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.
8. NEVER STEAL FROM A RESTAURANT.
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.