100 Things Restaurant Patrons Should Never Do

crowded restaurant

Warning: things are about to get a little snarky.

Back in October, Bruce Buschel wrote a piece for the New York Times blog, “100 Things Restaurant Staffers Should Never Do.”  Buschel explained this list to be a part of the training manual he would use for an upcoming fine dining seafood restaurant of his, a literal lists of 100 “Don’ts.”

This idea of training through a series of do nots instead of through illustrations of what should be done irks me in and of itself, especially as a restaurant manager.  I have to admit that I do agree with some of his points, but I found the article to be, well, essentially hating on his staff (what a way to build up morale, Buschel!), without having allowed them a chance to prove that they more than likely already knew a lot of these rules– and that they didn’t need to be subjected to a patronizing list. (I printed the list and brought it up to my restaurant to see the reactions — there was a lot of eye rolling and “duh” being thrown around.)

More than anything, this list started to get me fired up, not about things servers should/should never do, but the serious disrespectful faults that I come across with restaurant patrons every day (in every restaurant I’ve ever worked in).  I like to think that some people are just ignorant when it comes to proper restaurant etiquette, but I know that some are just, well, assholes.

I don’t have 100 things quite yet, but this list is a definite work in progress, as new disrespectful acts are constantly witnessed. So in that same do-not vein, here is part one.

100 Things Restaurant Patrons Should Never Do

1. Snapping, waving, flailing your arms wildly is really not necessary.  You look like a fool, and you’re only distracting (and annoying) your server while he or she attends to another table.

2. Do not ignore your server.  When he or she approaches with a smile and a greeting, do not stare at your menu, all the while never looking up, and say “Yeah, I’ll have the salmon.”

3. Do not expect your server to be an octopus, or the god Shiva.  Three plates are generally the maximum that a server will carry at a time, and when you’re a table of five and three plates are brought by your laden-down server, do not go “And where are our meals?!”  It’s called a second trip.

4. Interrupting gets you nowhere.  Saying “excuse me” loudly while your server is attending to the table next to you is rude to the server and the other table, and generally makes you look like an ass.

5. When dining in a small, heavy-volume restaurant (especially one expected to be a quick serve), do not sit 45 minutes after you have finished all food and drinks and have paid the bill.  There is most likely a long wait, and you’re ruining everyone’s day.

6. Do not ignore the host or hostess.  Those people standing at the door and saying hello to you are, in fact, people.  Pretending they don’t exist will only make your wait for a table longer.

7. Along the same lines, do not attempt to do the host or hostess’ job for them.  Creating the flow of a restaurant involves a lot more than just sitting people in empty chairs.  When there are visible empty tables, it’s for a reason– either reservations or a section was triple sat.  Never say, “but there is an empty table right there!” unless you like looks of contempt.


9. I cannot repeat this one enough — Never, ever, EVER touch your server or hostess.  Do you touch your bank teller?  No?  Then why do you think that grabbing your server or host/hostess is acceptable?  It happens constantly and is inexcusable.

10. Do not stop a server/runner/backwaiter while they’re running heavy plates to another table.  Heavy.  Plates.  You and your emergency need for more Splenda in your coffee can wait.

11. Know what you ordered. You’re the one who looks like a moron (and angers the entire staff) when you get your baked pasta with pancetta and cry “But I’m a vegetarian!” making us waste a plate of food and make something else for you.  If you don’t know what something is, ask.  It’s easier.

12. Be on time, and also know that a reservation is exact.  Do not call for a reservation and say “We’ll be there between 7:00 and 7:20 or so.”  No, you’ll be here at 7:00, or your table will be given away by 7:15.

13. “Yeah, I’ll take” or “Gimme/Get me” are not respectful ways to start a sentence. So don’t do it.

14. This almost seems too obvious, but tip your server.  Even if you didn’t like the food, keep in mind that your server only had anything to do with, well, service.  And remember that depending where you are, hourly wages aren’t even enough to pay taxes.  (Here in MA it’s currently $2.63 for servers.)

