The modern restaurant, fast food places, and cafes sell convenience at the expense of the lower working classes. Money is made off selling to folks who do not want to cook due to work, needing to feed many folks, or being in a popular location. The restaurant associations get away with paying waiters below the federal minimum wage legally (in many states)and force them to live off of patron's tips. Fast Food pays employees poverty wages for being covered in grease. Meanwhile, the district bosses, owners, and top executives lead country club lifestyles.
Restaurants currently operate under three main different models. Fast food is all about getting fed quickly and cheaply. Sit-down restaurants are about eating in a relaxed atmosphere where the customer has a servant making sure they do not have to get up (unless it is a buffet.) Delivery deals with getting food to the customers location. We will discuss all three.
NOT Eating Out
One could easily blow $20 USD (or more.. if you get fancy or get alcohol) for one person in a sit-down restaurant. This includes tipping so some wage slave does not hate your guts if you ever come back there. If you eat even only one time a day, this could easily be 600 a month just to eat! Yes, there are some ways to save. Not getting (or stealing) a drink, only getting cheap items from fast food, or going to only lunch buffets can bring down the cost. But, with the exception of fast food 'dollar menus', most of the time you can prepare your own much cheaper.
Don't get that 'sorry' feeling for blowing your precious survival cash on an overpriced junk. This really needs to be watched if you are in wage slavery or homeless! Our advice to you is to make a big breakfast and carry your lunch and a late snack or dinner. In winter plan a way to warm your "out" meals.
Many restaurant meals are nutrition poor but high in both fat and carbohydrate calories which can be useful to someone who wants to abate their hunger for longer than an hour or two and involved in some physical labor, foot or bike travel, or just be stuck outside in the wet and cold. Be aware that there is a movement especially directed at fast food places to reduce calories sometimes even by substituting diet non-digestible fat and sugar substitutes. You might soon find yourself spending your hoarded cash on fake food which is effectively flavored and textured cardboard and candle wax; you will be denied even the empty calories you were hoping to acquire.
Fast Food corporations market (mostly) high calorie food to folks that only have a short time to eat or are too busy/ too lazy/ can not cook. Fast food also markets to the poor with value deals and not having to tip. They draw in folks with kids by maintaining one of the largest cheap toy distribution networks and ad campaigns in the world. For all that money, it is common for non-management to be making below poverty wages and managers working 70 -90 hours a week.
Fast food places can be fairly cheap if you stick to 'dollar menus'. Most of the cheap specials are not very filling and can leave you hungry unless you get a bit of it, but it is a meal. Some offerings may be bad on your cardiovascular system when eaten regularly, so be mindful. You can get a burger or taco for a dollar or two which is cheaper than picking up all the stuff you would need at a grocery store to make it.
The biggest money maker for fast food is 'upselling' combos. The pitch is to charge a few dollars more for a small bit extra of a side item and drink. Every cashier is drilled to ask before every sale under pain of keeping a job. You do not really get much except for a few extra fries and a bit bigger overpriced drink.
Speaking of drinks... the fountain machine puts out soft drink for pennies, yet you get charged dollars. You can get a much better deal buying your drink from a grocery or convenience store. Some will frown on you bringing in outside drinks, though.
The biggest scam currently going is the fast food places that let you get your own drink and free refills. If you ask for a cup of water, you can generally just go get soft drink instead and rarely be harassed if common sense is used. With the possible exception of the manager, who usually has to work equipment as well, most employees really do not care or are too busy.
When you talk of sit down restaurants, you are talking of basically renting a seat unmolested by claims of loitering for a period of time usually for the duration of your meal. Some of these "rents" are fairly inexpensive while the upper middle and upper class 4 star places in good locations with name brand chefs and multiple waiters to suffer over your every swallow can run 60 USD a seat or much more...
Regardless, the staff at restaurants can sometimes be a source of free food. But, only if you do not piss them off and they are allowed to slide by greedy management. Like any culture, the service industry has a set of unspoken rules that can put you on 'good terms'. The life of waitstaff, especially, is feast or famine. On busy nights, they are easily the highest paid people in the building, but on slow nights they might not even take home enough to cover taxes.
