Perhaps you’ve had the pleasure of dining with someone who doesn’t know how to conduct themselves in a restaurant. Maybe your date had a laugh that turned every head in the place. Maybe your BFF switches tables like 10 times and is never satisfied. Nobody likes to eat with the jerk who doesn’t tip, or the jerk who snaps at the servers. I don’t know what makes people think they can be rude when they go out to eat, but people are rude when they go out to eat. Hopefully this will shed some light on what to do (and not do) while dining out.
- Always Pay – I know. This should go without saying, but you would be surprised at how many people think they can just walk out if they aren’t happy. I don’t care how bad your food was, or how poorly you were treated- you still need to pay your bill. Dining and ditching is rude, juvenile and really bad form. If your experience at the restaurant was horrible, tell someone about it. A manager might give you the meal on the house, and they might also appreciate knowing what the problem was. When you simply “walk out” on your bill you have taken money away from the servers, the dishwashers, and the hostess.
- Tipping Isn’t Optional – I had an annoying conversation with a clerk at the Target yesterday. He said he doesn’t tip unless he thinks the server is “a good person”. If the server is deemed a bad person by this young man, they don’t get a tip. I was furious. I tried telling him that many servers depend on tips as a part of their salary, and who the heck are you to judge who is a good person anyway? Everyone should tip. If the service is poor talk to the manager, but don’t be a dick and leave nothing. Most restaurants pool tips. And in places like Texas, servers make $2-3 per hour + tips. The tips are included as part of the salary, and they are taxed on it. When you stiff your server (for any reason) you are taking money out of their pocket.
- Respect Reservations – When you reserve a table you are agreeing to be there on time. When you show up early or late you cause the pace of the restaurant to slow down. If you need to cancel the reservation do it as early as possible so the restaurant can re-book your table. And, if you must cancel – CALL.
- Be Nice– Do not snap your fingers at your server. Say please and thank you. Make sure you are asking for things rather than making demands. Servers work on their feet and have a lot to remember. Having you snap your fingers at them doesn’t help. Not even a little.
- Be Respectful – I once had a customer who insisted that we change the music we were playing to something less “loud”. Next she asked that we make the lights brighter for her. Finally she asked for the windows on the patio to be shut. Not only did I not do any of those things for her, I couldn’t do any of those things for her. Things like music, temperature, and lights are usually decided by the owner. Your server isn’t your servant. If you have that many special needs then perhaps you should stay home.
- The Chef Isn’t Your Personal Chef – I know this is a confusing concept to some diners. Restaurants have a menu. Usually, the chef comes up with the menu him or herself. When you ask for substitutions, or make changes to the menu items you are disrespecting the chef. You are also doubling the work in the kitchen. Do you tell the guy who works on your car how to do his job? Probably not. Then don’t tell the cook how to prepare your food.
- Talking – Shhhhhhh! There are other people here! In Prague I encountered many, many loud Americans. They would be sitting in a restaurant laughing loudly, high-fiving, and slamming fists on the table with zero regard to anyone else around. It sucks to eat a meal next to people like that. It also sucks to eat next to the woman who talks on the phone. Loudly. For the entire meal. Turn your phone off, and lower your voice please.
- Keep Your Kids In Line –
Everyone loves going out to eat. Even kids. It is the parents job to teach their children how to behave in a restaurant. Screaming, crying, running, throwing tantrums are all examples of unacceptable behavior. The servers cannot look out for your kids running around, and if a hot plate gets dropped on their head it is totally your fault. Think about dining early when there aren’t as many people. Also, bring some things to occupy them, but make sure they are not electronic. Things that beep and make noise are not good choices for public spaces. Remember: The restaurant is a work space. It is fast paced and dangerous for little people.
- Leaving a Penny Tip Makes You a Dick – As a server, nothing made me more mad than getting a penny as a tip. I once followed a guy out and told him never, ever to do that again. Like I said before, if you have a problem with the food or service, tell the manager. Speak politely and give detail. Leaving a penny tip won’t help the restaurant, it won’t help the server, and it certainly doesn’t help you. If you want to be a dick write a YELP review like everyone else.
- Did you Enjoy Yourself? – If you had a great time at a restaurant let them know. Hearing how great the food was, or what a nice time you had can mean a lot to a server or cook. Restaurants are hard work, so if you enjoy yourself be sure to say thank you. And tell your friends! People who have great dining experiences tell one friend. People who have had bad dining experiences tell everyone.
- PDA – When I see people making out, or playing Footsie under the table it makes me uncomfortable. Why? Because I was eating my steak, and now I want to hurl. Save it for later.