15. Must you blow your nose on five different tissues and just leave them on your table for your server or backwaiter to pick up?  What is this, TGI Fridays?  Excuse yourself.

16. LISTEN to your server.  When he or she asks if you would like milk, cream or sugar with your coffee, “yes” is not an appropriate answer.

17. This is a tip for non fine dining restaurants, but when your server comes up to the table with three plates on his or her arms, and you have a bread plate and a cup and saucer blocking the entire space in front of you, don’t just sit there.  Move things, at least until one of the server’s hands are free.

18. Asking “What’s good today?” is pretty much the same as asking your server “What’s inedible here?” putting the server between a rock and a hard place.  There is no correct answer to that uncomfortable question — be more specific, asking about particular dishes.

19. This also seems to obvious, but clearly announce any allergies/aversions you may have to your server.  The last thing we want is a lawsuit due to the diner’s negligence (or the server’s, of course).

20. Standing up around your table for 15 minutes at the end of your meal is disrupting to all.  If you all need a long time to put on coats/say goodbye, please move it along to the foyer.

21. Whether you’re in the industry or not, never tell restaurant employees what they should or shouldn’t do – as long as what they’re doing isn’t hurting or violently offending you, you have no say. Just go somewhere else.

22. I know you think you’re being helpful, but please don’t stack plates and silverware “for the server.”  Everyone has different ways that they feel comfortable carrying stacks of plates, and your helpfulness could result in a floor-smashing mess.

23. Don’t name drop — it’s just tacky, and will not change the fact that every table is currently occupied. Especially do not name drop incorrectly — mispronouncing the name of the owner that you “know so well” will only result in your being mocked by the entire staff for the rest of the night. Because you deserve it.

24. It pains me to have to say this, but the “I’m in the industry” line is never amusing nor helpful, nor will it curry favor. You should know better.

25. Tourists, please don’t tip 10% because you know you’ll never be back to this restaurant ever again. I have no words for people like you.

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  • C~ September 4, 2012  

    Why would someone log a complaint about the content or aim of an article and then go on to write a piece doing the exact same thing? That’s rhetorical, you do this because you’re a hypocrite. Don’t stack plates? You presume to tell me when and how much to tip and where and when to stand or whom in the establishment I speak of. I find you annoying personally and the “voice” that comes through in your writing is like nails on a chalk board. Please stick to your menial day job.

  • kjc October 15, 2012  

    Can I add to the list: When your server arrives to greet you, “hello” is an appropriate response…we’ll have plenty of time to address check dividing when you actually order.

    Please ask for a moment rather than trying to order while you’re on the phone.

    Don’t be a ‘spokes-person’ for your entire table…if you want lemon in your OWN water, that’s fine…

    Please frame questions that allow for sincere responses…”what’s good here?” vs “what do you recommend?” Clearly, your server will be uncomfortable telling you that tonight’s special is leftover from sometime last week…ask what he or she likes & you’ll get a more honest reply…and an opportunity to make a personal connection with the serving ‘someone’ who can ensure you have a quality experience.

    Comments like “Wow, you guys are busy tonight.” Really? Thank heavens you were patient enough to wait 45 minutes for a table. I may have never figured out why I was stressed out & sweaty if not for your brilliant observation!

    And PLEASE…speak audibly! The old saying “if you want to get someone’s attention, whisper” does not apply on ‘Band Night.’

  • whit October 15, 2012  

    try being a busboy…way more work (dirty work, at that) and much less appreciation than serving. oh, also not shit for tips considering the amount of effort required. i hold this position and i too, as some people have previously mentioned, enjoy when patrons pre-stack plates. it lets me know that they are definitely finished and are ready for me to remove the plates and it keeps me from having to reach over people and/or ask for people to hand me their dirty plates. most people are competent enough to stack the plates neatly as so they will not tip over when one picks them up.

  • tim December 20, 2012  

    sounded like you are angry with your customers.
    remember who pays your bill

    if you have problems (running into the hundreds) with your patrons, you either needs re-training or you are simply in the wrong trade.

  • krao January 7, 2013  

    I like my meat well done. Why should I not order my food the way I like it just so I can make a waiter’s life a little easier?