- Service staff hates people that do not tip with a passion. They may not mention this in front of a customer's face for fear of you complaining to their corporate overlord, but it can be guaranteed to be talked about in the kitchen to other waiters. Many states LEGALLY allow servers to make way below the minimum wage. In addition, they may be also responsible for tipping out other staff as well. A few bad tables combined with slow times can mean the server works for nothing.
- When you tip, tip cash. Some restaurants hold credit card tips until the server's payday which can be up to two weeks or longer to make sure Uncle Sam gets his (and they do not have to pay compensation if the server does not report enough tips). Your server will appreciate this. Greedier places even deduct a fee from the tip to cover use of the credit card machine.
- Do not be a piece of shit! This includes ordering staff around, snapping fingers at them, causing scenes, never being satisfied, etc. It is bad enough to be a wage slave. While some trust fund babies may get an ego out of this, being cool can attract much more than being a jerk.
- Do not 'run' the waitstaff. Serving tables is A LOT of running back and forth from the kitchen and the assigned group of tables. During 'rush' times, this can be stressful and requires good memory and juggling many steps mentally at the same time. Be sure to tell them everything you need at one time and not 50 trips for small things. This really pisses them off.
- If you have a small child, control your child or tip extra. French fries spread under the table mixed with crayons and spills all over the table is a lot of work. Many waiters make their money by turning over the tables frequently. A massive clean up may make that table not settable for a long time.
- Do the little things. Offer to box your own to-go plates if the place allows it. Stack the plates. If you eat like a pig, do not leave big messes.
- Do not come in right when they are about to close. The staff wants to get the hell out of there. It messes up closing duties and can delay getting off up to hours. Grease, sweat, managers, and dealing with people makes some want to erase their CorpGov abuse with an activity of choice as soon as possible. Late night bars after weekend tips and kitchen paydays are popular places they go. In large towns and tourist areas, there are even service industry bars that sometimes give discounts to them.
- If they are not being slammed, chat with your wait-person. Sincere small talk and maybe a short travel story (remember Security Culture) can make you appear human other than an endless conveyor belt of customers. If they think of you as a friend (and not simply another tip), they might want to draw you back for more tales of the road.
- Asking outright for freebies is generally an alienating move until you have built a rapport.
- ALWAYS make sure to tip as extravagantly as possible ANY favors to let the staff know that you are sharing what wealth you do have.
- In our sexist society, you will find that a woman has a better chance to get free stuff with a male waiter, especially with a slightly cute, shy approach, while still letting him know you are running tight and relying on his compassion. Males usually also have more success with males if they can become interesting and respected; a male appealing to another male's compassion is more likely to elicit a reaction of disgust than sympathy.
Folks have suggested that posing as a charity and getting the restaurant to 'donate' food is a possible major food scores for the more charismatic. However, most of the time, managers are not going to do this because of food poisoning lawsuits. A few go as far as not even letting their own staff, but some will let staff. Better to ask a friend who works in one. However, we have known of some folks who claimed they had a bunch of dogs or pigs to feed and wanted the food for slop get this to work in rural areas. Of course, these folks looked the part of some guy in a trailer with dogs or on a small farm.
Being liked by the staff sometimes has perks. You may find that your coffee is left off the bill. You could be given a free buffet. Even another customer's unwanted entree may find its way to your table. Once you've cultivated a relationship with a restaurant, you might even be able to bargain leftovers if you hang around at closing time. People can be surprisingly compassionate and empathetic if they identify with you.
Warning: If the server handles money, restaurants make the server responsible for PAYING YOUR BILL if you walk out! Leaving a tip does not help much. It is nice to stick it to the man, just make sure it is the man you are actually hurting!
Sit-down restaurant food is one of the few products where it is acceptable in society to consume the product and pay later. The walkout takes advantage of this. Walking out works really well with a partner. (a male-and-female duo works best for this kind of scam, but if you are two of the same gender, it might work to your advantage to pretend that you are siblings). As long as you appear clean and are dressed appropriately for the place, you should be fine. You may want to avoid the place for several months or years afterward, though.
To walk out, just watch the server and bus person for when he or she goes to the kitchen then nonchalantly disappear. Going for a smoke outside or the restroom is an acceptable excuse if questioned. Then leave promptly. If this is a place where they have a cashier or host at the front, watch for when they are busy, then walk briskly out the door and bolt! If escaping in a car, please be mindful of any chasing staff viewing the plates of your car. Once you are off the property, you are home free.
