like all the others...)", works much better. This is the client side argument I used, because I'm like that, I like to have my dishes ASAP: "could you please do me a favor? I love eating fast, so I'd really appreciate if you could take care on my [name of your course] as soon as possible".

It's nice, helpful for the staff, as you don't push them and allow for some time to do it. And you can also thank them with a little extra smile and tip at the end :)

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