  • Rob January 7, 2013  

    I rarely tip because of attitudes like this being rampant in the service industry. I’ve dated several servers and whenever they told me about their day it was always negative about customers. Usually their problem with a customer was insignificant. Yes, I am aware not all servers are like this, but the majority are from my experience. I’m not going to tip someone who is going to talk crap about me when I’m gone or make a post like “100 things restaurant patrons should never do”

  • Patron January 7, 2013  

    In the author’s own words:

    “This idea of training through a series of do nots instead of through illustrations of what should be done irks me in and of itself…”

  • Server January 20, 2013  

    Seriously… you sound like that one server that will complain about everything and then wonder why you get crappy tips. If you can actually sit down and make a list of 100 things your customers shouldnt do, then maybe you should find another job. Were not high and mighty.. were servers, we’re there for the guests. I hate working with servers like you

  • Tawny February 7, 2013  

    Most people below who left negative comments, have you EVER worked in a resturant before? If not, your point of view is irrelevant. I am a pre-medical student working as a waitress to pay for school on my own. I work hard and the amount of crap I hear from negative people is ridiculous. Word of advice leave your shit at the door.

  • michelle April 11, 2013  

    i too am a server and love it. i agree with the article most people think serving is only taking orders and serving food. that is not all we do. we have to have some kind of customer relations, have a good memory, be patient, respectful, fast(except when it comes to cooking the food) remember we just serve the food not cook it so if it is taking too long not our fault!! but i usually offer dessert or let the manager handle it. anyway have trained people who have told me that they never really payed attention to a server until they became one. i love my job and make good money too. the key is (with any job you have) you must love what you do or it will show. most people can tell if a server likes his or her job or it they are just doing it for the money!!

  • meh May 2, 2013  

    Um I’ve been a server for 6 years (that’s not a long time, trust me) and this is the most ridiculous article ever. Very rude tone. Yeah,, I know some guests are a little annoying with the things they do, and you’re not going to like every person you wait on, but get your head out of your ass and take a little pride in your job. Your job is to take care if them. So do it, and shut up. And as for the Australian tourist. Please realize servers in the US make 2-4 dollars am hour. Though minimum wage is 7 something. Severs make less..so 15-20% is the amount to tip if you’re service was . I said good. Not absolutely outstanding. In that case, leave an extra dollar or two more. One extra dollar means a lot more to them than it does to you. This article could suffice with 5 things. Not 100.

  • Kim May 10, 2013  

    I worked for many years as a waitress and honestly, you sound really burned out. Like the way people who did it for too long get – EVERYTHING irritates them. The things you describe are just innocent things people do all the time in restaurants and your job is to be polite, firendly, and get them their splenda, or whatever, so they have a nice dining experience. Your customers aren’t idiots or clods(well, maybe a few) they’re nice people who deserve your respect. And as far as tips go – quit counting! Just average it out per hour at the end of the night and see what you made – that way you don’t spend every night angry at someone for not giving you enough, and taking it out on the next customer, etc.

  • Robbie May 24, 2013  

    I’ve been in food management for around 5 years now, I was even a GM for a year and a half, but I have always wondered, why should tips be in the form of percentage? I think there should be a min and a max EXPECTED, people can always pay more or less. To my main point, I’ve been in service for years, and believe me I work my TAIL OFF, to do my job, and even as a GM with all the hours I worked I was lucky to make $12 an hour, I would say a server should expect 9-10/he on an average basis. So if you serve 5 tables and.hour that’s 2 bucks per table. Is that bad? I’ve just always wondered why tips have to be based on percentage, off if my bill was $100 because you had to bring a bottle of wine, I would never expect $15 for opening a bottle. Give me some thoughts

  • madison May 31, 2013  

    I’ve served people as well for about 7 years, and to be honest, whoever wrote this article needs to get off their high horse and realize that this is part of our profession. There are numerous of times where I’ve wanted to pour hot coffee in someone’s eyes because they grabbed me or just so happen to be a complete jerk. But we still serve with a smile a deal with it. This article is rude and quite possibly the most stupidest thing I’ve heard. Not to mention the fact that MAYBE this person is a rude waiter/waitress/host/hostess and need to find a better profession for themselves.

