10 Do’s and Don’ts for Dining Out

A much needed article, brought to you by, yours truly. Prior to the creation of this masterpiece you’re currently reading, I had begun 4 separate drafts on this subject, and somehow never found the time to finish it. However, due to recent experiences with certain customers at my day job, I’m feeling particularily “inspired” to complete this piece. It’s been a long time comin’ folks!

 Now for some background, I started my first job in the restaurant business back in 2003 and have been periodically employed as a server many times since. There’s no way for you to really know this but, I do happen to be a very good server. So this will not be an article written by some subpar employee who’s taking their frustrations out on the Internet. Don’t get me wrong, I am frustrated. However, I feel the need to inform you that my frustration does not stem from providing lackluster customer service and still expecting a tip. No; it comes from years of quality hard work for people who often times, have never been informed of proper dining etiquette. So listen up, bitches! We’ll go through the Don’ts, and then the Do’s…

10 Do’s and Don’ts for Dining Out

  1.  DO NOT expect immediate seating at a packed restaurant without a reservation 

This is a popular faux pas. Regardless of whether the restaurant is packed because it’s a holiday or just a popular joint, the same rule applies. I can not tell you how many times I have seen customers show up to a packed restaurant, sans reservation, toting a sense of entitlement that seems to say “Oh you will seat us now!” Furthermore, these same people seem to think that their threats to withhold their business and general negative attitude will somehow inspire the staff to move them up the reservation list. The place is obviously busy, and while a good establishment does value every customer, it is not their job to accommodate your poor planning. So please, call ahead, inquire whether a reservation is necessary, and if so, make one! That way the establishment can seat you as quickly as possible and you can enjoy a pleasant evening that doesn’t begin with frustration and a hangry date. If you do forget to call, that’s okay, we’re all human! But for God’s sake, be understanding! Either agree to have a drink at the bar or just sit down and wait patiently like everyone else.

2.   DO NOT expect your server to read your mind

While it’s true that an experienced server should be able to anticipate your needs (like a refill when your drink’s running low), they are not actually mind readers! It is an all too common occurence in restaurants for a customer to order a beverage or food item and then upon delivery inform the server that it’s either missing something they never asked for or includes something they didn’t express their distaste for. Sure, it’s easy to forget specifics and I’m sure the server will understand and quickly rememdy your mistake; but making a habit of this isn’t acceptable. Furthermore, it’s incredibly rude to act as if the server is somehow incompetent because you didn’t properly express your wishes. ASK AND YOU SHALL RECEIVE! When ordering food, read the menu descriptions! That way if the BLT you ordered has mayo on it you can ask your server to hold it, before it’s already been made. There is just no sense in perfectly good food being thrown out after a chef took the time to prepare it for you. Granted, us servers like free food but seriously, be a responsible customer.

3.   DO NOT ignore your server

I know, doesn’t make sense right? That’s because most of us were raised by parents, not wolves, and possess some knowledge of manners. This is probably my 2nd or 3rd biggest pet peeve as a server. I approach the table, politely introduce myself with a smile on my face, and ask my customers how they’re doing today; and what do I hear? Fucking crickets! No one says ANYTHING! I simply can not understand what makes people think that it’s acceptable to ignore their server when dining out! This is a two-way street people! I talk to you, take care of you, and serve you; in return, you answer me and treat me with the same respect I give you. It’s a simple concept really. Yet that hasn’t stopped these select customers from acting as if I’m a naked stranger who just walked into their house and asked what’s for dinner. I didn’t ask you to come out to eat! So please, when I time my approach as to not interrupt your conversation and then ask you for your order, don’t just stare at me as if I’m speaking Cantonese. Just give me your fucking order like a normal human being. Thank you.

