Ten rudest things customers do to make servers wish you'd never come to their restaurants
Your server can't stand you. Can you blame him?
I ate out nearly 500 times last year, and when you eat out as often as I do, you're bound to witness truly bad behavior, both on the side of the server and on the side of the guest. But recently, I've seen far more diners than servers exhibit the kind of obnoxious theatrics that make me want to plug their piehole with the food from Furr's Cafeteria.
If you can't treat the service staff with a modicum of respect -- if you feel compelled to snap your fingers, wave your hands in the air like a referee, make like a bulldozer and storm into the kitchen, ignore a server because you can't part with your cell phone long enough to order, or threaten to write, oh, let's say a Yelp review because your children weren't allowed to run around like hooligans, then do everyone a favor: Stay home and cook in your own damn kitchen.
Or just promise that you'll avoid these simple etiquette faux pas while dining out, otherwise don't blame your server if he pees in your pint glass.
10. When a server comes to greet your table, don't -- I repeat, don't -- interrupt her midway through her preamble to demand a diet Coke or vodka on the rocks. Worse, if she asks what kind of day you're having -- as in "How are you?"-- and you respond by demanding a menu, free bread or water, no ice, then I hope she gets your name and number and prank-calls you at 2 a.m. I've seen guests behave in this fashion a dozen times over the course of the last month, and it's beyond rude.
9. If your table orders drinks, and they're delivered on a tray, don't use your grubby little hands to remove them. There's such a thing called balance, and if you take it upon yourself to snatch a glass off the tray, then 99.9 percent of the time, it's your own damn fault if it spills all over your pressed pinstriped suit. This is how major accidents occur and dry-cleaning businesses get rich.
8. If you have small children, or you're an adult in a child's body, and you have an obsession with sugar, for the love of God, don't put the half-empty packets back into the sugar caddy. That's just gross, plain and simple, and sugar packets aren't meant to be reused by the unsuspecting four top that gets your table once you've left.
7. There's no university degree program for mind readers, and servers -- at least the ones that I know -- aren't trained in predicting what you might want next, so if a server comes to your table to check to see what you might need, and you promptly wave her away only to wag your finger in her direction five seconds later to interrogate her about the whereabouts of your extra side of pesto dressing that you -- oops -- forgot to mention the first time, then you have the common courtesy skills of a repo man, which is to say none.
6. When you've closed your menu, or put it off the side, it's a sign that you're ready to place your order. With that simple fact in your brain, a server shouldn't have to stand there -- tick-tock --because you decide that now is the perfect time to peruse it for another five minutes. If you have questions about particular dishes, that's one thing -- and you're more than entitled to ask -- but if you've made up your mind, then there's no reason to continue reading the menu like a bedtime novel. Their time is just as important as yours. Why is this concept so difficult for diners to grasp?
5. Arriving late for your reservation and then "camping out" long after you've paid your bill, while you sip your water and play word games on your cell phone, should immediately regulate you to the 86'd board.
4. Servers (usually) don't have issues providing large parties with separate checks (nor should they), but the proper thing to do is let them know up front -- before you place your order and ask for all those substitutions and additions. Why? Because more often than not, if affects how your order is entered into the computer, and since most people want their checks in the amount of time it takes to well, ask for it, it speeds up the process, and since you have places to go and people to see, it behooves you in the end.
3. Bitching about your meal after you've cleaned your plate is rarely, if ever, acceptable. If you have a problem with your dish, it's up to you to voice your displeasure before the contents of your dinner have made it down your gullet. Most servers will stop at least once -- usually more -- to ask if you're satisfied. If you nod in the affirmative, mow down your food, and then have the audacity to complain that it sucked, then you've left the server with no way to make it right, except remove the dish from your bill, which is typically the ploy that habitually disgruntled diners use to get a free meal -- and then write about it. If you're one of these people, may you rot in McDonald's hell.
2. Under no circumstance should you allow your children to run around a restaurant like wild monkeys. I love kids -- I even have one -- and it's up to parents to insist that their kids stay seated. You wouldn't let your toddler touch a hot burner at home, but restaurants are full of potential hazards -- servers running around with hot plates, glassware, full martinis (!). And like it or not, most people want to dine in peace -- plus your server has no desire to have your kid playing hide and seek behind his knee. I'm not one to advocate taking your kids to play with a certain mouse at a place that slings inedible pizza, but servers are not built-in babysitters. If you can't control your child, don't go out to dinner.
1. Refusing to say "Please" and "Thank You" should result in a mandatory sentence to repeat preschool.
Get the Dining Newsletter
The week's top local food news and events, plus interviews with chefs and restaurant owners, dining tips, and a peek at our print review.