While it may seem we live in a world where basic manners have gone by the wayside, take comfort in knowing that not everyone has totally forgotten about proper etiquette while dining out. The days of Mad Men might be long gone, but social standards are not. It’s time we take a closer look at our societal behaviors, and leave public faux pas at the door. We got the details on some of the worst things people do at restaurants by scouring the web and reaching out to a few experts (well, and some common sense). Our research tells us these are 12 things you should never do at a restaurant.
1. Don’t keep your phone’s ringer on
Your phone starts ringing or lights up with a text while at the table. It’s rude, we all know that. So, do something about it. And it’s not just the patrons who need to remember this tip, either. From VIP diners to back-of-the-house employees, it goes both ways. “Nothing irritates a guest more when the host keeps checking his e-mail or taking a call,” Adeodata Czink, founder of Business of Manners, said.
2. Don’t block the server’s path
Besides being totally unaware of your surroundings, blocking a busy pathway in a restaurant will not only annoy your fellow diners who are trying to eat in peace, but it’s sure to piss off the wait staff. As Thrillist logically says, “Restaurants make money by placing tables in a room. People sit at those tables to eat food.” So then, make sure you’re not that person who’s standing around in a crowded spot, aimlessly staring off into space. The wait staff has a job to do, and getting in their way will only make it more difficult.
3. As the host, don’t finish first
If you’re hosting the dinner and have gathered a group of friends at a restaurant, you, as the host, have some important responsibilities to keep in mind. “If you are the host, make sure to pace yourself so that you end up being the last one to finish each course,” Czink said. This is a forgotten mannerism that needs to resurface. Have you ever been the last one with a plate in front of you just because you are a slow eater? If the wait staff isn’t privy to knowing they shouldn’t collect everyone else’s plates until the last one is finished, make sure you let your server know that you’re still working, even if you’ve finished eating when others have not. And if you’re not the host, Czink says to make sure you wait for the host to toast in such a situation.
4. Don’t sit down at a big table well before the rest of your group arrives
Restaurants aim to have a high turnover rate each and every night. The less tables they turn, the less money they make. You may be angry when all your friends are late for dinner, but get an accurate time of arrival rather than fibbing to the host. Don’t turn your friends’ inconsideration into your own. Rather than taking up an entire table, grab a drink at the bar and wait for them there. The wait staff will appreciate this move.
5. Don’t reach across the table
Sharing’s great, after all, sometimes that’s the best part about eating out — getting to try what everyone else ordered. But there’s a polite way, and a not so polite way, to go about taste-testing your dining partner’s grub. “If you feel you must share,” Czink says, “ask the other one to put it on his bread plate and pass the bread plate rather than put your fork into his food.”
6. Don’t show up right before the kitchen closes
Don’t let your hunger fog your otherwise good judgment. Even though a restaurant is technically still open, you still need to be considerate. The Daily Meal points out strolling into a place that’s only open for 20 more minutes isn’t exactly going to score you points with the staff. The kitchen has likely already entered clean-up mode, and the servers have begun counting money. These are telltale signs you should keep moving. If we’ve learned anything from the movie Waiting, it’s that nobody likes a latecomer (or someone who sends their food back without good reason, of course).
7. Don’t let the kids run wild
Even if you have kids of your own, seeing anyone’s offspring run wild at a restaurant probably makes your blood boil. We understand, kids need to eat, too, but perhaps there is a time and a place for it all. if you happen to have children who are respectful and well-behaved while dining out at a non-kid-friendly establishment, then our hats off to you. But let’s be honest, no one, and I mean no one, likes to have their meal interrupted by toddlers or out-of-control children. A seasoned service industry veteran and now professional photographer, Tom Clarke has seen his fair share of restaurant behavior taboos. “People with older kids should be responsible for their actions,” Clarke said. Not only are they interfering with another party’s good time, but having kids run amuck presents potential dangers for the staff, as well, since they might be right underfoot as servers are trying to deliver food and drinks.
8. Don’t ask to split the bill several ways after you’ve gotten the check
Splitting up a bill isn’t uncommon. After all, most groups who dine together like to keep things even, and giving your server a heads up prior to placing your order is fair. If they know beforehand, they can keep separate checks going. Asking your server to split the bill 30 ways after it’s been delivered, Thrillist explains, is just obnoxious. Avoid a potential issue by making sure everyone has enough cash to chip in, so you’re not leaving your server with one bill and a handful of credit cards.
9. Don’t stiff the waiter because the food was bad
It’s common knowledge that waiters largely depend on tips since they do not make much of an hourly wage, so of course, most people in the service industry try to work toward earning a decent tip. But what’s not their fault is underwhelming food. “The waiter didn’t make your food,” Clarke said. “The waiter is there to be knowledgeable about the menu and bring your stuff. The waiter is not a mind reader. If there is an issue, go ahead and say it right away and let the waiter resolve it.” Don’t wait until it’s time to pay and give the waiter less of a tip than he or she really deserves.
10. Don’t raise your hand to get your server’s attention
Ever see those incredibly rude people who think it’s acceptable to raise your hand, or even worse, snap (gasp) at their server? Ick. “Don’t raise your hand to get your server’s attention,” said Jonathan Arons, an account manager who’s worked with plenty of restaurants and chefs. “Your server or someone will be able to pick up on your nonverbal clues that you need something.”
11. Don’t tip according to a comped price
Sometimes, it pays to know people in the restaurant industry. Your friend who works at the neighborhood bar usually hooks it up. Or the servers at an upscale restaurant in your small town always comp a good portion of your bill because you’re a local. This is all great news for you, of course. But before you get too overzealous every time you belly up to the bar or order the most expensive filet on the menu, remember proper protocol.
When it comes to tipping, keep in mind you should tip according to what the total bill would have been before any deductions. These places want to keep you coming back for more, which is why they’ve been so kind in the first place. But that free drink or side dish of yours didn’t fall from the sky; it’s coming out of someone’s pocket. Skimp on a proper tip, and you can kiss those hookups goodbye.
12. Don’t stray too far from the menu
While slight modifications and special requests are to be expected, and often easily accommodated, don’t go crazy with it. A menu has been thoughtfully prepared by a professional chef, and it’s not to be considered as just a list of ingredients. “Don’t build your own menu or have lots of modifications to the menu,” Arons said. “The chef created something that he wants to share with you.” And if you do have serious allergies to common foods or ingredients, however, just be courteous enough to call ahead and let the restaurant know.