A good related trick to the walk-out, is the walk-in. This will work in most buffets, as you pay for a tray and not a plate. The trick works best if you are with a group of people or if you say you are meeting up with someone if asked. Simply walk past the register, maybe go into the bathroom if you see that the cashier saw you, wait a few minutes, and grab a plate. Many places give cups up front where you have to pay. But, to avoid attention, bring your own. Just be smart with it. While you have an unlimited source of food in front of you, you might as well stock up with plastic bags or something of that nature. Again, be smart, this trick is a lot better if you have access to refrigeration. If you need a paper cup, go to another restaurant, and say you just want a few cups for a 2-liter bottle of soda in your car. Get creative, the cup trick works well at smaller places, and doesn't work well at fast food places, foreign restaurants are perfect.
Don't dine and ditch unless you have no other choice! Leaving without paying your tab/ bill is a form of shoplifting and can get you hauled in. Only attempt this ruse out of town, because a waiter might remember "those bastards that ran off without paying."
My Food is not Cooked Right!
Most restaurants will refund your money if you complain about the food or have it sent back the kitchen. Your server may get annoyed, but all restaurant managers are allowed to give 'comps' to displeased customers.
This one is simple. Order something and say it's overcooked or undercooked. Naturally, do not eat more than a bite or two or some places will refuse to play along. However, if you complain convincing enough it should be possible to get another dish for free. Sometimes you can even get a full 3 courses gratis if one of them isn't done right! If you claim your 'dining experience' was ruined by your companions having to wait while your were still eating or their food held under a heat lamp while they were fixing your order, the better.
This one is remarkably easy to pull off and has a very high rate of success. There's no need for an elaborate setup, and it's perfectly legal, too. You can also call the corporate office with a complaint and sometimes get a comp even if the manager did not give it away.
Glass in the food, bug in the food, etc. is only urban legend. In the extremely rare case of this, you are pretty much expected to walk out if this is the case and never come back. If there is even the slightest suspicion by the manager you placed this in the food and walked out, you can be hauled off. Lawsuits are rare because more evidence is needed besides a wrapped food or plate. You would need an actual doctor bill.
Use some charm and make friends at the pizza shop. Most places we have set down we find a pizza shop and we get free food and drinks and an air conditioned place to hang out during the day several times a week. For some reason the strip mall, no tips expected, lunch rush, single slice to go type pizza shop with one post high school employee on duty is just perfect for this hack once the lunch rush is over and they are bored during the 3-5pm lull. Fast food and other restaurants with better peak time management and inventory control give you little chance to talk to the staff and convert them to a free handout. Baristas at non chain places and sandwich and sub places during slow hours are also good targets but often there is not the filling food at a coffee shop like the pizza shop has.
After a few paying visits where you keep them company, leave a buck or two tip or share a cigarette. Once you establish a rapport ask for a free slice or two from the stuff that has sat for a while in the single slice case. Be cynical, you are hungry and broke, remember that you are there for food not to convert the unwashed masses so don't attack his political positions to harshly but play up his labor rights. If there is no tip jar complain how terrible that is and make one out of a cup and post-it for them. Once that door is open use it again, but don't attack the stale stuff every day at first and watch how they react when you do, some people get weirded out by the mooch so avoid that guy when they work. Even if you get toppings just ask to pay for the plain pizza. In the places where this mooching the stale stuff has worked several times we offer to let the employee smoke or stay seated and you will make yourself up a slice that you then pay for to get them comfortable with you in the kitchen. Wait until a day when there is no stale pizza say you forgot your wallet and ask permission to slap together a small pizza. Once you have permission to walk back there the first time to make free food just keep it up sometimes paying sometimes not, although only if there are no stale slices to mooch. This is all about pushing the comfort zone slowly.
Always clear and wipe your table and others nearby especially when he is busy so the person on duty feels like he owes you something. Our experience is that you should do everything except touch the register, when you do your own pizza or drink. Always show them that you are leaving the cash behind the counter near the register when you do pay, they are responsible for the total at the end of the day and if you ever touch or hang out near the register they will always blame you if they ever end up short and you will ruin the scam. Lastly once we know the employee is 'cool' a joint or two for after they get off work will probably lock up your free pizza scam for good.
