The other day I was talking about the psychology of splitting a meal at a restaurant. The very same day, The News-Sentinel’s etiquette columnist (who knew we even had one?) weighed in on acceptable ways to go about sharing a dessert.
But what about splitting an entrée? Are you shortchanging the restaurant and/or the waitress by doing that — or sending a message, via your pocketbook, to the food industry that maybe it’s time join the fight against the obesity epidemic by reducing portion sizes?
According to Table Manners, a weekly advice column at chow.com, there’s nothing wrong with splitting a meal — as long as you’re not obnoxious about it. There’s a lot of insight from industry insiders in this excellent column, along with lots of thoughtful follow-up comments from waitresses and diners alike.
Here are the points I’m going to keep in mind as a budding meal-splitter:
— Don’t take up a prominent table during the dinner rush if you know you’re likely to be under-ordering. Go at a less busy time, or explain your situation to the hostess and ask to be seated in the bar.
— I was surprised when our waitress brought our half-breakfasts out on separate plates last week; I’d asked for a separate plate and figured we’d just divvy them up ourselves at the table. Apparently some restaurants will split the meals in the kitchen, adding a little extra food to make the plates look more presentable as they’re carried out, and charge a small “splitting fee.” I don’t think that was the case with our meals, but it’s interesting to know.
— Fancier restaurants may refuse to split a meal because they may feel it destroys the aesthetic presentation of the dish.
— If you do ask for a separate plate and divide up the portions at the table, you’re not being any extra trouble to either the waitress or the kitchen. But it’s still a good idea to tip a bit more generously than you would otherwise, especially if you intend to come back to the restaurant in the future!