Restaurant Etiquette: Here Are All The Things Restaurant Employees Hate to See You Do

Dining out at a restaurant can be a pleasant experience for everyone — but not always. Even if you think you’re the best restaurant patron in the world, there could be some things you do that actually cause huge problems for the staff. Here are the little things you’ve probably done in restaurants that can mess up an employee’s entire night.

Ask for a different table

dinner at a restaurant
There’s a reason you were seated there. | iStock/Getty Images

Most people think that a restaurant host’s job is to just glance around the room at empty tables and to decide which one they feel like seating you at. But actually, everything works based on a rotation. Restaurants are broken up into sections, and the host usually seats people in a clockwise motion based on that section. This is to ensure that none of the servers are seated multiple times in a row. So when the host tries to seat you somewhere and you don’t like that table, you throw off the rotation. That usually results in a stressed out server, a frustrated host, and a lesser dining experience for you.

Next: Complaining about this won’t get you anywhere. 

Complain about the wait time

waiting for table
Complaining won’t help your case. | Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images

At a good restaurant, the wait time is almost never the result of slow service. It’s usually slow customers. If it’s a beautiful night and the restaurant’s patio fills up, it’s likely that customers are going to linger until they finish every last crumb and drop of wine. But that means those waiting for the most sought-after tables are going to experience a hefty wait time. Pro tip: Complaining to the host about a wait time won’t get you seated sooner.

But if it’s your meal that’s taking forever, that is likely a problem with the restaurant itself, and it’s fair game to be unhappy about it.

Next: If you have a favorite server, be careful how you request them. 

Request a specific server

Waitress Takes Order In Restaurant Using Digital Tablet
It’s rude to make your waiter or waitress run around outside their section. | monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images

This is similar to requesting a specific table. If you want a specific server because you think he or she is the best, it can either go one of two ways. You can request that server when you arrive and simply wait until their section opens up — that’s the best way to go about it. Or you can request that server after you’re seated in someone else’s section and pull that server out of their own section to serve your table. That is not the best way to go about it. If you choose the latter, that server probably won’t like you as much as you like them.

Next: Don’t leave before doing this. 

Put your name on the wait list, and then leave without notifying anyone

Couple at a restaurant.
Just let them know. | FlairImages/iStock/Getty Images

It’s understandable if you decide halfway through your wait that you no longer feel like waiting. But if you leave without notifying the host, he or she will search high and low for you when your table is ready. They’ll check the waiting area, the bar, and even outside before finally moving on to the next table. On a crazy busy night, every minute matters. So if you simply walk up to the host stand and say, “John party of two is leaving,” it would be a huge help.

Next: Please, never do this. 

Disrespect employees

Waitress bringing coffees
Always be polite. | monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images

Yes, restaurant servers, hosts, and kitchen staff are there to please you. After all, the customer is always right. But it’s still important to show them proper respect. Speak to them like they’re important, and they’ll be more likely to engage with your table. When the server and customers get along, it makes for an overall better dining experience. And it’s important to understand that if the server says no to a certain request, it’s only because they’ve been instructed by management to do so.

Next: This can be a huge inconvenience for both the server and you.  

Fill your table with cell phones and wallets

man with smartphone and friends
Put them away so there is room for food. | dolgachov/iStock/Getty Images

In the digital age, it’s hard not to have your phone out at dinner. But if your table is piled high with phones, wallets, small handbags, etc., it makes it very difficult for a server to put food down. When your food arrives, your server probably won’t have any hands to move those items. Just push them out of the way or off the table to allow a smooth transition when you’re being served. It’s amazing how much those small favors can positively impact a server’s night.

Next: This won’t get you a table any sooner. 

Call ahead and expect to be seated when you arrive

Hungry woman holding knife and fork
Calling ahead won’t magically clear a table. | beer5020/iStock/Getty Images

If the restaurant doesn’t take reservations, then it is what it is. If you call ahead and let the host know you’re coming, it doesn’t mean he or she will magically clear a table for your arrival. You’ll still have to wait like everyone else. But if you arrive and complain that you “called ahead,” it only gives the host a headache.

On the contrary, if you’re calling to let the host know that a party of 10 will be there in about an hour, that can actually be helpful. This way, they’ll mentally plan ahead where to seat you. Even though you’ll probably have to wait, the quick “warning” phone call can be helpful if it’s a very large party.

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