Professional Chefs Reveal Things People Do That Drive Them Crazy

When you head out to restaurants, you should remember your manners. Lots of us let them slide a little when dining in our home — especially if we eat in front of the TV — but real humans’ livelihood depends on our restaurant patronage. Professional chefs, waiters, and other restaurant professionals all weighed in on the worst behavior they’ve seen. You won’t believe the ways some people treat waiters (page 4), their tables (page 15), and even their fellow diners (page 5).

1. Don’t salt your food before tasting it

Girl putting salt on curly fries
Woman adding salt to her food | Image Source/iStock/Getty Images

Richard Bainbridge, chef and proprietor of British restaurant Benedicts, told The Independent he hates to see a diner salt their food before even tasting it. Chefs take great care to season their food, and doing so yourself before even trying can look insulting. “Seasoning is individual to palate but they could at least give it a go first,” Bainbridge said. “Taking photos of food is also a new dining trend that needs to disappear,” he added. “Just enjoy your meal!”

Next: Watch how you treat this member of the staff, as well.

2. Treat servers like human beings

Waiter serving table of five in a cruise ship
Waiter serving food to clients | Creatas/iStock/Getty Images

A lot of people forget waiters, unlike those little boxes at the drive-thru, are real people. “You could walk up and say, ‘Hi, my name’s Jenni, welcome to so-and-so. Have you ever been here before?’ And they’re like, ‘Water.’ They treat the server like a servant,” a former server told The Feast. Take an extra minute to smile, ask about their day, and treat them nicely.

Next: The following really doesn’t look good on anyone.

3. Never come on your to server

Two women sitting at cafe holding menu card giving an order to male waiter.
Server waiting on a table | jacoblund/iStock/Getty Images

Also never, ever hit on the server. It makes you look bad, and can also turn into a sexual harassment issue. “I’ve never seen this work out for men,” another server named Krystal said. “I was in the restaurant industry for a long time, and I never saw anybody get married to a customer that they waited on, they’ve never hooked up with them, it just doesn’t happen. It’s not cute.”

Next: If you reserve a table, also don’t make this following mistake.

4. No ghosting on reservations

Young man walking down the stairs and talking on the phone
Man walking and talking on phone | bokan76/iStock/Getty Images 

When you make a reservation, that means you set aside a table the restaurant can’t use for another, paying customer. So if you can’t come, make sure you cancel it, at least a few hours before your set time, Chowhound recommends. Some people even make multiple reservations for a single night, so they can also decide last-minute. That’s ok, but be courteous.

Christopher Losa, owner of San Francisco restaurant Bar Bambino, advises you to think ahead. “If not 24 hours’ notice, give at least 6 [hours] — not 20 minutes. We could have just turned away a four-top, and that hurts a lot.”

Next: Part of servers’ job looks like a balancing act — so respect it.

5. Never grab a drink from a server’s tray

Waiters carrying plates with meat dish at a wedding.
Server balancing trays | 6okean/iStock/Getty Images 

At a party with passed appetizers or drinks, go ahead and grab one. But at a sit-down restaurant, keep your hands to yourself. “It’s a skill to have a full tray of drinks, and the way that I distribute them, I’m carefully judging the balancing of the tray as I’m giving them out,” Krystal told The Feast. “So if people just start grabbing from the tray, you’re bound to drop it.”

Next: If you bring your kids, don’t make the following mistake.

6. Keep your kids under control

child eating breakfast in a restaurant
Child at restaurant | anurakpong/iStock/Getty Images

Kids should learn how to enjoy eating out, but make sure you teach them manners, too. Not only do rowdy kids disturb other patrons, they can also create a frustrating and downright dangerous situation for servers. “When they bring in their naughty kids who are screaming and running around, and you’re trying to do your job, it makes it almost impossible,” Kayla told The Feast.

“If [the waiter says] something, that’s going to hurt your tip, so you pretty much just have to deal with it.” Educate your kids about sitting quietly, for everyone’s sake.

Next: Don’t take the following out on the restaurant.

7. If you have a fight, leave it at home

Couple arguing
Couple fighting | master1305/iStock/Getty Images

We all have those days. Maybe something went wrong at work, or you and your dining partner just had a tiff. “The worst couple to serve is the couple who have just had a fight before they come to the restaurant,” longtime waiter Steven Nicolle told CNN. “It’s so they’ll have something in common again. … Then they can walk away holding hands and saying, ‘It was the stupid waiter’s fault.’”

Next: Those with dietary restrictions especially need to learn this next rule.

8. Stay honest about your dietary restrictions

Afro American chef in restaurant kitchen
Chef adding the finishing touch to a dish | michaeljung/iStock/Getty Images

Lee Skeet runs a self-titled pop-up restaurant and told The Independent he especially can’t stand dishonesty, especially about dietary restrictions. “All our meals are ticketed, and are a set tasting menu,” he explained. “We had a guest who turned up on the night and told us they were gluten free and couldn’t eat three of the six set courses so wanted substitutions, which we didn’t have.” That guest claimed they had booked an alternative menu, which also didn’t exist.