4. DO NOT allow your children to run amuck

I pride myself on being particularily understanding of parents. Let’s be honest, raising kids is a bitch and no one plans for their 18 month old to scream bloody murder in the middle of dinner at a nice restaurant. I feel for these parents and more importantly, I don’t judge them. Upset babies or toddlers are an unavoidable part of furthuring the human race and I think people who believe it’s bad etiquette to bring a child to a restaurant at all are assholes. People need date nights, they need to escape their homes, they need to feel human again after basically becoming life support machines for their child. So they come out to eat. But for these parents, please realize other people may have paid a babysitter so they could eat a meal without listening to a screaming baby. So if your child has a meltdown, take him/her outside to calm down for a minute and then come back. I get parenting isn’t easy, as do most servers. If you’re considerate, we’re cool with it and will do our best to help you have a peaceful meal. However, let me just say, it is not cool to allow your 3 year old to use other people’s tables as a playground. It is not cool to let your unsupervised children turn my restaurant’s bathroom into a water park. It is not cool to leave the bowl of fruit in front of your child after they decide melon balls are more fun to throw at people than to eat. Most of all, it is not cool to let your kids wander off, into the kitchen, because you find Facebook more entertaining than your own child. (Yes this has actually happened. The 2 year old almost got a tray of piping hot food dumped on his face when the server tripped over him!) Moral of the story: Most servers understand parenting isn’t easy and kids are unpredictable, but if you don’t plan to actually watch your child then don’t bring them in public!! Also, your server isn’t getting paid to clean your child’s entire meal off of the floor once you’ve left. Pick up after yourself or leave a $20! 

Somebody needs a nice walk…don’t you think? 

5. DO NOT set unrealistic expectations

This is another common customer mistake in restaurants. There’s nothing wrong with expecting good customer service but, expecting your well done steak to be prepared in 7 mintues is not realistic. Expecting a server who has a full section to be able to spend 10 minutes talking to you is also unrealistic. We’ll gladly have a conversation if there’s time but if you see the restaurant is full please don’t act like your server’s being rude because they can’t forgo their responsibilities for your entertainment. Not only is that inconsiderate to other tables but it can also get your server in trouble. That’s right, the owner (your server’s boss) does not care that you finally got the grandbaby you’ve waited your daughter’s entire life for. They just want their employees to be everywhere, all the time, and often times will accuse the server of “poor time management skills” if they spend too much time at your table. So be understanding, be realistic, and you will leave happy. Myself and the servers I know will always go above and beyond for our customers, when and if it’s possible. However, nothing is more irritating than the guy demanding an immediate table on Valentine’s Day without a reservation or the picky girlfriend who thinks her well done steak should take no longer than an order of mozzerella sticks and rudely tells her server so. 

Now, it’s time for the “Do’s”…

6. DO tip your servers

I can not stress this enough. When you go out to eat you should always plan to tip 20-25%. I do not believe there is any establishment in the US where it’s acceptable to leave 8-15% anymore. The cost of living has sky rocketed in the last 24 years since the tipped employee minimum wage was raised to $2.13. Your average server makes roughly $2.13-$5 per hour before taxesSome states, like Washington, actually pay servers up to $9/hr. But here on the East Coast, where they don’t care if food servers can actually buy food, chances are they’re making under $3/hr. Personally, I make $2.83/hr. and out of that already useless paycheck I pay taxes as if I’m making $7.25 regardless of whether or not my tips actually reflect that. If I work 28 hours in a week my check is generally around $50. Can you imagine? Insult to injury, people think that tipping is unneccesary and optional. Let me tell you, tipping is not optional. While I don’t believe that bad or subpar customer service should be rewarded, I do think that if your server takes care of you, you should take care of them. A lot of work goes into ensuring you have a pleasant dining experience. Being a server is not “a cake walk”; not if you’re doing it right. Your server has to possess excellent time management and multi-tasking skills along with a genuine, positive attitude and likeable personality that remains intact in a fast-paced, high pressure environment. In response to the people who believe that servers shouldn’t get tipped because they don’t: We make a minimum of $4.42 an hour less than you, regardless of how good we are at our jobs. That’s if you’re only making $7.25. There are no promotions, no bonuses, no pay raises. Also, if you have a coupon with your meal, do not tip on the discounted meal price!!! Your server didn’t do less work because of the coupon and therefor shouldn’t make less money! Common sense! Just like if you come in with 10-15 buddies to hang out for a few hours and take up 3-4 of a server’s tables you should tip her for the tips you’re costing her. If you only get coffee then even 10 coffees is still only $20 with a 20% tip of $4. $4 for you to take up half of her section for 3 hours. Does that sound fair? If you have a big group and a small check then please, leave $5 per person. If you do this the next time you come in the server will ask for you and make sure you get excellent service. Tipping supplements our worthless hourly income. Without it we wouldn’t be able to feed ourselves. So don’t be a dick, leave a tip.