  • SWF June 18, 2013  

    Tipping is actually related to what country you are in. In my country (Denmark) the waiters/servers get more money for their work and the tip is automatically included, unlike in the USA.
    I never tip in my own country and on trips I use the tourist guide’s instructions on, how much I should tip.

    Also, you sound really burnt out.

  • domingo June 22, 2013  

    Everyone on here who is ‘insulted’ at the tone of this article, has either never worked in the hospitality industry, or, if they have, has zero self respect. First off, the tone comes as a direct response playing off the tone of the original New York Times article, which lists 100-things-restaurant-servers-should-never-do, and is, in itself, quite condescending (if you dont think so, it is because you are self-absorbed and think once you walk into a restaurant, your ass should be kissed). Second, the point of the list that is this article, is to articulate to people whom are going out to eat, that they are dealing with other human beings, and there are many considerations to be made, other than simply what suits you. If you have worked in the industry, and find this article to be abrasive, you’re probably either half-asleep, not doing this professionally (only passing the time until your ‘real job’ comes along), or, are a complete idiot without a semblance of dignity. Everything the author wrote is spot on, and the dining experience would be exponentially better for both patron and guest, if only the people that came out to eat (granted a minority, but significant nonetheless), had even the slightest clue of how to treat the people serving them. Just as ignorance of the law is no excuse for breaking it, ignorance of hospitality culture is no excuse for treating people like they are less than your peers when you dine out. What’s hard to understand about not ignoring the host? Or making eye contact and smiling at your server? Hospitality cuts both ways – you have to show respect and dignity to command respect and dignity. Otherwise, your just an asshole, that deserves to be treated like one.

  • shelly July 20, 2013  

    YOU ARE A WAITER GOD! And completely understand what it means to work 60hours a week get treated like shit and still can’t afford to buy your son new shoes. Fuck the haters they don’t get what real work is. Its to give up all pride, dignity, respect, education just to see your family well cared for.

  • James Taylor August 6, 2013  

    While some of the items listed are a bit of a stretch, I do tend to side with the writer more so than with some of those pf you commenting. Sadly, most of the items listed are a reflection of the inability (or lack of desire) of those dining out to separate their public and private behaviors. Many diners bring the same poor table manners, sloppiness, and lack of respect for others from their homes right into restaurants and expect everyone to be completely accommodating/understanding.

    I would add two more to the list…

    101. If you have some sort of “condition” or if you’re a chain smoker, don’t use the cloth napkin to deposit the mouthful of phlegm you might cough up. The same applies if you have older relatives who cough and hack up stuff frequently, please bring a hand towel with you or ask for some paper napkins as soon as you sit down at the table.

    102. If the restaurant is one of those toilet-only setups with a lock on the door where one person can use the bathroom at a time, do not go to the bathroom and sit on the toilet for 20 minutes-especially when the restaurant is really busy.

    103. If you’re reading this, you’re probably capable of searching the internet well enough to search for “basic table manners.” In an hour, you can probably learn what your parents or some other adult should have taught you as a child. As a result, you can probably avoid 15 to 20 of the “don’ts” listed above.


  • Jerry Russell February 1, 2014  

    As a restaurant manager, I find this article to be quite presumptuous. Restaurant patrons are PAYING customers, and we in the restaurant industry have no business setting up rules. While I have had my share of difficult and sometimes rude guests, I still go out of my way to treat them like guests, not servants.

  • David February 22, 2014  

    I have bee
    n reading this after observing empty tables on a busy Saturday night. I asked what we were waiting when there were tables available. The answer – our kitchen was slammed by several large parties and we need some time to catch up. The follow up – would you like seats at the bar, we have several opening up right now. An honest answer and an offered solution. The essence of good service and an intelligent approach, giving credit while expecting the same.

