• iStock

  • iStock

  • iStock

  • iStock

  • iStock

We all have an image in our minds of how a perfect date-night restaurant meal is supposed to go: the smiling hostess guiding you to a perfect table, a flawlessly executed meal enjoyed uninterrupted, and all that. But a great restaurant meal has so many moving parts, so many things that can go wrong at any time, so many potential disasters lurking around every corner, that it’s rare that we enjoy a meal that goes 100 percent to plan. But have no fear: We’ve rounded up 10 potential restaurant disasters and explain how to deal with them like a pro.

While we sit in a peaceful dining room, what's going on behind the scenes is usually anything but. Even in the world’s most upscale kitchens there’s a whirlwind of activity, with whole teams of people working in unison to make sure that every dish that leaves the kitchen comes out perfect. But one false move and a whole meal can be blown: meat can be improperly cooked, for example, or an allergy request can be forgotten about.

These can be fairly easily remedied (providing your throat doesn’t start closing up), but the disasters that diners inflict upon themselves are the ones that can really send a meal downhill. From a glass of wine spilled on a dress to the worst restaurant sin of all — not being able to pay for your meal — there’s always the possibility of mishaps and disasters lurking around every corner. That’s why it’s good to learn how to survive them before they occur.

In our lifetime, the vast majority of meals we eat at restaurants will go just fine. On occasion, we might need to send a dish back or request a different table, but the odds of, say, the entire dining room flooding are slim to none. But it’s always good to be on your guard, and know how to deal with tricky situations when they arise (especially if you’re on a date). So read on to learn about restaurant disasters, and what to do to come out on the other side none the worse for wear.

  • 1. Red Wine Stain

    iStock

    It can happen in the blink of an eye: you go to reach for your water glass, and before you know it your elbow bumps a full glass of wine and it spills all over your date’s lap. All is not lost! There are actually a host of ways to remove red wine from fabric, but you’ve got to act fast: According to WikiHow, you can pour club soda on it, cover the stain with salt and let it dry, cover it with club soda and salt, or ask for milk and let that soak into it. If the stain dries, you can rub some shaving cream or vodka into it before putting it in the wash; white wine with a paste of baking soda will get the stain out as well.

  • 2. Bad Breath

    iStock

    Try as we might, it’s going to be difficult to detect when a stray sliver of garlic is lurking in our pasta dish. But there are actually several items that every restaurant has on hand that can help neutralize the odor of garlic: parsley, mint, cardamom, cloves, aniseed, fennel, lemon, milk, and tea, according to BreathMD.com.

  • 3. You’re Running Late

    iStock

    If you’re going to be more than five minutes late for a reservation, it’s smart to call the restaurant and let them know. They’ll most likely be able to hold your table for you until you arrive, and it will stop them from thinking that you’re ditching out on your reservation. If you’re going to be super-late, they might be able to switch your reservation for a later time that evening, closer to when you’ll actually be arriving. But you should always let them know!

  • 4. Service Is Terrible

    iStock

    If you’re seated at a table and promptly ignored for more than 10 minutes, it’s completely within your rights to get up and leave. If your server treats you poorly, is surly, inattentive, slow, and overall affects your experience negatively, it’s within your rights to leave a small tip. But in both of these cases there’s one thing you should always do before leaving: speak to a manager about it. If you go home and write about your experience on Yelp, it might make you feel a little better, but that won’t resolve the issue. Calmly tell the manager what happened and ask them to help rectify the situation. The server will hear about it, and apologies will be in order.

  • 5. Screaming Children

    iStock

    This is a touchy subject. If you complain to the staff, most servers will tell you that there’s nothing they can do about it, and even if they were to tell the parents to quiet the children down, they won’t stay quiet for long. You can request to be moved to a table farther from the madness (it’s best to do this before you sit, if you think there are too many kids nearby), and if all else fails, you’ll know for the future that the restaurant is a romper room.

    See more restaurant disasters at The Daily Meal

    More from The Daily Meal

    9 Foods You Should Never Eat Raw

    101 Best Restaurants in America

    The Ultimate Boxed Macaroni and Cheese Taste Test

    10 New Year’s Detox Destinations