Restaurant EtiquetteWaiting tables is a tough gig. You have to mentally balance the requests and demands of countless customers at once. You have to physically balance plates of steaming hot food. You have to be on your feet for hours at a time with no breaks. You have to serve people like my great-aunt, who have no qualms calling you “the help” to your face. I thought it would be interesting to see what servers had to say about the crazy world of working at a restaurant, so I asked a bunch of them one question: “What would you like to say to every customer who sits down at one of your tables?” I got responses from the people who serve your food at national chain restaurants, quiet cafes, and everything in between. Here are their answers, in their own words….

Speed Of Service

1. “Be aware of your surroundings. If you have to wait to be seated, you will have to wait for your food. If you come in on your lunch break and have to wait 10-15 minutes to get seated, don’t expect to be out of there and back to work within half an hour.”

2. “Nine times out of ten the server has no control on how fast your food comes out. When a restaurant gets busy really quickly it can crash the kitchen. Go home and try to make meals for 150 all at the same time–it takes awhile.”

3. “Let us know if you are in a hurry at the start; we can possibly help! If you wait until later to tell us, it just seems rude.”

4. “Don’t ask me for 100 things from the kitchen, then ask where the rest is when I only bring out half. I’ll get the rest on my second trip. Apparently I look like an octopus to you.”

5. “Even when a restaurant looks empty, the servers are probably busy. Maybe only 20 tables total are sat, but there’s a good chance there’s only 2 servers on at that time. We don’t always carry 14 servers. At our “dead time” those two servers are also having to host, do to-go orders and set up your trays in the back.”

Your Order 

6. “When you talk to your server, actually look at them. For one, it shows respect; and two, I need to be able to hear you, and I have 100 other people talking around me and music playing. I can’t hear your mumbles when you’re looking down.”

7. “Servers have no control over things like if your steak is cooked right, and a lot of times even if we put your order in the computers right, the food still comes out wrong. Don’t assume your server is to blame.”

8. “Let your wife order for herself. I have questions to ask about her order anyways.”

9. “When I ask you if your food came out right or if everything is tasting fine, please tell me right away so I can have it fixed if you don’t like it. Don’t wait until you’re done to actually tell me, or until my manager walks by to tell them. I tried to help you at the start so don’t get mad when you have eaten the whole thing and then tell me you don’t like it.”

10. “If you need a couple things, don’t ask for one, then ask for another, and another, and another every time I bring something out. I don’t have time to make 20 trips for you.”

11. “My biggest annoyance is when customers call you over to the table to ask if their food is coming soon. If you are calling me over to check on your food, 1) you are wasting my time because I have about 10 other things I could/should be doing and 2) your food is likely sitting up in the food window waiting for me to run it but getting colder because I am standing here talking to you instead.”

The Bill

12. “If you are sitting at your table for a long time after eating, chances are your server may be waiting for you to pay so they can be done with their shift. Pay as quickly as possible, especially if the bill is on the table.”

13. “If you need your bill split, let us know at the start of service at your table. That way we can keep track of what each person had. And don’t get all pissy when it is time for your server to have to deal with multiple checks.”

14. “One or two forms of payment at a table is acceptable, after that it’s hard for your server.”

The Tip

15. “If you can’t afford to tip, don’t come out to eat.”

16. “We appreciate a tip of 20% or more, but we expect 15%, unless your server was really awful.”

17. “Don’t tip your server on how your food tasted. We don’t cook the food; we serve it. Please base your tip on how well we served you.”

18. “In some states, the servers don’t make minimum wage and we only make $2.63 an hour, which is eaten up by taxes anyway. So yes, the money you tip us pays our bills, feeds our kids, and so on.”

19. “Tip 20 percent, otherwise the service wasn’t that great. Don’t tip less because you have children, are young, old, or in a group.”

20. “Tips are so important because our income is not steady, it changes depending on how busy the restaurant is. If you come in on a slower night, tipping really well is especially helpful.”

21. “If there are more than four people at the table, chances are it makes it harder for the server, so tip appropriately.”


22. “Don’t let your child run or roam around the restaurant. Heavy plates and hot items are easy to drop on little ones.”

23. “Don’t let your baby hang out on the floor. It’s dirty and who knows how well someone cleaned up that broken glass earlier?”

24. “Please don’t let your kids empty every sugar packet, dump out the salt, draw on the table, throw food, crunch their food up and throw it on the floor, all while you think it’s cute…..Would you let them do that at home? Probably not.”

Common Courtesies

25. “Be nice! If we ask how you are doing today, don’t say ‘Diet coke.’”

26. “I have to clean up your mess, so when you leave the table looking like a bomb went off, I am cursing you under my breath. Try to at least pick up after yourself a little bit.”

27. “No snapping at your server, ever.”

28. “DO NOT shake your empty glass when you need a refill. I pride myself on keeping drinks filled, but you aren’t the only one here and if you down your drink in 30 seconds, you’re going to have to wait a minute for a refill.”

29. “Don’t set your dirty plates on another table.”

30. “Sit down and be served. It’s really annoying when people don’t sit, especially in larger groups.”

31. “Don’t yell at your server from across the section. And don’t try to get your server’s attention while they are taking an order at the table next to you. Yes it happens. People sit there and say “Miss! Miss! I need more ranch!” They can clearly see I am taking care of another table at that second.”

32. “If it seems like closing time, eat and drink quickly. Don’t be the only customers in the restaurant after closing time. Of course you have a little leeway, but be aware that everyone is waiting for you to leave so we can go home.”

33. “Eat inside in winter or crappy weather. Don’t make your server go outside in the cold and rain without a jacket.”

34. “You don’t know how many times I have greeted a table, and they don’t even look up and acknowledge me, or answer me when I ask them a question. Don’t seem put off by your waitress. That’s what a sit-down meal is about.”

A Few More Random Thoughts

35. “It doesn’t matter how old or young you are, if your server asks for ID, get it out and don’t make stupid comments. Yes, I know you are probably of age, but it is my job to make sure you’re 21, so I need to see that before you can have a drink.”

36. “You may look at me as a ‘waitress’ and like it’s not a real job. But I would like to see you come run my 9 table section by yourself, and I’ll go sit behind your desk and answer phones.”

37. “Don’t get huffy if I don’t flirt with you. That’s not part of my job description.”

38. “I wish people realized what a hard job serving is mentally and physically. We work really freaking hard, don’t get breaks, constantly have at least a handful of things to do at once, have to deal with customers, crazy co-workers, and stupid managers all day so the least people can do is just be courteous and nice to us.”

39. “I think everyone should be a server once in their lifetime, just to get a better appreciation for it. It’s a very demanding job.”

And Finally, A Rule Everyone Should Live By

40. “If you’re hateful, stay home.”

Any other servers out there who would like to weigh in? Please share your thoughts in the comments!


The FriskyThis post originally appeared on The Frisky. Republished with permission.

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