    This is so different from the condescending, insulting drivel provided by the author of “100 things patrons should never do”. It not only dishonors those who capably do the work he apparently loathes, it exemplifies why some who become disaffected in their work and lives need to either take a time out or retire.

  • Chris Juricich July 25, 2014  

    Leave a TIP…regardless? Simply beCAUSE?

    I never leave a tip because it’s expected. I leave a tip if all goes smoothly, but if things go completely south. I’ll consider NO tip. And those restaurants that apply service charges which are simply built-in tips? No. Just charge me more for the damn food and I’ll be the judge of whether to tip, or if the price of your vittles are too high, to find another restaurant.

  • joseph July 30, 2014  

    I love this article and you have every right to say it out loud. We, in the hospitality industry, would never say these things to customers but we sure would love them to know a few things about manners wouldn’t we? I mean, cmon, all your negative comments to the author are ridiculous. I’ve been in restaurants for 14 years, am a GM and a Sommelier, and I still wish people would have a few manners. You’re in public, not your home, so respect the people around you, and be appreciative to the person taking care of you. It’s just being a decent, civilized human being.

  • Joe August 8, 2014  

    What is wrong with saying “Yeah, I’ll take…” when ordering the food? It may not be the most formal way to order food but it’s far from impolite.

  • Brad August 19, 2014  

    Kind of a ridiculous list. Aside from the sheer hypocrisy of railing against lists such as these before turning around to write one of your own, there are a number of problems here. Firstly, there are a bunch of repeats, just changed around and worded a little differently(#1 and #4 are essentially the same thing). Secondly, a number of these points fall into the realm of “common sense”(#16 springs to mind) or “criminal”(#8), and when combined with your overall tone, really lend a snobbish element to your article, which suggests that you seem to disdain any kind of interaction with customers(at which point I might suggest you’re in the wrong line of work).

    Now, a personal pet peeve of mine: tipping. A number of your points deal with tipping, and how it shouldn’t be done. Basically, they all amount to “leave a bunch of money for your server”. Now, I wouldn’t think you’d need this explained to you, but let me just explain exactly what a tip is.

    There are three parties in this particular equation. Myself(the customer), you(the server), and the restaurant(your employer). When I come into the restaurant and order a meal, I pay for it. This money is used to keep the restaurant functioning, which includes paying your wage. If you have a problem with your wage, that’s actually a problem between you and your employer, and I, as a customer, don’t have a damn thing to do with it. A server’s job, is, at it’s core, an unskilled labour position that requires very minimal training. As a result, servers are cheap and expendable. It’s great that you work hard(or think you work hard), have a good attitude, and like your job. At the base, it’s still a simple job. If you really want more money, get yourself a better job.

    So, now that we’ve established that I have actually already partially paid your salary by visiting your restaurant, and that your wage complaint is actually none of my responsibility, I owe you precisely nothing, beyond the cost of my bill. Now, a tip, or gratuity, actually comes from Latin, and translates to “give freely”. As in “I am freely giving you this extra money, with absolutely no obligation to do so.” In our current society, a tip is intended to reward a person for service above and beyond the accepted standard. The accepted standard is defined by what people are willing to tolerate without going and spending their money elsewhere. This, of course, is open to all kinds of subjectivity and criticism. However, to suggest not only that every service requires a tip, but that it should be “$1 for every $5 spent, rounded up(paraphrased)”(as is #62 on Part 2), is ludicrous. Some people cannot afford to tip 20%, a plight that someone bemoaning the average server’s wage should perhaps be a little more sympathetic to/aware of. And quite frankly, there are plenty of service staff that don’t deserve a nickel more than whatever their hourly wage is(this is called capitalism, boys and girls, and it’s what makes the world function). Now, I’m fine with tipping 20% or even more(and frequently do), but the restaurant industry in general(and certainly you, by the tone of your article) seems to be under the false impression that we, as customers, are somehow obligated to leave you, as servers, some kind of additional money, regardless of how we judge the quality of our service. Because, as we’ve established, that’s what a gratuity is; money freely given without an obligation to do so.

