Servers Reveal the Worst Things You Can Do While Dining Out
Going out to eat is supposed to be a pleasant, uneventful experience. If all goes smoothly, you order, eat, and leave without any major disasters — and the wait staff is working hard to keep things that way. But while they’re doing everything they can to make your mealtime a breeze, there may be things you’re doing, even without knowing, that make the process much more difficult for your server and for your fellow customers.
If you’ve spent any time waiting tables, then you probably know that while some customers are absolute joys, others can turn your shift into a waking nightmare without even realizing it, in a wide variety of ways. Servers aren’t servants, and they’re under a lot of stress to make sure that each of their tables’ meals is running smoothly. Anything that slows them down, adds an unnecessary (or gross) burden to their day, or interferes with their rhythm can be a major annoyance.
Thanks to Reddit and conversations with servers, we’ve tracked down 30 things you might be doing at restaurants that servers really wish you wouldn’t. You might think you’re being helpful or friendly, but in reality you’re just making your server’s job more difficult.
The below quotes have been lightly edited for grammar and punctuation.
Don’t touch the tray
"The only thing that bothers me is when people take things off or load up my tray while I'm carrying it. Just don't touch it! It isn't always easy to balance a heavy tray of drinks and you will throw off my balance." — whalemgt
Don’t sit at un-bussed tables
"Please don't sit down on a dirty table. The other customers may have just left and / or I've been too busy to turn it around properly. Please be patient." — Misty_Chaos
Tip with money!
"A bible verse is not a tip." — donutsfornicki
Don’t stack your glasses
"When you stacked glasses at one of the places I used to work at, they'd get stuck together, and we had to break the outer glass to salvage the inner glass." — PM_ME_WUTEVER
"When I ask if the food is OK and everyone just stares at me silently because they don't have any complaints and are waiting for someone else in the group to speak. If it's good, everyone say it's good. I don't mind if you all speak at once. I can't walk away without someone answering the question." — radialomens
Don’t stack the plates
"Unless you stack plates right, it's super annoying. Like not cleaning them off completely, not stacking biggest to smallest, not putting cutlery on top, etc." — ChunksOWisdom
"It is way better to have your card ready and give it to us when dropping off the check than to let the check sit on the table for 20 minutes." — GetPunched
Don’t hand them dirty dishes
"There's usually a method to clearing the table of dishes, and if I'm handed a plate when I'm not prepared for it, it throws off my rhythm and I won't be able to achieve maximum dirty dish carrying efficiency, and I might even end up dropping something. If you actually want to help with the clearing, make everything easy for me to grab on my own — by placing it on the end of the table, for example.
(Unless you're at a fancy restaurant, then don't move anything.)" — autopsycho
Know how to get their attention
Don’t be a Chatty Cathy
"Chatting too much when I'm obviously busy. I like chatting, and I'm here to make sure you enjoy your experience so even if I would like to do something else I'll listen. But if you had a huge wait because we are so busy, or if you see I am working the completely full section myself, try to limit it." — setrling
Don’t ask if a menu item is good
"Asking us if something is good. We're gonna say everything is good. We have to. Instead, ask us what our favorite thing on the menu is. That's a much safer bet for a quality dish." — 37the37th
Don’t share your buffet plate
"One of the most inappropriate things that diners did at my restaurant, which offered a daily buffet, was to share their buffet with their guests at that the table who did not order a buffet. Even though there was clear signage communicating that this shouldn't take place, there were some diners who did this. And what made matters worse was that at the end of their buffet dining experience, some diners actually asked for to-go boxes for their uneaten food — clearly a faux pas when dining at a buffet restaurant." — Nick H. Kamboj
If you’re a group, make a reservation
"If you have a party over six you should make a reservation or at least call beforehand so we can prepare a table and server for you." — Del_Felesif
Don’t make the server stand and wait for you to order
"When you say you're ready to order, you better be ready." — abagofchips2791
Sit where you’re told to
"Do not seat yourself, switch tables or move tables around please. It can be very, very problematic." — Budakang
Don’t tell them your life story
"Don't try to drum up a long conversation. We are just too busy most of the time." — Budakang
Don’t be on your phone
"Put your phone away while the server is at the table. It's very rude when we are trying to serve you." — Budakang
Don’t let your kids make a mess
"If you have children, please pay attention to the undoubtedly colossal mess they are making. Mitigate it as best as you can. I mean crumbs on the seats and floor and stuff is fine. We expect that. But there is a certain point that it just becomes irresponsible on the parents' part. I have toddlers. I know what it's like. But I have seen some inexcusable disasters. If you leave a mess like this, the tip had better make up for it." — Budakang
"If we're on a wait list, pointing out tables that are open isn't helping me at all. I know there are two tables open over there, but I'm trying to save those plus two more for a massive party. You're right, there are plenty of seats open on the patio, but I just sat 30 people in five minutes and my manager didn't want me to overload severs/the kitchen, so you'll have to wait. Please just be patient and let me do my job." — nuclearkumquat007
"Me as a server: How are you today? Customer: Diet Coke.