Folks with a phone number, an address, and no food in the house can call some restaurants to take food to them. Most delivery places specialize in pizza or Chinese food because of good hold times on that food. However, bigger and more upscale areas may have more choices while someone out in rural areas may have none.
Delivery is not cheap. Most of the time, there are minimums to the dollar amount of the order and the prices can be inflated without deals. You are also expected to tip the delivery person.
Delivery can refuse to go to an area for many reasons. Sometimes hotels make deals prohibiting guests from purchasing any food in the hotel except theirs. Additionally, the management can refuse to go to certain areas for it merely being populated by certain ethnic groups, real or imagined high crime, or history of high complaints/no tips from drivers.
It Has Been a Long Time and My Food Is Not Here!
"30 Minutes or Free" type of deals fell out of favor in the 1990s due to concerns about speeding tickets and bad press. Instead, most businesses have a practice of adjusting the estimated time based on volume and weather. If the food takes longer, they usually have a policy based on how late it is as to how much money to take off. If your food really is late, use this to save cash.
Discounts can be given sometimes even if the customer is in the wrong. It is possible to give a bad address with a new phone number to get free cold food. Modernized delivery places keep a computerized database of phone numbers associated with first name, address, and what you order. If the first address given is wrong, the delivery driver will try to call you. If you cannot be reached, the driver will take it back to the store. Calling again after this can get it for free or at least a major discount for a future order from that phone and address. Do not do this too much as the manager can rightfully refuse to deliver to you as a bad customer.
Be sure to tip the delivery driver if you try to pull this. Having to redeliver cuts the amount of runs they do and total tips. Bad runs screw them out of the meager compensation for gas,vehicle wear, and cell phone minutes by the greedy corporate office.
Much usable food is thrown away. Usually any food the staff does not claim gets mixed in with used plastic straws, dish room chemicals, and half eaten food. Any used grease gets recycled. The middle class calls thrown away food 'food cost' or 'wastage' and sets up rules to reduce this so the owners and stock holders can make as much money as possible. Sources of 'food cost' come from these sources:
- Pre-prepared food past hold time is the majority of edible food waste. Some food takes much more time to prepare than a customer can wait. Typically, this food is kept in some kind of hot box or steam line with a date label. Using data from food researchers on the spread of bacteria, there are industry wide temperatures maximum length of time these must be stored. Good restaurant managers keep logs of how much food was used in the past on different days to try to keep from over anticipating sales and cooking too much food. Usually, only the manager on duty, cook, or dishwasher has access. Strict control over to-go containers and outside containers (supply cost) are designed to keep cooks from intentionally cooking too much to be able to take home or give away food. If you can get the food that is fixing to be thrown away off a steamline or hot box, you are in for a good meal.
- Bad orders can be a major source of food cost if the place deals with finicky customers or staff mistakes. Most restaurant managers watch this, too. Industry accepted procedure is to immediately remove the dish that is being complained about from customer view. It gets handed to the manager on duty or the cook to decide the plate's fate. If it is something that can be fixed by being under cooked, it is recooked and put on a fresh plate or re-wrapped. If it has any bites out of it, most staff immediately throws this into an 50 gallon trash can. Anything without bites taken out of it can be offered to staff or done with what the manager pleases. If you are in good with the staff, sometimes you can get these bad orders if the staff has not dug in already.
- Dishroom waste is inedible and is laden with chemicals. Half eaten food is combined with lemon rinds, bones, plastic straws and cups, broken glass, and mostly eaten food. Mostly eaten food is always removed from customer view as quickly as possible. The food from the plates is removed and thrown into garbage. Only front staff and the dishwasher has access to eaten food before it hits the garbage. Managers avoid this stuff. The workers usually have access, but meal plans and the stigma of appearing 'nasty' to the supervisor by eating this is a real concern. The only useful portion of this is limited to desperate staff in places without meal plans. Who wants something that has been slobbered on and may make someone sick? Many sit down food dumpsters have little edible food because it is mixed with this dishroom waste.
- Used grease from fryers is inedible and is dangerously, permanently scarring hot when first taken out. Used grease is always poured into a large special dumpster to be collected and reprocessed to eventually be made into lady's cosmetics. No matter how desperate, NEVER try to dip into the grease container out back.