    Now, that said, you did make a couple of fair, reasonable, perfectly valid points in this list. And, if you pared it down to maybe 20, you might have a leg to stand on. At this point, the only thing that this list proves is that you’re angry that some NYT writer called the industry out on a lot of things(probably some fair and others not; I’ll have to read it), you’re bitter toward the customers that provide for your livelihood, and you need to find another line of work. Hopefully, since publishing this article, you’ve left the restaurant industry and are working in a field that you enjoy more(and are better suited for, if your article is a snapshot of your personality).


  • Brad August 19, 2014  


    I just read through the NYT article by Mr. Buschel. I certainly can see the value of including an abbreviated version of his list into a training manual(his list, like this one, was stretched beyond appropriate limits in the desire to hit 100 points, and could be concisely condensed into 20 or so). Additionally, Mr. Buschel carries a far more professional tone throughout the entirety of his article(if you read it, you’ll note that the term “douche”-adjective does not appear once in the entirety of his article, nor is the reader greeted in Part 2 with the image of a dessert cup fashioned into the shape of a giant penis – a sure sign something has gone wrong). While I disagree with some of his points and can certainly sympathize with some of the comments on that article wondering when service staff changed into robots, it is not nearly as disrespectful of service staff as this article is to restaurant patrons. If a winner is to be declared, it is certainly Mr. Buschel.

  • Abbe Kulhanek January 5, 2015  

    I feel so bad. I enjoy going out to eat and I was under the apparently mistaken impression that the restaurant reciprocated the feeling. Tonight my friends and I went to eat and one member of our party ordered three beers over the course of an hour and a half. He had someone to drive him and was not becoming altered in any way noticeable. When he ordered the 4th the waitress loudly pronounced , ‘geez,you’re really suckin’ those down,’which was embarrassing to everyone. Kind of a bummer for our friend who is a nice man who had not been out for a while and just wanted to relax. Too bad our server spoiled it.

  • Abbe Kulhanek January 5, 2015  

    Additionally, I am a nurse. If anyone heard me speak this way about my patients, calling them obscenities, surely they would think I needed to change my profession. Get out before you do something purposely hurtful.

  • Mike March 9, 2015  

    Obviously written exclusively to benefit the server and establishment. Just this past weekend I had a long wait, while tables were empty, 4 servers hung out talking at the hostess tables, long wait for food and was asked to leave because others were waiting to be seated. Now, I had 7 adults, 4 of which were of drinking age, we were continuing to purchase food and drinks, 4 empty tables around us and very slow service. Most of what you said is proper behavior when the restaurant is acting properly. This was a mid level establishment at Snowshoe Ski Resort. With out doing many of what you said not to do, we would have been left to fend for ourselves. We were proper,not drunk and offended. When you spend $200 in a very nice burger joint you deserve attention. 100 things not do so as a patron, come on, you obviously do not eat out often. The customer is king, most often right and should only be asked to leave when the behavior is such that you never want them to come back. Do 100 things to do as a server. I understand this because I am in the service business ( one of your 100 things not to say ), service is everything, and I know how hard it is sometimes.

  • B Chin June 5, 2015  

    Here are some things a server should never do:

    1) Touch cups and glasses by the top, where the mouth goes.
    2) Touch unused silverware by where the mouth goes.
    3) Interrupt a conversation to ask if everything is OK if it’s a couple on a date. Walking by the table and making
    eye contact from a distance is more than enough to get our attention. Interrupting mid-sentence gets an
    extra black mark. Two black marks if you spoil the punch line of a story. Eternal damnation if you interrupt
    a marriage proposal.
    4) Bump the customer’s chair every time you walk by.

    I once went to an overpriced restaurant on a date at the misguided recommendation of a friend, the kind of place where you get two and a quarter forks full of food in a $40 so-called “entree”. Unfortunately, we were seated on the route from the kitchen, and the tables were so packed in that the staff violated (4) about once every 15 seconds, even though I’m skinny and my chair was pushed all the way in.

    I didn’t want to say anything in front of my date, but I was fuming.

    It turned into a comically bad meal when I could see over the table that my date was texting another guy whom she had “previously” dated, but I also managed not to say anything.

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