You just sound rude." — Llamasaurusrex4
Only say you’re allergic to something when you really are
"I have had diners make this request: 'I am allergic to any dairy products and I am a strict vegan.' Hence, listening to this request, I do whatever I can and work with the chefs to ensure that no dairy products are in the prepared food. The entire team works diligently per the diner requests to serve them the food to their strict dietary needs, only for me to find that the same diner requests butter for her bread 10 minutes later." — Nick H. Kamboj
Tip on the full amount of the bill
"If you get a discount on a check (Groupon, coupon, gift card, friends and family, etc...) tip on the original amount, not the discounted amount. We did the work for you whether you paid $30 or $15, so you get to save some money — but tips are how we pay rent, and our landlords don't take coupons." — Spaceghostster
"Use your manners. I am getting paid $2.13/hr and am already shamed enough. Please don't speak to me like I am your hired slave. Be polite." — PrettyInInk13
Don’t show up right before closing time
"Please people, check the times of a restaurant and know that if they close at say 9:00, then 8:50 is not a good time for dinner, especially when there are probably other restaurants open in the area. People will force a smile and tell you they'll seat you and it's no problem because they have to, but know that 90 percent of them are cursing you in the back. Everyone hates this… back of house included." — Lipshitz2
Know before you call
"If you're calling in a to-go order, please know exactly what you're getting. If I ask you if you want a side of rice and beans, don't tell me to hold on and scream at the person you're ordering for across the house if they want a side. Chances are, we are busy." — Jchka3
Wait until they’re empty-handed
"The one that killed me when I was a server (who bussed my own tables), was when customers would either wave me over or catch my eye when I was carrying a giant, heavy load of dishes back to the kitchen, and they would ask me to tell them about the desserts, or want me to take the entire table's dessert order at that exact time. If they had said 'We'd like to see a dessert menu' or 'We'd like to order dessert,' it leaves me open to say 'I'll be right back with those' or 'I'll be right back to take your order.'" — TheMissP
Don’t make them make extra trips
"If you need something, please realize all the things you need in one go. I can't tell you how many times I have to visit one table within 5-10 minutes because they ask for something new each time — spoon, fork, his refill, her refill, lemons, oh and the pepper too. I have other tables to attend to under a certain time… I really don't mind getting you extras, just talk to your dinner guest(s) and figure out what you need." — macch
Don’t camp out after you’ve paid the bill
"Campers... After I run your card and cash you out, sign your checks and get out of my section. The longer you sit there talking and messing around, you are taking money out of my pocket because I have one less table in my section getting flipped." — saucystassi
They say that once you’ve been a server, you’ll never look at your waiter or waitress the same way again. Hopefully you’ll keep those sage words in mind the next time you dine out, and remember: Always leave a decent tip!
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