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Portion size in a restaurant...do you ask??

Is this a rude question towards your server? And what entirely is it supposed to mean?

Automatic response is to think that a customer considers the restaurant serves small portions and have gone in with that assumption.

I would think that if you even have a question (but not to ask-just assume that portions are smaller and an added course may be in order) to the order courses to what you would think will fill you up-may it be a salad or app order.

Why ask? To me it just seems rude, and a complete insult to the restaurant. How is a server supposed to answer that type of question?

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  1. I don't think it's rude to ask for information - I have ordered a "cup" of soup that turns out to be a good-sized bowl which throws off my calculations of what else I ordered and am able to eat. And orders of something like bruschetta could mean a nice little nibble or a huge mound of food - I have never had servers seem insulted by a factual inquiry. It's obvious, I think, that I'm trying to decide how an item fits into a reasonable meal and it's perfectly appropriate to ask. And at lunch I like to order serveral appetizers instead of an entree so it's even more important.

    5 Replies
    1. re: sheiladeedee

      Okay, I realize that I wasn't too specific in my explanation. I am not insulted as a server to be asked this, just slightly mystified in why this information is needed. If a patron is that worried in the portions, why bother dining out? Small or large, the patron can order more or take home the remaining leftovers. Information about the menu is a must. But instead of questioning towards "portions" why not ask how many individual bruschettas are served, or how it is served? Reason behind this question is that I was a part of a party where two patrons wanted to split a salad and a pasta and grilled the waitress on the portions of many menu items. It seemed very rude and cheap. How can one respond ("Ma'am, our portions are small and only enough to accompany one person." this could be true, but would anyone want to say this or hear it?!!?).

      1. re: cocktailqueen77

        OK, here's an example. What's a cup, and what's a bowl, when it comes to soup? I love lobster bisque. If I order a cup to start my meal, I'll plan the rest of what I order - salad, dessert, big or little entree - assuming I'll get a 6-8 oz serving. If it comes in a 24-oz cup, the calculation for the rest of my meal will be thrown off. If I'm feeling like all I want is a bowl of chowder and a salad for lunch, expecting a 12-16oz serving, when I get a very small bowl, I will leave feeling unsatisfied. So, especially if the restaurant doesn't specify cup or bowl when discussing soup, I think it's reasonable to ask the server approximately how big the serving might be. I don't want to grill the server, I just want to get a sense of how much food to order. I wouldn't do this at a high end prixe fixe place, but it seems entirely reasonable at a place where you order all these components separately.

        1. re: cocktailqueen77

          while many patrons can certainly take home leftovers, it's not always a viable option. i.e. vacationers who have nowhere to store or reheat them [i recently faced that conundrum with leftovers from a very expensive steakhouse dinner], or people who aren't going directly home after the meal and can't leave the food sitting in the car for hours. plus, some foods just don't travel or reheat well.

          i also agree with the post below regarding the issue of planning your intake based on your level of hunger. knowing the size of menu items helps determine the number of elements to include in the meal...will the entree suffice? am i hungry enough to want a salad or side dish too? is the salad or appetizer so big that i'd be satisfied just eating that and don't really need an entree as well?

          don't worry about offending a patron with your response. if someone asks, they should be prepared for whatever you might tell them...assuming it's polite/in good tste, of course ;)

          1. re: cocktailqueen77

            I personally don't like taking home food and reheating it. Also at home I very seldom reheat food. I prefer to cook (or eat out) daily because I think most dishes (there are of course a few exceptions) don't taste very good when reheated.

            1. re: cocktailqueen77

              do you take home leftover seafood?

              or soup?

              or fried stuff?

              I often ask about portions, especially apps, as I don't want to waste food. It has nothing to do with cheapness, I just don't like to waste good food, and I don't like to overeat. It makes me uncomfortable both ways.

          2. You are totally entitled to ask! It's your stomach and your money -- of course, as with everything in life, asking respectfully, courteously and quietly is always appropriate.

            1. I often ask, especially when considering steaks, as I seldom want 14 ounces of steak.

              1. I often ask questions about portion size and whether I got the right number of dishes for myself or for a group. Unless I'm going someplace where I order a prix fixe, I think that's perfectly reasonable. I'd rather get the right amount of food for myself than worry about offending a server who would more likely than not understand.

                Why tiptoe around the issue and ask about the number of items or the preparation when they'd ultimately want to know about the portion size? Ultimately, asking about the number of bruschetta or the presentation won't tell you definitively about portion size. Maybe they're small bruschetta or maybe the chef's "bruschetta" is some deconstructed rendition, the description of which wouldn't tell someone unfamiliar with it about portion size.

                I completely understand how mortified you must have been to have eaten with those who feel the need to badger a server. I do believe there is a pleasant middle ground, however, that allows you to remain polite and direct. I appreciate when a server can help me choose at an Indian restaurant, for example, how many curries, grilled items, and side dishes to order.

                I don't think ordering out necessitates that you always throw caution in the wind. Sometimes, you do want to stay close to some budget or even some diet. I know I tend to continue eating food when it's on the table whether I'm really wanting it or not. Maybe someone is going someplace afterwards and can't take leftovers. Maybe they're ordering items that don't keep well or reheat well or they just won't feel like eating the next day. And ordering too little can lead to pauses while you wait to speak with a server and then wait for your food to arrive.

                If they ask about portion size, I don't think it'd impolite for you to ask how hungry they are. Of course you can't know for sure, but they're asking you for an opinion and trusting that you, as a server, are familiar with a restaurant and how an average person might experience it. I would wager that you handle these questions quite well. I also believe it's quite fair for you to say that the salad would probably be more suited for one person. Most dishes aren't, and shouldn't be, created for two people. I would find it odd if someone was offended when told that.

                1. it's not rude.

                  just keep it general- "is this appetizer big enough for two to share", "i'm really hungry, is this meal a large portion?" etc.

                  be careful though about demanding too specific information- if you put the server on the spot and he/she doesn't know every little answer you might make him feel stupid. that's what builds resentment. i worked in a steakhouse and i knew all the sizes of steaks- in ounces. every so often i'd get some pompus brit asking "well, what's that in GRAMS???"

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: excuse me miss

                    Agreed. But on the flip side, don't ask the very vague "is it big"? The server's not sure what is or isn't big to you, and in relation to what. Asking if it's big enough to share, or "I'm not super hungry, is this a really large portion?" is the way to go.