The U.S. has many kinds of restaurants offering a wide selection of foods at various prices and levels of services. Basically, restaurants fall into two categories—fast food and full service.
Fast food restaurants such as McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Subway, Taco Bell and KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken), serve hamburgers, tacos, chicken, sandwiches, and other foods at relatively low prices. You can usually pick up your food at the counter or drive through moments after ordering it. If you eat in the establishment, you should always throw away your trash when you leave the table and an employee will wipe it down after you have left. Fast food provides economy and convenience, but not necessarily the healthiest options.
Full-service, or “sit-down” restaurants offer a wider variety of food, usually at higher prices. Unlike fast-food restaurants, the staff at full-service restaurants come to your table to take your order, and then bring it to you when it’s ready. They service any needs you have during your meal (filling drinks, bringing condiments, etc.) and clean your table once you have eaten. Some restaurants have a “host” or “hostess” who will take you to an available table when it is ready, while others have a sign that tells you to seat yourself. At very popular restaurants during busy times, you may have to wait for a table. They keep a list of those waiting, in the order they arrived and according to the number of people in the dinner party, and then each party gets summoned when a table becomes available.
Some restaurants offer a specialized menu offering certain kinds of ethnic food, like steaks, seafood, Chinese, Mexican, pizza, etc., Other restaurants offer a wide variety of items on one menu. Prices can range anywhere from less than $5 per meal to more than $50 a meal, depending on the restaurant and location. Feel free to ask to see a menu before you decide to eat there. If you decide that the restaurant does not offer either the food or the prices you want, you can choose to leave and look for another restaurant more to your liking.
Most restaurants do not require reservations. However, if you do not know whether the restaurant accepts or requires reservations, call ahead and ask. Many restaurants will not accept reservations, preferring to keep a wait list and seat customers as tables become available.
Generally, a tip (a percentage of the total bill left as a gratuity for the server) is expected at any restaurant where a waiter or waitress serves you at a table. Servers receive low hourly wages because they are expected to earn tips from their customers based on their level of service. The acceptable standard is 15–20 percent of the total bill. Some expensive restaurants will automatically add an 18 percent charge, called a “gratuity charge,” to your bill. Standard restaurants may also do this if you have a large number of people in your group. Generally, you should leave no less than a 10% tip even if you did not feel you received the level of service you expected. This will communicate your dissatisfaction without completely disregarding the service.