So You Want To Be A Waiter

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Top 100 things that a guest should try to avoid doing

This is a list of things that a guest should consider not doing (in no particular order). Note that these aren’t intended as absolutes – there are always exceptions to the rule depending on the type of restaurant that you are patronizing or special circumstances. Here are the first 25. Who knows? I might not even make to 100 because I’ll try not to be too petty.

1. Don’t make multiple reservations at multiple restaurants for the same night just so you guarantee yourself a table somewhere. I don’t care if it’s Valentine’s Day. If you absolutely must do this because you don’t know your fellow guests’ preferences, at least have the courtesy to call the losing restaurants to cancel your reservations.

2. Don’t lie about having made a reservation. Man up and accept the consequences. Even if you’re a woman.

3.  Don’t demand a different table than the one that you have been assigned. You are free to ask politely if you can be moved, but keep in mind that there might be a very good reason why you are being seated where you are. If you are moved, keep in mind that your service might very well suffer, but it’s not spite – you might have just caused a waiter to be triple-seated.

4. Leave your cell phone on vibrate for the first 10 minutes after you’re sat and avoid the temptation to answer it (unless your wife is about to give birth or something). If you violate this, I’m likely to let you sit drinkless and uninformed about the specials until you deign to give me your undivided attention.

5.  If something isn’t cooked properly, tell your waiter as soon as possible so that they can fix it. Try not to be mean, rude or take it personally that your food wasn’t quite right. Kitchen people are human, you know. And I can’t use my x-ray vision to tell that your steak is medium instead of medium rare.  I only use it to see through clothes and wallets.

6. Don’t snap your fingers at me.

7. Don’t dismissively wave me off.

8. Don’t call me baby, honey, sweetie, stud muffin, buddy, hey you, dickwad, gorgeous, or other terms of endearment unless you know me. However, if you have a southern accent, “hon” is fine.

9. Don’t automatically assume that my intentions are impure. I might have to ask you about bottled water. I might be required to offer dessert. I might have to ask you if you want bread instead of just automatically bringing it. And don’t assume that my sales techniques are evil. I am in sales, you know.

10. Don’t take out your bad day on me. Let me fix your bad day.

11. Don’t avoid my eye contact, especially when giving me an order. It makes it hard to hear you and get your order right. Display a courteous public manner.

12. Don’t grab me, especially if I’m at a neighboring table. If I am an attractive male or female, don’t touch me without my prior consent. Hell, even if your waiter looks like me, don’t touch them or get grabby.

13. Don’t assume anything about my intelligence or educational background just because I’m waiting tables.

14. Please don’t say “I want…”. I know that it’s common parlance these days, but “I’d like” is so much nicer and polite.

15. Please don’t ask me what the soup of the day or what the special is before I’ve had a chance to give you the menu or the rest of your guests have arrived. Don’t worry – I’ll tell you when I tell you about the specials. You’ll have plenty of time to decide.

16. Don’t ask me for my phone number unless I’ve indicated that I’m interested in giving it to you. Don’t confuse friendliness for wanting to sleep with you.

17. Don’t mind if I ask you what kind of change you’d like. It’s my polite way of asking you if you want me to “keep the change”. I’m not trying to manipulate you, I”m just not a mind-reader. The best thing is to tell me directly “the rest is for you” or some variant of this before I have to ask. Believe or not, there is a small minority of people who seem to be annoyed if you bring the change back. I’d rather save the trouble of trying to scrounge up your change and this will help me avoid an unecessary trip or time away from my section. Help me help you get the best service possible.

18. If you really need separate checks, please tell me upfront.  If you are ordering almost the same thing, please just split the check down the middle. Don’t worry about paying a buck more than your fellow diner. If you dine out enough together, it will all even out in the end.

19. Don’t just “double the tax” for the tip. It’s not hard to mentally calculate the correct tip.

20. If you are dining with a large group that has requested separate checks, don’t be “that guy”. Don’t let the others pick up your slack when it comes to the tip. 

