Dining out is meant to be a fun and pleasant experience. We show up, we sit down, we order, we eat, we pay, and we leave. But even though that may sound like a rather straightforward experience, there are actually a lot of unspoken rules that you really should be playing by, especially at a fancier establishment.
20. Arrive Right Before the Kitchen Closes
If a restaurant closes at 11, that doesn’t mean that you can show up at 10:50 and expect the staff to be OK with it. The staff has most likely had a very long and hard day, and there’s a ton of cleanup to do before they can go home. Don’t make them stay late just so you can eat.
19. Arrive Very Late for Your Reservation
Full restaurants operate like well-oiled machines, and when someone arrives very late for a reservation (or doesn’t show up at all), it throws a wrench into the works that can trickle down to everyone else booked for that table. If you’re going to be more than 10 minutes late, call the restaurant and let them know.
18. Be Disrespectful to the Server
If your steak is overcooked, it’s not the server’s fault. Be nice to your server, and they’ll be nice to you. This should be common sense, but people often forget.
17. Tip Less Than 20 Percent
Unless your server spends the entire meal chatting with coworkers and can’t be bothered to actually do any aspects of their job, there’s no reason to leave them less than 20 percent, especially at a nice restaurant. Servers depend on tips to earn a living, so if you refuse to tip well, don’t go to restaurants.
16. Bring Wild Children
You know your children better than anyone else. If you think they’re going to be running around, loudly annoying the other diners, and getting in the way of the wait staff, hire a babysitter. You may think it’s cute, but it’s not.
15. Bring a Dog
Bringing a service dog is one thing; bringing a tiny Chihuahua in your handbag and telling the staff that it’s your service dog is another. Restaurants are not for animals, unless you’re sitting outside.
14. Change Your Baby on the Table
Yes, some people actually do this. People have to eat off of that, and that’s just about the last thing that your fellow diners want to see… or smell.
13. Hang Around After Paying
The fewer tables servers can turn over, the fewer tips they get. If you hang around for half an hour after paying your bill, you’re wasting your server’s time, and costing them money. And you’re most likely throwing off the entire reservation system in the process.
12. Ignore the Server
When your server first introduces him or herself to you, don’t interrupt them with your drink order. And when they’re letting you know what the specials are, pay attention the first time so they don’t have to repeat themselves. At nice restaurants, servers also usually ask if you have any questions about the menu; take this opportunity to actually ask questions!
11 Leave Dirty Tissues on the Table
Someone has to pick those up, and it’s not pleasant. Also, please don’t blow your nose into the cloth napkin. That’s just gross.
You never want to be the loudest person in the restaurant. Being slightly boisterous is OK if it’s a lively place, but getting into a heated argument with your spouse, the server, etc. doesn’t just make you look bad; it makes everyone within earshot uncomfortable.
9. Lie About Allergies
If you have a legitimate food allergy, make sure you tell your server as soon as you sit down. If everyone at the table suddenly has gluten, dairy, eggplant, mushroom, caviar, and olive tapenade allergies, the staff will know that you’re making it up but will still have to treat your fake allergy as if it could be life threatening. Just ask for the offending component to be left off your dish, or (in the case of a set menu) request an alternative course; they’ll most likely be more than happy to accommodate.
8. Don’t Say “Please” or “Thank You”
This is the simplest one of all. Be polite, and you’ll be treated well in response.
7. Send Back an Entrée After Eating Half
If you take a bite or two of your food and don’t like it, politely tell the server (along with the reason you don’t like it), and they’ll bring it back to the kitchen, tell the chef, and have them fire up something new for you. If you eat half of your food before sending it back and expect it to be taken off of your bill without ordering anything else, then the staff will know you’re trying to con your way into a free meal.
6. Spend the Entire Meal on Your Phone
When you’re at a restaurant, put your phone on silent and leave it in your pocket. If you want to post a photo on Instagram, take a quick snap and wait until after the meal. Those texts and emails can wait until you get home. Spending the meal spaced out on your phone communicates to your companions – and the server – that you simply don’t care about them.
5. Spread Out
If you’ve spent all day shopping and arrive at the restaurant with five bags full of clothes, don’t put them on the banquette next to you; you’ll have to move them when someone else sits down, and the bags will be encroaching into their personal space. Just leave them with coat check, if there is one, or put them under your table. Same goes for heavy coats: either check them or put them over the back of a chair.
4. Whistle, Shout, or Touch the Server
The servers are there to do their job, not to be your personal servant. If you want your server’s attention, don’t shout their name from across the restaurant, don’t whistle at them, don’t try to get their attention while they’re waiting on another table, and never, ever touch them. Wait for them to walk by and catch their eye.
3. Switch Tables
Even though it may not be apparent, there’s a method to where you were seated when you were seated. If you have major concerns with your table, you should voice them to the host or hostess and politely ask to be seated elsewhere (ideally before you even sit down), instead of just moving. If you just get up and sit down at another table, you could throw the whole dining room out of whack.
2. Say You’re Ready to Order… And Not Be Ready to Order
A server’s time is precious, and time spent standing there waiting for you to make up your mind can be better spent in countless ways. If you don’t know what you want, ask your server to come back in a couple minutes; he or she won’t mind.
1. Neglect to Move Stuff Out of Their Way when Food Arrives
If your phone and cocktail are on the table directly in front of you, where is your server supposed to put your heavy plate of food? Be polite and clear some space before your food arrives.