The Surprising Things Your Waiter Knows About You Just by Looking at You, Revealed

Today, waiters are trained to do more than recite “Hi, my name is … ,” according to The Wall Street Journal. They’re trained to pick up on body language — learn why on page 2 — to offer better service. Discover the silent signals you’re sending your waiter, ahead.

Did you bring a laptop?

woman at cafe using laptop

A woman uses her laptop at a cafe. |

A customer with a laptop on their table “might not be interested in appetizers that are best for sharing or learning a lot about the cocktail menu, Ricky Richardson, the chief operating officer for Carlson Restaurants Inc., which operates T.G.I. Friday’s, told The Wall Street Journal.

Hint: Waiters want to know what you need before you do.

‘Read the table’

Young beautiful woman thinking of food to order in front of a waiter

A server takes an order. | Ridofranz/iStock/Getty Images

Waiters are trained to “read the table,” according to The Wall Street Journal. It’s also referred to as “having eyes for a table” or “feeling a table.” “It’s how the best waiters know what type of service you prefer before you tell them.” Essentially, waiters are taught to anticipate a customer’s needs.

Hint: Selling styles have changed. Expect wait staff to behave differently.

Situational selling

Two women sitting at cafe holding menu card giving an order to male waiter.

A server recommends a dish. | jacoblund/iStock/Getty Images

“We changed ‘suggestive selling’ to ‘situational selling,’” Rene Zimmerman, senior director of training and development for Bob Evans Farms, told The Wall Street Journal. This means waiters will offer customers items based on what they’ve ordered. For instance, a waiter may offer a person who ordered a vegetarian meal, a side of fruit instead of bacon.

Hint: What your phone says to your waiter.

The person glued to their phone

Smart Phone

A person uses their cellphone. | Blackzheep/iStock/Getty Images

A person scrolling through their phone, sitting alone at a restaurant signals to a waiter they’re waiting on someone. Or they probably dining alone. Waiters may ask if they’re waiting for more people to arrive and get them a drink while they wait.

Hint: Waiters don’t like it when you look up from your plate.

The customer who kept looking away from their meal 

People dine at a cafe.

People dine at a cafe. | Rawpixel/iStock/Getty Images

A customer not focused on their meal is typically a bad sign, meaning they’re not satisfied with their food. At the Cheesecake Factory, employees are taught to look for people “pushing food around their plate, or removing ingredients from their dish,” according to The Wall Street Journal.

Hint: Did you grab the wine list? Here’s what that told your waiter.

The person who immediately read the wine list

Red wine glasses and bottle on stone table. Top view with copy space

Wine | karandaev/iStock/Getty Images

Do you immediately read the wine list when you sit down at a restaurant? If the answer is yes, “expect the waiter to focus wine explanations and questions about refills to you,” according to The Wall Street Journal. Your waiter has assumed you’re the leader on alcohol and will look to you with information about happy hour or any specials.

Hint: Do this with your menu to place your order faster.

Your menu is closed, and you’re looking around

A menu resting on a restaurant table, emphasis placed on the golden embroidery lettering against the black with the image's focus. Silverware, napkins and glasses sit in the background as blurry shapes at the menu's edge, all resting on a light brown table.

A menu | dmbaker/iStock/Getty Images

This is the universal sign of “ready to order.” A closed menu is a sign you’re done so don’t leave your menu open in front of you. Your waiter may think you’re still reviewing the menu and leave your table alone when you actually want to order.

Hint: Wear a suit to lunch for speedy service.

What wearing a suit means


Businesswoman | Nandofotos/iStock/Getty Images

Wearing business attire at lunch typically means speedy service to waiters. If you just stepped away from your desk for a quick bite to eat, chances are you have to go back to your desk soon. Any work uniform usually means the same thing, you’ve got to get back to work.

Hint: There’s one exception to wearing business attire.

The exception to wearing a suit

Three businessmen in suits are smiling, talking and drinking beer

Co-workers meet at a restaurant. |

There is one instance when wearing a suit doesn’t indicate a quick lunch. If a group of people in business attire show up, they may be having a pitch meeting or discussing a project at length. This is when it becomes the waiter’s job to define the situation and serve accordingly.

Hint: What being overdressed at a restaurant tells the waitstaff.

What being dressed up tells your waiter 

Couple at a restaurant.

Couple at a restaurant | FlairImages/iStock/Getty Images

Being overdressed typically means going out to eat isn’t your final destination. You probably have a party to attend after or have tickets to a show. This is especially true when an early reservation is made and people show up dressed to the nines. A waiter will make a note to serve you faster because you have somewhere to be.

Hint: Uttering this phrase is a red flag to your waiter.

‘It’s OK’

Group of young

A group enjoys a meal. | ViewApart/iStock/Getty Images

“Saying food is ‘OK’ is a red flag that you aren’t happy with your meal,” according to The Wall Street Journal. A good waiter will do what they can to change your answer from “OK” to “good” by offering solutions.

Hint: Your waiter wants to make eye contact with you.

Not making eye contact 

A waitress takes an order.

A waitress takes an order. | monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images

Eye contact is important. Waiters are trained to look for eye contact between a group of people — this means they’re friendly — and if they’re not, this may be an uncomfortable situation, such as a work meeting to discuss performance. Waiters are trained to make eye contact with customers. “You have to give your guests a full smile for more than three seconds,” Mark Bowden, a body language expert told Typsy. This includes eye contact.

Hint: Staff trained to note these three things.

Waiters remember these 3 things about customers

Female friends smiling and laughing With Each Other.

Friends enjoy a meal together. | ibowdenimages/iStock/Getty Images

Restaurant staff members are trained to note three things among customers. They are 1.) their body language, 2.) eye contact, and 3.) offhand remarks, according to The Wall Street Journal. As a customer, keep these three things in mind the next time you go out to eat.

Hint: Appearing upset may get you better service.

Acting moody? How a waiter would respond

Hungry woman holding knife and fork

A woman sits hungrily. | beer5020/iStock/Getty Images

Waiters “are more careful to get every detail right when they believe a table is already in a bad mood,” according to The Wall Street Journal. A couple breaking up and a tense discussion over business are two examples.

Hint: Reading the menu line by line means this to waiters.

If you’re really into the menu

Menu reading

A server explains the menu. | LightFieldStudios/iStock/Getty Images

A customer reading the menu closely can signal to a waiter a few different things. It may mean the customer is a foodie and excited about the menu. It may also mean they need direction on what to order because they can’t decide.

Hint: The simple thing a waiter will do to get your attention.

A body language tip waiters use themselves

Two waiters talking in restaurant

Two waiters talking in a restaurant | Michael Blann/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Waiters may put their hand on the table if a party doesn’t acknowledge their presence or realize they’re standing in front of their table. Doing so “draws the group’s eyes up and out of the conversation, interrupting but without being pushy,” Alex Martin, a waiter at Blue Smoke restaurant, told The Wall Street Journal.

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Read more: The Savage Way Restaurant Servers Have Messed With Rude Customers