15 Things Polite People Don’t Do in Restaurants
You’re not actually being that helpful when you reach for the mound of plates the server is holding.
What diners shouldn’t do
Dining out at a restaurant is often a special occasion and a way to “treat yourself,” but that doesn’t mean you can act however you want—far from it. Along with the table etiquette mistakes you need to stop making, here are some all-too-common behaviors that etiquette experts, as well as restaurant workers and patrons, agree actually have no place in restaurants.
Disturbing other diners
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No, a restaurant is not a library; of course it’s acceptable to laugh and talk, and plenty of more casual restaurants can even be on the noisy side. But you and your party are not the only ones in the establishment. If you’re all but yelling or being rowdy, you’re not being respectful of other diners. Another behavior that restaurant workers and patrons alike say is all too common is when parents let their children run around the restaurant and bother other diners. There are playgrounds, museums, and backyards for that.
Restaurant patron Antoinette Kuritz remembers one time in particular when she was dining at a La Jolla, California restaurant. “A family of about eight or ten people arrived and were seated at a table in the middle of the room,” she says. “The adults proceeded to converse loudly as the children ran through the room playing tag.” She told RD.com that management was alerted, but did nothing. “Once home, I called the restaurant and told them how good the food was, how great the service was, and why I would neither frequent nor recommend their establishment again,” she remembers.
Treating your server like they’re “beneath” you
This is widely considered one of the most disrespectful restaurant behaviors possible. There’s considerable research that being rude to your server can instantly make you unappealing on a date. In addition to behaviors like yelling and raising your voice to get your server’s attention, simply your demeanor can come off as condescending to waitstaff. For instance, don’t forget simple courtesies like “please” and “thank you”! In general, as Kalev Rudolph, food and lifestyle writer for insurantly.com, puts it: Just remember that your server is just doing his or her job. “Your waiter is at work, and while they are there to make you feel comfortable and cared for, they are still a professional employee,” he told RD.com. “Just because someone is ‘serving’ you, please try not to forget that the people behind the notepad or refilling a glass are just that: people.” That pretty much sums it up!
Taking everything out on your server
The rule of “don’t-be-nasty-to-your-server” applies even when your dining experience isn’t going your way. As Rudolph points out, plenty of common restaurant issues aren’t the fault of your server—but they’re the ones who take the brunt of the complaints for it. “Customers often take out frustrations about delays on food or bad restaurant management on servers who have no control over what happens in the kitchen,” he says. “Of course, this does not mean you can’t be frustrated if a server doesn’t check on your table (or downright ignores you). But, if food is taking a while and your server lets you know, please be kind to them.” Learn more secrets your restaurant server isn’t telling you.
Asking for something in exchange for a tip
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“I’ll give you a good tip if you bring me some extra guac!” Whether this is supposed to be a joke or not, it’s basically bribery and is not appropriate. And it’s not like your server would be allowed to comply! In addition, servers would also prefer that you didn’t say, “We’re in a hurry, can you keep things moving?” or something to that effect. Again—the speed of things is, in most cases, not in the server’s control. Tipping can be confusing, but we have a guide for how much to tip in different situations.
Bringing in outside food
“That to-go cup of coffee you grabbed as you were waiting for your brunch table to be ready? Ditch it before you go in to the restaurant,” says Nick Leighton, etiquette expert for Were You Raised by Wolves. Many restaurants do have signs asking that you not bring in food or drink you got elsewhere, and it’s one rule that polite restaurant patrons follow.
Arriving right before closing time
Or right before the kitchen closes, or whatever the variation is for your chosen establishment. It’ll certainly make the restaurant staff’s jobs harder, but it really is a lose-lose for you too. You’ll get rushed service and your server will probably be annoyed. You can also improve your own dining experience by avoiding these common restaurant mistakes diners need to stop making.
Complaining about the price
It’s the same scenario as when you complain to your server about kitchen errors. The waitstaff does not make the prices. So saying, “That’s a little pricey for [insert menu item here], isn’t it?” is not going to benefit you in any way. It’ll just make you seem annoying.
Asking for extra seasoning
Not every restaurant meal is going to be to your liking. And while obviously, if your order arrives wrong, it’s more than okay to ask (without being rude) for it to be switched out or fixed, don’t go overboard with asking for tweaks to your meal after the fact. “Salt, pepper, and ketchup [are] acceptable, but don’t go asking for extra cajun seasoning or garlic pepper or cinnamon from the kitchen,” says Enrique Limardo, co-owner and executive chef of Seven Reasons, in Washington, D.C. “You’re insinuating the chef did not do their best.” By the way, these are the restaurant menu items professional chefs say they’d never order.
“Helping” your server with the plates
This is one of the rude restaurant behaviors that you probably think is actually nice! As James Metcalfe of Marathonbet, who asked his restaurant-owning friend for tips, points out, it’s natural to want to “unburden” your server when you see them coming toward you with arms piled high with food that you’re going to eat and enjoy. But this can throw off their groove, so to speak. “Besides it being quite a confrontational thing, [by] lunging at a server from your seat, you run the risk of upsetting the balance the server has carefully built up on the tray,” he says. Your server has spent plenty of time training to be able to do this. He or she is a pro. So while you do probably think you’re helping, it’s okay to stay in your seat.