Less Obvious Rules When Dining Out

Going out for dinner is supposed to be a treat. People want to be pampered and have a great night. Your server wants that too. But they’re working to pay rent, not because it seemed like a fun idea for the evening. And just like everyone else that works, there are little things that visitors do in the workplace that drive employees crazy. So here are some things that people do that they probably don’t even realize drive waiters crazy.

1. Unless there is a sign that says Please Seat Yourself, do not seat yourself. There is someone who is getting paid to put you at a table. You may not see them at the moment, but they’re coming. It may seem like you’re helping by just doing it yourself, however there is a system that hosts and hostesses go by. Servers have different sections and are sat in a specific order, by seating yourself, you could throw off the whole system.

2. Once you’ve been sat at a table, if you’re not happy with it, ask to be moved. Don’t move yourself to a new table. Again, there’s a system and you could be screwing somebody over. Don’t grab empty tables yourself and bring them over if you’re expecting more people than you told the hostess. There’s a system and you could be screwing somebody over.

3. Acknowledge your server as a person, and not as an autonomous being that is simply there to bring you things. When they come and greet you, look at them. Don’t just stare blankly or start up a conversation with your friend instead, talk to them. They are people too. If they ask you a question, answer it genuinely. Don’t just blurt out whatever comes to mind, have an actual conversation. If they say “Hello, my name is Matt and I’ll be taking care of you. How are we doing tonight?” DO NOT respond with “Yea, go get me a beer.”

4. Please and thank you go a long way. Requests go a long way. Demands do not. If you ask for a beer politely, you’ll get it as soon as possible. If you say “Yea, go get me a beer” there may be some snags in the order. You’re either going to get the worst beer, or you’re going to hear a list of all 32 beers being served to which you’ll need to make a concise decision. Once that happens, the keg is probably going to run out. Or the bartenders are busy. Either way, it’ll be a while before you get what you demanded.

5. Try to be observant of your surroundings. If it’s busy, don’t tell your life story to the server. Yes, they want to talk with you and build a relationship, but keep it concise during rush hour. While you’re telling your server about what happened at the dry cleaners on Tuesday, two other tables are waiting for their drinks. A child is throwing opened sugar packets around and knocking over pepper shakers. Your server will smile and nod at your story, but she’s dying inside.

6. If you don’t like your meal, tell your server. If you got the wrong thing, tell your server. It’s hectic in a restaurant kitchen, and maybe somebody grabbed the wrong plate. Mistakes happen. If you’re eating someone else’s dish, that means yours is back there but going to waste. And now someone else is waiting for their food. Do not wait until the end of the meal, after you’ve eaten everything to mention there’s a problem. Problems can be resolved when they first come up. They can’t be when you’ve already ingested it.

7. When it’s time for the bill, if your server offers to split everything up for each customer, don’t say you’ll take one and figure it out. Unless it’s all going to be one method of payment. If everyone wants to throw cash in, that’s amazing, disregard this point. If there are 5 people on one bill and you try to pay your own share on different credit cards after doing math in your head, someone is going to get screwed over. Probably the server. If you want separate bills, ask for separate bills.

8. When you’re finished your meal and you’ve paid your bill and there is no coffee left in your mug. Get out. No server ever actually wants to tell you this, because there’s no way of saying it without sounding incredibly rude. But the longer you wait there, the longer it is before another group of people can be sat there. At this point, you’re just a bunch of people sitting around not spending money. And not letting other people spend money. If you want to keep talking, order more things, and they’ll be happy to let you stay. Otherwise, go home. Or go to a coffee shop. But don’t camp.