Going out to eat is supposed to be a pleasant experience, especially if you’re dining at one of the best restaurants in America. If all goes smoothly, you order, eat and leave without any major disasters — and the restaurant’s staff is working hard to keep things that way. But while they’re doing everything they can to ensure your mealtime is a breeze, there may be some etiquette mistakes you’re making that impede the process. We talked to a handful of servers about the worst things you can do while dining out, and these were the most popular responses.
Another way to eat away at a server's time is by not consolidating your requests. When your steak hits the table and you realize you don’t have steak sauce, salt or pepper, be sure to ask your server for these items all at once, rather than making them go back and forth to get you everything you need.
Shaking an empty glass to request a refill isn’t even acceptable when you’re dining at one of the most expensive restaurants in America. No matter how fancy or pricey the establishment is, it’s rude. Your server knows what to keep an eye on, and how full your martini glass is certainly tops their list.
The first rule when walking into a restaurant is you should wait to be seated. And especially be sure that the table you sit at isn’t already dirty. It takes time for a server to properly clean their table, and it’s an uncomfortable situation for everyone when you’re watching them do so. If you need to wait for the host to seat you, head to the bar to get your happy hour on instead of simply seating yourself.
Would you leave your accountant or your real estate broker your phone number? Not likely. So it’s probably a good call to show the same consideration for your server. Failing to respect people’s boundaries is never good practice; in fact, it’s one of the habits of truly toxic people.
You would never forget to clean your own dinner table, and the same rules apply while dining out. Servers are there to make sure your meal goes smoothly, but they shouldn’t be responsible for cleaning up the chicken nugget you dropped on the ground or picking up every tiny piece of that straw wrapper you ripped up.
Not knowing how to greet someone is an etiquette mistake you should stop making before you turn 30, and the best time to practice is during dinner. When your server comes over to introduce themselves and take down a drink order, pause your side conversation and say a proper hello. It’s a simple way to show that their service is appreciated.
We understand that the vibe at your favorite Mexican restaurant is unmatched, and it’s easy to want to stay there forever. But your server has a limited number of tables they serve an hour, and if you’re hanging around with a check that has two happy hour margaritas on it, your server is losing money. Once you finish your meal and pay, it’s time to leave.
Yes, your server is there to make sure your needs are met, but it can feel demeaning if you snap or fervently clap at them to get their attention. For some people, working in the food industry is a great way to earn extra cash, but for many, it’s their main hustle, so treat them with respect. Try making eye contact with your server when you need something rather than snapping at them.
We get it, you’re at a restaurant you’ve never been to before and you want to know if they make their chicken wings just the way you like them. But try not to ask your server “what’s good?” on the five-page menu. It’s easier to be more specific and ask if they recommend the chicken pot pie or the pasta with red sauce.
Has your food ever arrived to your table and the person delivering it knew exactly who to give it to? That’s because many restaurants have a numbering system for seats at a table. And while it’s tempting to get up and chat with friends you haven’t seen in a while, it’s hard for your server to keep track of what you ordered and which check is yours if you’re constantly changing seats.
We understand that some dining experiences are particularly exciting, like eating at one of the oldest restaurants in America. But avoid rattling off your order while the rest of your group is still chattering away. It’s confusing and hard for your server to hear when everyone is talking over each other. Wait until the distractions have stopped, then order.
It’s important to remember that your server is busy. Saying you’re ready to order when you’re still unsure can be a time-suck, even if your intentions are good. Next time, just ask for five more minutes and let your server use that time to complete another task. Or better yet, try heading to a place where you don’t have to decide, like an all-you-can-eat buffet.
For the most part, servers are more than happy to accommodate an unhappy guest, especially if you’re dining at one of the best special occasion restaurants. But if you wait until the very end of your meal to complain, it’s hard to remedy the situation. Pro tip: If you don’t like your food, just be honest. Don’t stomach down your entire burger and then let your server know it was undercooked.
Every kid probably remembers what it was like going out to dinner with your parents and their friends. At the end of the night, there was always a fumble for who would snag the check first. While knowing how to deal with the bill is an etiquette question you may have, don’t hold out a collection of credit cards and make your server awkwardly decide whose to take.
It takes a long time to shut down a restaurant. And when you come in 10 minutes before it’s time to lock the doors, the closing process becomes null and void. Next time, instead of holding up an entire kitchen staff, head somewhere that stays open later, like your favorite dive bar.
In the same vein, when you stay at a restaurant past closing time, the manager, bartender and server all have to wait for you to finish your meal before they get to go home. Next time head to your favorite fast food joint and order a burger instead.
When you hit the town for a romantic Friday night dinner, it’s important to remember that it’s one of the busiest nights of the week for the restaurant’s wait staff. If you see a server talking to guests at another table, be patient — they’ll take your order and get you a drink refill as soon as they have a free moment.
There are plenty of affordable date night ideas that don’t involve going out to eat. If you’re trying to keep costs down by splitting the check, be sure to ask your server to do so at the beginning of your meal rather than at the end. It can be confusing to figure out which person ordered what, and it takes time to split up a check after the fact.
Sure, it’s fun when you walk into your go-to cocktail bar and your favorite bartender is working. But if you have a server, ordering drinks through the bar is a no-no. Servers make more money in tips if their check average is higher, and if you order a $14 drink from the bar, you’re taking money away from your server.
The mother of all dining rules: tip. For most servers, their livelihood depends on getting tipped at least 15% to 20% of the bill. After spending hours on their feet to make sure the needs of every guest are met, it can be discouraging for a server to see a big fat $0 on the tip line. But we understand that tipping standards for different professions can be confusing, so here’s a complete guide on how to tip servers, delivery drivers and more.
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