20 Rude Restaurant Habits You Need to Stop ASAP
Stacking your dishes, passing the salt, using the wrong bread plate, and more: Avoid making rude mistakes while dining out.
Tipping 15 percent
The old rule was to tip your server 10 percent for poor service, 15 percent for good service, and 20 percent or more for work that goes above and beyond. The times have changed, however. “The appropriate tip these days is 20 percent, minimum,” says Maryanne Parker, professional etiquette coach and author of Manor of Manners. If you have a problem with paying the tip amount or with tipping customs in general, that’s not something you should take out on your server, who counts on tips to make the majority of their pay. “Remember, frugal and cheap are two different things,” she says. Still unsure? Check out our restaurant tipping guide.
Stacking plates and cups when you’re finished eating
You may be trying to be helpful to your overworked server by stacking your dirty dishes when you’re finished dining, but this is actually a breach of etiquette, says Leslie Kalk, a restaurant and hospitality coach for more than 30 years. “Stacking plates when done sends a signal to other diners that the waitstaff is not tending to the table properly and the act of doing so exposes the stackers as inexperienced diners,” she explains. “In addition, the waitstaff usually have a well-practiced system for clearing the plates, utensils, and glassware and stacking interferes with that system.” Instead, after enjoying your meal, sit back and allow the waitstaff to handle the details. After all, that’s one of the pleasures of dining out!
Asking for major changes to a menu item when ordering
It’s one thing to ask the kitchen to hold the tomatoes, substitute cauliflower for bread, or put your salad dressing on the side. It’s an entirely different story to ask for the barbecue spare ribs with potatoes to be made vegetarian and glazed in a garlic sauce over rice. It’s rude to ask the kitchen to cater to an endless list of demands, Parker says. There isn’t a hard rule for how many changes you can ask for in one dish but aim to keep it under three. If you need more changes than that, consider ordering a different dish. Make sure you’re abiding by these 13 little etiquette rules everyone should follow at a restaurant.
Leaving your cell phone on the table next to you
The etiquette problems with cell phones in restaurants could be their own article, but one way to short-circuit most problems is to simply turn your phone off or put it on silent and then put it out of eyesight for the duration of your stay, says Adeodata Czink, etiquette expert and author of Business of Manners. “Nothing is more irritating for others than having to listen to your notifications,” she says. “Plus it is very inconsiderate to ignore those dining with you in favor of electronic conversations. It makes them feel unimportant and ignored.”
Asking waitstaff why the website isn’t working
Asking waitstaff, bartenders, or hosts about big-picture issues is not only ineffective—they’re certainly not the ones updating the restaurant’s website in their spare time—but voicing those types of concerns to them is keeping them from doing their work properly, Kalk says. “When one guest spends too much time lecturing their server on the parking situation, other guests are not getting their drinks or their food delivered to their table,” she says. “Instead, ask yourself if the complaint you’re about to share is one for which they might have a solution or be able to make a change. If not, ask for the email address for a manager, owner, or executive who can address your concern.”
Ordering dishes off-menu
Another major faux pas is when people try to create a dish that’s not on the menu, Parker says. The menu is there for a reason and the chef has put a lot of care into creating the dishes. The kitchen is there to serve you but not to create and cook a bespoke meal from scratch just for you, she explains. If you’re not sure if a restaurant will be able to accommodate your specific dietary needs, or if you’d like to request something time-consuming, it’s best to call ahead and ask if that’s something they can do. And be sure to be extra generous with your tip afterward.
Men ordering before ladies
“Men ordering before ladies may not seem like an important modern issue, but restaurants are still enclaves of ritual, etiquette, and chivalry, and ignoring that just drags our society further into mayhem and even chaos,” Kalk says. Men should always allow the ladies at the table the right of first refusal when placing orders. If they aren’t ready then you can go ahead and order, she says. Rules can vary by culture, however, like these 13 strange etiquette rules around the world.
Stealing your neighbor’s wine glass
The nicer the restaurant, the more utensils, cups, and dishes you have to deal with. It can get overwhelming very quickly which can lead people to accidentally take something meant for someone else, Parker says. Fortunately, there’s a quick way to figure out what’s yours, she says. “Follow the simple BMW rule: From left to right, your place setting is Bread, Main course, then Water or wine,” she explains. “You’ll never end up drinking out of someone else’s glass again!”
Separating the salt and pepper shakers
Think of the salt and pepper shakers as twins that must never be apart, Parker says. Passing one at a time makes it easier to lose them on the table and means people will have to ask for them twice if they want both seasonings. “Always pass the salt and the pepper together, even if you are asked to pass just the salt,” she explains. This is just one of the table etiquette mistakes you need to stop making.
Clinking glasses together for a toast
File this one under “things that make a great movie moment but can be very messy in real life”! Actually clinking your glass with someone else’s to make a toast is a big no-no, Parker says. “The glasses can break easily so just raise the glass in front of you, look the person in the eyes, and say cheers,” she explains. “Don’t look at them over the glass while you’re drinking.”