21. Don’t be afraid to lower your tip if the service is lacking. You’re not doing the waiter, the restaurant or yourself any favors by rewarding bad service. However, understand that in the modern dining world, 10% or less is considered an “insult tip”. You should reserve the dreaded penny or no tip for the absolute worst service. If the service is really bad (but not horrific, insulting or totally abysmal without any redeeming value), 5% is appropriate. Remember the standard is 15% for average service. You should tip more when it’s obvious that the waiter has really cared about your experience and has hit all of the right notes.

22. Don’t lie about allergies. If you don’t like garlic, just say so.

23. Don’t put your gum on the bottom of the table. That’s nasty. You’d be surprised how many people do this. I know because I’ve had to scrape off dozens of multi-colored hardened globs of Dentyne Ice from tables while being paid 2.13 an hour to do it.

24. Don’t be rude or demanding if you can’t be sat at the exact time of your reservation. Allow at least a 10 minute variance because, let’s face it, some diners stay longer than expected.

25. Be on time for your reservation. If you’re going to be later than 10 minutes, please call the restaurant and let them know. Understand that if you’re more than 20 minutes late, your table might have been given away.

Yes, there will be more later…


3 responses to “Top 100 things that a guest should try to avoid doing

  1. SkippyMom October 30, 2009 at 3:24 pm

    #8 – I will gladly refrain if my waiter does the same. I am so tired of being called all of those by my server.

    #17 – You will solve all your problems with this with one simple sentence “I will be right back with your change.” This allows the guest to either say “No, it is for you” or “Thank you” and await your return. I have never, ever had a problem using this sentence while serving and I do get annoyed when a waiter asks “Do you need change?” [which you don’t do] but would be equally annoyed if I was asked “How would you like your change?” of some variation, which it appears you do use. I am not going to detail that I want 2 $5s and the rest ones…it is the waiter’s job to change out the bill.

    As a former waitress we tip extremely well but either of those responses from the waiter would make me think twice. Then I would still tip 20% instead of my usual 30%/40%.

  2. teleburst October 30, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    “I do get annoyed when a waiter asks “Do you need change?” [which you don’t do] but would be equally annoyed if I was asked “How would you like your change?” of some variation, which it appears you do use.”

    I use this because we actually get quite a few specific requests for change because of the valet that we use. I’ve never sensed any annoyance with this approach, but if I did, I’d probably use explain the part about the valet – “A lot of people ask ne for certain change because of the valet”. People often hand us a twenty and ask for “all fives” or, “I need ones for the valet”. This also happens when people tell us what kind of change that they need – “Can I get some extra ones for the valet?”

    I realize that this approach isn’t applicable if there’s no valet, but I’ve been burned one or twice when I’ve just brought back the change, so I always find some way to ask the guest’s intentions.

    Believe it or not, a few people seemingly get annoyed when you bring back their change automatically, especially when they meant for it to be the tip. They seem to think that you’re signalling that you’re not happy with what they left you. That’s why I always ask in the most neutral way I can. People are funny in that they don’t all reason the same way.

    It puts both the waiter and the diner in an awkward position sometimes. I try not to assume anything. Sometimes I’ll even try to prompt them one way or another by saying “I’ll be right back with your change”, at which point, if they want you to keep the change, they’ll tell you.

    That’s why I’m glad when they tell me upfront that they don’t need change. I think that’s the smoothest way.

    I do think it’s wrong to assume that the change is the tip and just vanish with the change. That’s not smart business. Especially if they’ve given you a $100 bill on a $70 check . :g:

    What annoys me is when they give you a $100 bill on an $85 check and they take a $5 back . :chuckle:

    “#8 – I will gladly refrain if my waiter does the same. I am so tired of being called all of those by my server”.

    Agreed. Although I would have punched the waiter when they called you a dickwad.

    Actually, there are some guests that I call “sweetie”, but only because I know them as regulars and they’ve called me that first. And the same goes for “buddy”. I think that when someone calls you that, they unconsciously hoping that you’ll return the favor.

  3. Mari November 1, 2009 at 2:33 pm

    #19 –

    In the state I’m in (CA), doubling the tip at the old scale would give a server about a 16% tip, while now it would be about 18%. I think where I’m at, doubling the tax would work.

    Not that I let my husband do that – I always look at the total and double what 10% is unless I felt something was lacking.

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