Restaurant workers and patrons agree that these behaviours have no place in restaurants.
No, a restaurant is not a library; of course it’s acceptable to laugh and talk, and plenty of more casual restaurants can even be on the noisy side. But you and your party are not the only ones in the establishment. If you’re all but yelling or being rowdy, you’re not being respectful of other diners. Another behaviour that restaurant workers and patrons alike say is all too common is when parents let their children run around the restaurant and bother other diners. There are playgrounds, museums and backyards for that.
Restaurant patron Antoinette Kuritz remembers one time in particular when she was dining at a restaurant. “A family of about eight or ten people arrived and were seated at a table in the middle of the room,” she says. “The adults proceeded to converse loudly as the children ran through the room playing tag.” She told RD.com that management was alerted, but did nothing. “Once home, I called the restaurant and told them how good the food was, how great the service was, and why I would neither frequent nor recommend their establishment again,” she remembers.
This is widely considered one of the most disrespectful restaurant behaviours possible. There’s considerable research that being rude to your waiter can instantly make you unappealing on a date. In addition to behaviours like yelling and raising your voice to get the waitstaff’s attention, simply your demeanour can come off as condescending to waitstaff. For instance, don’t forget simple courtesies like ‘please’ and ‘thank you’! In general, as food and lifestyle writer, Kalev Rudolph, puts it: just remember that the waitstaff are just doing their jobs. “Your waiter is at work, and while they are there to make you feel comfortable and cared for, they are still a professional employee,” he told RD.com. “Just because someone is ‘serving’ you, please try not to forget that the people behind the notepad or refilling a glass are just that: people.” That pretty much sums it up!
The rule of ‘don’t-be-nasty-to-your-server’ applies even when your dining experience isn’t going your way. As Rudolph points out, plenty of common restaurant issues aren’t the fault of the waitstaff – but they’re the ones who take the brunt of the complaints for it. “Customers often take out frustrations about delays on food or bad restaurant management on servers who have no control over what happens in the kitchen,” he says. “Of course, this does not mean you can’t be frustrated if a waiter doesn’t check on your table (or downright ignores you). But, if food is taking a while and your waiter lets you know, please be kind to them.”
“I’ll give you a good tip if you bring me some extra guac!” Whether this is supposed to be a joke or not, it’s basically bribery and is not appropriate. And it’s not like your waiter would be allowed to comply! In addition, waitstaff would also prefer that you didn’t say, “We’re in a hurry, can you keep things moving?” or something to that effect. Again – the speed of things is, in most cases, not in the waiter’s control.
“That to-go cup of coffee you grabbed as you were waiting for your brunch table to be ready? Ditch it before you go in to the restaurant,” says etiquette expert, Nick Leighton. Many restaurants do have signs asking that you not bring in food or drink you got elsewhere, and it’s one rule that polite restaurant patrons follow.
Or right before the kitchen closes, or whatever the variation is for your chosen establishment. It’ll certainly make the restaurant staff’s jobs harder, but it really is a lose-lose for you too. You’ll get rushed service and the waitstaff will probably be annoyed.
It’s the same scenario as when you complain to your waiter about kitchen errors. The waitstaff does not make the prices. So saying, “That’s a little pricey for [insert menu item here], isn’t it?” is not going to benefit you in any way. It’ll just make you seem annoying.
Not every restaurant meal is going to be to your liking. And while obviously, if your order arrives wrong, it’s more than okay to ask (without being rude) for it to be switched out or fixed, don’t go overboard with asking for tweaks to your meal after the fact. “Salt, pepper, and tomato sauce are acceptable, but don’t go asking for extra cajun seasoning or garlic pepper or cinnamon from the kitchen,” says executive chef, Enrique Limardo. “You’re insinuating the chef did not do their best.”
This is one of the rude restaurant behaviours that you probably think is actually nice! It’s natural to want to ‘unburden’ your waiter when you see them coming toward you with arms piled high with food that you’re going to eat and enjoy. But this can throw off their groove, so to speak. “Besides it being quite a confrontational thing, [by] lunging at a server from your seat, you run the risk of upsetting the balance the server has carefully built up on the tray,” he says. Your server has spent plenty of time training to be able to do this. He or she is a pro. So while you do probably think you’re helping, it’s okay to stay in your seat.
Don’t get the bill and then say, “Actually, could you split this five ways?” Yes, sometimes waiters will plop the check on your table without asking you if you’re ready for it (or having you ask for it). But if you’re planning on asking for a fairly complicated split, the polite thing to do is to bring it to the waitstaff’s attention before they bring over the bill.
Okay, so to be fair, this is not a ‘rude’ behaviour (unless, of course, the jokes are rude in nature). But it’s one that many restaurant staff do say gets on their nerves, according to Restaurant Insider’s Ryan McSweeney. Of course, it’s not that they lack a sense of humour or can’t ‘have a little fun’. But they do this all day, every day, and there’s only so many times a person can take hearing some variation on “as you can see, we hated it” while you gesture to a table of empty plates, or middle-aged to older folk pretending to be offended that they’re not getting carded. Again – saying things like this isn’t ‘rude’. But don’t act like they’ve ruined your day if they don’t burst into hysterics.
Yes, having your waiter clean up your dishes is one of the nicest perks of eating out. But that really shouldn’t mean that all cleanliness bets are off and you devolve into slovenliness. “Yes, you are paying for your meal and for someone to clean up your table – but that doesn’t mean you can’t consider their work and do a tiny bit extra to wipe up that sauce spill with a napkin,” says Rudolph. Keep in mind, though, that if there’s a big spill, it’s perfectly okay to ask your waiter to bring some extra napkins and accept their help. But try not to leave a table littered with stickiness or food scraps.
It’s certainly great that many people are choosing to cut down on or completely avoid animal products. And it’s likewise great that many restaurants and food companies are responding to this trend by offering vegan or vegetarian options. But these changes should not lead you to expect that you can get choicy plant-based options anywhere and everywhere. No restaurant has every type of food, and it really comes down to reading the room. If you’re at a restaurant that clearly does not specialise in, or advertise, vegan options, don’t complain to the waitstaff about the ones they do offer.
We know, we know, we exhibit outdated technophobia, especially in an era when taking pictures of food is almost as much a reason people go to restaurants as eating it. And using your phone isn’t always unacceptable – say you want to show your meal companion a photo of something you’ve been talking about. But, as a general rule, don’t be on your phone when you’re eating at a restaurant. Don’t have it on the table. And definitely don’t keep the noises on. No one wants to hear intermittent chimes all through their meal.
Asking your table-mates to “pass the potatoes!” might seem like outdated advice from a 1950s etiquette guide – but it really is good table manners. If something is far enough away from you that you’d have to gracelessly lunge across the table for it, you really should be asking someone to pass it. Even if it’s not that far away, you’re avoiding any potential spills or messes by simply asking for someone to pass it.
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