At Your Service: Top 10 Etiquette Tips for Restaurant Servers

Categories: Top 10

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Photo from the Imperial War Museum
7. Don't speak ill of others
If you do happen to decide we're chummy, please don't take that as a sign that you can bitch to me about the other waitress over there who always gets bigger tips than you do because she flirts with her customers 'cause she's such a freaking floozy. And then there's your manager who yells at everyone and is a total jerk, and that one customer who always grabs your ass like it's something that's suddenly socially acceptable. Ugh. You hate them all. I get it. And I sympathize. But it's not very professional to tell me all about it, especially because I might know someone you're talking about. Aside from that, it makes you seem rude, and I wonder what you might say about me when I leave. If you must vent, wait until you get home and tell your cat all about it.

6. Tell us the specials and how much they cost
Even if there's a big 'ol sign listing the specials, it would be great if you could go over them with my friends and me. I am notorious for neglecting to look at those special signs and missing out on good food because of it. I'm just not always that observant. So tell me about it. And when you're reciting the specials, please please tell me how much they cost. My parents once ate at a semi-fancy restaurant in Corpus where no single item on the menu was over $40. They ordered a special (and not something with truffles or caviar or lobster) and it was twice as much as any non-special item. They were shocked because the waiter hadn't given any indication that it was such an expensive special. They were also pissed and never went back. Unless I'm dining at a restaurant where I'm already expecting to be paying well over $100 for my meal alone, I'd like to know how much everything costs. It might seem gauche, but it's also helpful to those of us on a budget.

5. Know the menu
You don't have to have eaten everything on the menu, but you should have a good idea of what ingredients are in every dish and what other people say about it, and you should be able to answer my questions about it. If you don't know the answer to a question, I would much prefer you ask someone instead of making something up. No joke, I've caught waiters doing this. Just try to have a general knowledge of how big a portion size is, whether a dish is spicy and any hidden ingredients that might cause allergies. Be willing to give a recommendation, but for the love of God, don't tell me everything on the menu is a masterpiece.

4. Don't make a scene in front of diners
This is a rare occurrence, but I have seen waiters get in verbal arguments with one another while on the job, and it's super awkward. I mean, sometimes it can be entertaining, but it feels more voyeuristic than theatrical, and that makes most people uncomfortable. Similarly, if you must ask a customer to leave for whatever reason, try not to make a big deal out of it. The customer will probably be pretty unhappy, but you can take charge of the situation by being calm and collected. If you feel it's necessary, go ahead and apologize to the other diners once the unruly guest is gone, but never antagonize him further. Remember what happened to that couple on Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares several months ago? Yeah, don't be like them.

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29 comments
jamesbtowle
jamesbtowle

NO NOT INSULT ME BY TELLING ME THE PRICE UNLESS I ASK! Really what could be more insulting than a server looking down at me and my guests and telling us the price of every item...like can we afford it! PLEASE PLEASE do not give me the price.unless I ask.....McDonalds is just down the street folks go there if your worried about PRICE! 

Ellen Bigelow Jones
Ellen Bigelow Jones

the worst is coming to take away plates when not everyone is finished..and/or asking "are you still working on that" if you put your fork down for 30 seconds...horrible ettiquette

Jeff Berlat
Jeff Berlat

If I keep putting lemons on the table, stop bringing more lemons when you refill my iced tea and if you see the whole glass is full of ice, feel free to stop pouring more ice into my drink when you refill it.

jasonofthesea
jasonofthesea

Yesterday at a certain Montrose Tex-Mex restaurant my wife and I had two servers stand right next to our table and list off reasons to each other why they couldn't take care of us before one of them finally turned to us and said "Hi, I'll be taking care of you."  

Don't fight over us or anything, geez!  We're super easy and good tippers.  I've run a few wine bars and was a damn good waiter before then.  I know when you're giving me attitude.

Then she broke #10 a few times. 

ALSO: Don't resent your restaurant's specials!!  

khoa_98
khoa_98

OK, these were all generated by one visit to Federal Grill (maybe it was just one guy, but still).

1.) Don't recommend something else when I've already ordered something (unless it is terrible, which you should probably be telling the kitchen/chef.)

2.) Wine present to the person who ordered the wine.

3.) You don't have to tell me you are giving me new sliverware.  You can just put it down, and I will assume it's new based on the fact it is clean.

4.) Don't ask if everything is wonderful. Give me some leeway.  It may just be "good."  And you certainly don't have to ask it multiple times a course. 

5.) I don't get the shaking hands thing.  I don't know you.  It's especially awkward when I'm seated.  If the customer offers, sure, but I personally don't really want to shake your sweaty hand.

texmex01
texmex01 topcommenter

and please don't wait until I have a mouth full of food to ask me "how is everything".....

