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Nine ways to understand your server better

At Cioppino's Mediterranean Grill in Vancouver, restaurant critic Alexandra Gill demonstrates one of the many skills required for fine-dining service: When polishing the crystal, hold it by the stem to avoid breakage.

lyle stafford The Globe and Mail

Four ways to decode server-speak

Think you really know what your server's trying to tell you about the lobster? Here's a primer to help you read between the lines

The line: "I could take your appetizer order first and come back when you're ready to order your mains, but that special veal rack is going very quickly."

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Translation: If you don't order everything at once, it's going to really screw up the kitchen and the chef is going to have my head.

The line: "We only have two lobsters left."

Translation: We have dozens of lobsters, but nobody is ordering them and I have been asked to hustle them.

The line: "If you're in the mood for something extravagant, we have risotto with shaved white truffles that have just been flown in from Alba."

Translation: The risotto costs $100 a plate.

The line: "There's no rush, we're not closed yet."

Translation: The restaurant is empty. You're the only customers left and we're all waiting for you to leave so we can go home.

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Five ways to turn your server against you

They're there to help, but your server can't do all the work for you. Here are five dining faux pas:

Scenario: To get a server's attention, you snap your fingers, whistle or wave your arms in the air.

Problem: You were raised in a barn. We are servers, not servants.

Scenario: The waitress approaches and says, "Hello, how are you?" You respond, "Gimme a scotch on the rocks." Or ignore her completely.

Problem: See above.

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Scenario: You tell your waiter you are ready to order and then contemplate for the next 10 minutes while he hovers.

Problem: The food for Table 10 is congealing under the kitchen broilers, the ice in the drinks for Table 14 is melting at the bar and the people at Table 12 are losing their patience. You are not the only customers in the restaurant.

Scenario: After being shown to your table for two, you get up and plant yourself at a window table for four.

Problem: You have just blown the entire seating plan, a carefully calibrated arrangement that someone spent the whole afternoon organizing.

Scenario: Your child is screaming his head off and running wild all over the restaurant.

Problem: Crushed toddler toes are not covered by the workplace insurance plan.

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