7.   DO remember the job title is Server; not servant.

I’ve seen too many people treat servers worse than I ever would ever treat another human being; especially, someone handling my food. Apparently their mama’s never taught them, “Don’t mess with your waitress, your hairstylist, or your tattoo artist.” Now personally, I have never, ever messed with someone’s food; no matter how poorly they treated me. But I know people who have and with some of the situations, I honestly couldn’t blame them. Nothing disgusts me more than customers who come in with a false sense of superiority and treat servers like they’re less than. What would possess someone to treat another person this way? Is this false sense of superiority because they see people who serve others as below them? Is it something that’s bred into them? Or are they simply, asshats? I’ve seen people yell across restaurants, snap their fingers, and whistle in order to get their server’s attention! I’ve seen customers call servers degrading names because there was something wrong with their food or because they simply could not be pleased. They don’t care that the server has nothing to do with cooking the food or how it’s made in the first place. This behavior is disgraceful and if you’re one of these people, you should be ashamed of yourself. I would never come to your job and treat you like that! So please remember when you dine out: that person taking your order is a human being who’s trying to feed their family and support their life, just like you. Treat them how you would want to be treated! It’s called The Golden Rule, fuckers! 

8.  DO let your server know if you’re in a rush.

This is another situation which can cause frustration for both the server and the customer. Here’s the scenario: a customer goes out to eat, they know they only have an hour to do so, and they don’t tell their server. They order their food, again not mentioning the time constraint, and then get frustrated when it takes longer than they expected. (There’s those unrealistic expectations again) Here’s the solution: tell your server! Servers know what dishes can be made the fastest and what takes the longest. They can put a rush on your meal and drop your check as soon as everything’s ordered so that you can leave as soon as you’re done eating. All of these things combined can have you in and out in under 30 minutes. It’s not rude to tell your server what’s going on. It is rude to act as if they did something wrong when you never expressed your needs in the first place. A closed mouth won’t get fed. 

9. DO arrive awhile before closing

Yes, I know the door days we close at 10 but when we posted it we didn’t honestly think that someone would be inconsiderate enough to walk in at 9:55pm. If you’re this guy, you suck. You are the bane of this industry. You are costing the restaurant money. They now have to keep the server, the manager, the cook, and the dishwasher on the clock an hour later for your one meal. The server is going to make a single tip from you and that’s somehow supposed to cover the hour after closing that you kept her there? No. Also, if you’re asinine enough to think we don’t mind if you hang with your buddies and chat after you’re done eating, then please, don’t ever breed. We all hate you, we want you to go home, we’re just treating you nicely because we at least want your lousy $5 tip since you’ve now kept us here an hour past closing. Restaurants start closing duties 30-45 minutes before the posted time. You’re stopping that from happening. Why does the sign say 10 then, you may ask? Well, so the customers who came in at a respectable time know when they need to leave by!! Again, if you have no other option but to do this, tip well! 

10.   DO give compliments and reviews

It’s an unfortunate thing for good servers that more times than not, their hard work will go completely unnoticed. There are many bad servers out there and a lot of drama in most restaurants. It’s become too easy for bosses to completely miss a good employee when they have one because years of bullshit in this high turnover business makes them jaded. I have seen fantastic servers get fired because one impossible, miserable customer spoke louder than every other satisified one and the clueless boss took their word for it. This has almost happened to me once or twice, and both times I couldn’t understand how this one wrong customer outweighed the hundreds who loved me. That’s when I realized it; while my customers tell me I’m the best service they’ve ever had and that they’ll request me from now on, they don’t tell anyone else that. So please, if a server gives you exceptional service either specifically tell their boss, leave a comment card, or give an online review with their name included. One bad review from a customer who would’ve been dissatisfied either way should not outweigh a server’s entire reputation with all of their other customers. But again, the problem remains that satisfied customers rarely say anything, except to each other and their server. Let’s change this, yeah? Support your local server 🙂 

Well, that’s all guys. I could go on forever and ever but then you wouldn’t have made it to the end would you? As you can see, I am a bit disgruntled. Being a server is not an easy job and it’s unforgiving by nature. However, if we can inform more people about the proper etiquette when dining out then maybe it will get just a little better. Consider what’s been said here. If you already know and follow all of these things then let me be the first to say, thank you! Customers like you make a server’s entire day. No, seriously. You wouldn’t believe the ass wipes we encounter. You are a rare diamond amongst a sea of neon green baby shit. My hat goes off to you you shining motherfucker.

As for the rest of you, the miserable, entitled, and otherwise raised by wolves bunch.. Well, you better hope your next server has morals like me. If not, your burger bun just might’ve been wiped on the dishwasher’s sweaty ass cheek. Have a good one!

by Ashley Hebner

 © All Rights Reserved 2016



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