If you have dietary restrictions, tell the restaurant well ahead of time, so they can prepare. But also don’t lie. They’ll understand if you don’t like an ingredient, but dishonesty will get you nowhere but on someone’s naughty list.

Next: When ordering wine, also don’t do this mean thing.

9. Communicate with your sommelier

Sommelier pours wine
Barman pouring wine | Berezko/iStock/Getty Images

When ordering wine at restaurants, too many people expect their sommelier or waiter to play a “guessing game,” Evan Goldstein, president of Full Circle Wine Solutions told Chowhound. According to Goldstein, good questions include: “What do you love on your list right now?” and “Is there anything not on the list that I should know about?”

If you don’t know much about wine, don’t worry. They can also help you find something you like, as long as you share your preferences with them. Remember: the restaurants’ staff wants you to leave happy.

Next: Don’t make a restaurant do this for you.

10. Asking to customize a dish hurts the chef’s heart

Restaurant meals
Chicken dish at a restaurant | Milkos/iStock/Getty Images

An OpenTable blogger explained that professional chefs hate when you modify dishes. They put a lot of thought into getting a meal exactly right, so customizing it ruins that. “Asking the server to take an ingredient out of a dish is akin to sawing the leg off a table – the whole thing can ‘tip’ over and all that hard work goes out the window,” they explained.

Substitutions, additions, or asking for sauce on the side can ruin a meal, so don’t do it. If you don’t like an element of a dish, just order something else instead. Restaurants put a lot of care into them.

Next: Exercise the following power responsibly at restaurants.

11. Know the power of an online review

Senior working on computer
Man on computer | DragonImages/iStock/Getty Images

Many people don’t realize how much difference a bad review makes for restaurants, The Chowhound reveals. If you’ve had a really terrible meal, tell the restaurant in person, before you leave. That also gives them a chance to make it right for you. But use your power wisely.

Even four-star restaurants have bad nights — have you ever had a bad day at work? That’s why restaurant reviewers eat at a place a few times before judging it. You might not have that luxury, but cut them some slack before you slam a restaurant.

Next: The following trick also makes you look rude.

12. Trying to pull favors gets you nowhere

Couple at a restaurant.
Couple at a restaurant | FlairImages/iStock/Getty Images

Just because you know the owner — or say you do — doesn’t entitle you to better treatment. “One of the biggest things customers do is the whole entitlement thing,” Steve Dublanca, author of Waiter Rant, told CNN. “They walk in off the street without a reservation on a Saturday night and ask for the nicest table in the house.”

Other frustrating lines people pull at restaurants? “I know the owner” or “I come here all the time.” Restaurants have to serve people on a reservation or first-come, first-serve basis. Just wait your turn, courteously.

Next: Waiters won’t spit in your food if you do the following.

13. If you don’t like something, that’s OK

Unhappy customer with her meal Portrait of woman complaining about food quality in restaurant.
Unhappy customer | nortonrsx/iStock/Getty Images

“We don’t get upset if you send food back. We understand that at some point, your pasta might be cooked into mush, or you’ll get a bad piece of meat,” Nicolle told CNN. Most restaurants consider their food a point of pride, and just want you to go home happy.

If your meal didn’t arrive the way you expected, something tastes off, or you just don’t like it, communicate — nicely. A lot of the time, the restaurant can subsequently fix it. “When I get a good tip, it’s because everything has been good and I’ve been able to fix everything that’s not good,” he said.

Next: This bad habit can actually cost restaurants money.

14. Don’t camp out after the check comes

Group of young
Friends sitting and laughing at a restaurant | ViewApart/iStock/Getty Image 

Restaurants schedule reservations carefully, allotting a set amount of time for each meal. While you should enjoy yours, don’t also linger all night. “When campers don’t close out their check after they’re done eating and they just hang out so you can’t grab the check off the table, you also just have to hang out,” Kayla told The Feast. Waiters also can’t earn more tips from the same table if you make it your home all night.

“A general awareness of your surroundings is a good thing,” a server named Krystal added. “Knowing the time the restaurant closes, actually paying attention to that and seeing, ‘Oh, we’re the only table still left here … OK, so it’s time to go.’”

Next: If you and your friends always do the following at restaurants, you might want to reconsider.

15. Split checks can take a lot of time

Restaurant bill check
Waitress with the check | monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images

If you and your friends make the waiter split the check, don’t also get annoyed when it takes awhile. “When you come in with a party of 12 and you all want individual checks … it takes a long time to split up your six martinis and the appetizer five different ways,” Kayla told The Feast. “Sometimes the computer systems don’t split things for you, so then you have to get your calculator and figure all that out for them.”

Instead, decide ahead of time who puts the meal on their credit card, and pay them yourselves later. Smartphone apps make this especially convenient. If you must split the check, always ask if the restaurant can do it, first. That also saves everyone the hassle later.

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