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100 Things Restaurant Patrons Should Never Do

Posted by on March 24 2010 in Featured, Lists, Rants & Raves, Restaurants, Trends

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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171 Responses leave one →
  1. 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 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.

  2. 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.

  3. Robbie permalink
    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

  4. madison permalink
    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.

  5. 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.

  6. domingo permalink
    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.

  7. shelly permalink
    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.

  8. James Taylor permalink
    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.


  9. Jerry Russell permalink
    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.

  10. David permalink
    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.

  11. Chris Juricich permalink
    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.

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