HTownChowDown
HTownChowDown

0. Don't tell me that "everything's good" when i ask for a recommendation. It's not helpful.

sugarpie
sugarpie

I'm with you on everything except number 2.  Can't say we ever finished a patron's left over drinks (except maybe wine from an unfinished bottle), but the bus-tub buffet was a regular part of all our (well, the waiters anyway) routine back in the day.  Not in front of the customers, of course. 

MadMac
MadMac topcommenter

Waiting is HARD work. Mutha' McClellan raised me and my sister on diner tips and I have nothing but RESPECT for waiterstaff. I've done restaurant work from dishwashing to prep, to line cook but never waited. Some folks have the gift--and it is a gift--for customer service, the rest of us need walls and appliances between us and the customers.

It's reasuring to me that I've only seen one or two instances of over-chummy servers--projecting their winning personalities to others--and none of the other behaviours listed here. But then I'll bail on a restaurant in a second if I have a moment's doubt about hygiene, food, or service. I took a date to Joe's Crabshack in the 90s and the waiter cracked wise with me at the door. We left for a joint down the street and I've never gone back. I honestly think that among the myriad other things that sunk Sierra Grill, poor service was at the top of the list. Meanwhile Danton's--at an equally awkward location--thrives in no small part due to the wonderful service.

Great article, Ms. Steinberg. Oh, and we're right here--fingers to eyes--on the touchy-feely bit. No touchy, no touchy!

lisa.a.odonnell
lisa.a.odonnell

@jamesbtowle  Actually I feel awkward if I have to ask the price.  We went to a very nice steak house and the server told us the specials.  My fiancee ordered one.  We were shocked on the bill to find the Waygu $69.99.  If you explain all the specials and the prices at the same time, it's not being offensive or demeaning or judging, it's just stating the price so a customer doesn't have to feel lame asking.  

lisa.a.odonnell
lisa.a.odonnell

@Ellen Bigelow Jones I don't mind.  If someone else is slow, I don't want to sit 20 minutes with a dirty plate in front of me.  Also, "are you still enjoying that?" would be the preferable question.  

mandolin2712
mandolin2712

@texmex01 you're there to eat!! 90% of the time you are going to have food in your mouth!!!

KaitlinS
KaitlinS topcommenter

@texmex01 Haha that's what the thumbs up or down are for!

zebra56
zebra56

@sugarpie OMG, we pretty much existed on leftover food (which we ate in the kitchen, of course).  And I never died as a result!

KaitlinS
KaitlinS topcommenter

@sugarpie Yeah, I don't know how prevalent it really is, but I'm sure my dad appreciates me announcing publicly that he used to finish customers' steaks off their plates. So gross, Dad! The unfinished bottle of wine I can totally get behind though.

Houstess
Houstess

@MadMac Well you know... that banter at Joe's was/is part of the schtick.  They sing and dance too so's you know you're having fun.  Talk about a difficult gig.  And yeah, Danton's wait staff are as fantastic as the food.

The "no touching rule" goes both ways also.  I cringe when I see someone grab a server (that is what I call  them, you sexist KS) especially if it's a woman.  Just don't.  I'd club someone that did that to me.


KaitlinS
KaitlinS topcommenter

@MadMac Haha glad you approve! I'm sure waiting tables is crazy hard work, and most people take it seriously and are able to support themselves and their families doing so. But yeah, just don't touch me! (PS. Is that an Arrested Development reference?)

jamesbtowle
jamesbtowle

@lisa.a.odonnell @jamesbtowle  well I see that can happen...I have asked but I usually call the waiter to me and do so in a low tone as not to involve the other guests....I have done this when I order french wine that is aged...there is a great deal of price difference from restaurant to restaurant depending upon their reputation.....

MadMac
MadMac topcommenter

Yeah, I watched guys paw all over a poor woman serving drinks at the old Sky Bar while she professionally pushed their hands away. That was assault and they need to be clubbed like fish. Seriously am I the only dude who's ever been maced?

Why'd it get so quiet in here? 

MadMac
MadMac topcommenter

Sadly--my Mrs. says with a sigh--I'm not that mature. It's an "Emperor's New Groove," reference and you have to do it with Karate hands. Otherwise it's not funny.

MadMac
MadMac topcommenter

@KaitlinS @MadMac I need to go shower now. On behalf (or bewhole even) of men e'rywhere, I'm so sorry. Honestly, I about as sleazy as it gets--ask my Mrs.--but I draw the line at assault.

KaitlinS
KaitlinS topcommenter

@MadMac I worked at a cocktail bar for a week once cause I couldn't handle all of the skeezy guys touching me. So yeah, it definitely goes both ways.

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