Without a doubt, servers can go through some of the roughest patches while they’re on the job. In just one night, they can serve a record number of people, many of whom probably aren’t in the best mood, all while dealing with fed-up coworkers, backups in the kitchen, and anything else the night throws their way. Restaurant patrons often try to do what they can to help their servers have an easier night, like stacking plates or sticking silverware in glasses, but their efforts aren’t always as helpful as they might think.
Restaurant workers around the country have voiced their opinions about the annoying behaviors of patrons. Read on to find out what their biggest pet peeves are while they're on the clock. Hopefully you won’t see some of your “helpful” behaviors in the responses.
Don’t Touch the Tray
“The only thing that bothers me is when people take things off or load up my tray while I'm carrying it. Just don't touch it! It isn't always easy to balance a heavy tray of drinks and you will throw off my balance.”
It’s true—servers balance things a certain way when they’re carrying trays, and removing something that they’re not expecting could cause them to drop the entire thing. They’ll definitely understand that your intent is to help them out when they’re carrying something that is undoubtedly super heavy, but it’s best to let them handle it how they’d like to without any interference.
Quit Stacking Glasses
“Not quite that area but in the bar I used to work in, the glasses were easily damaged when stacked. We were meant to unstack them when we collected them from tables so it was just a pain for us when customers stacked them. Not their fault though since other bars appreciate when you do this.”
Aside from a teetering tower of glasses being in danger of falling, stacking glasses within one another can easily lead to a few glasses being ruined. When they’re stacked, it’s easy for the glasses to become stuck within one another, and sometimes there really isn’t an easy way to get them out. The only option is to try breaking the outer glass to release the one inside, and that’s definitely a pretty crappy solution.
Just Give Your Name
“Customers [often] didn't want to give me their names [when I took their orders], but the computer won't complete the order without one so I was just putting in whatever came to mind. Apparently, a customer was upset that I named him 'Spock', and conned my manager out of free pizza because he was so offended.”
Whether you’re ordering at a fast food restaurant or placing a to-go order from your favorite sit-down restaurant, the cashier might need your name for any number of reasons. If they ask, just give it to them. They wouldn’t ask if they didn’t need it, and you’re just making things more complicated by being difficult.
Leave Napkins on the Table
“Please don't put your napkins in your cups. We just have to fish them out. And that's gross."
A lot of people out there tend to think that by stuffing any napkins lying around the table into cups will ultimately save their server time when it comes to cleaning up the table. In some ways, it’s true—it saves them a few seconds when it comes to picking those napkins up. However, it ends up costing them time in the back when they have to dig those soggy napkins out of those cups before putting them in the dishwasher.
Leave a Real Tip
Of course, not all tips have to be this grand, but it's proper etiquette to leave somewhere between 15-20%. Believe it or not, there some people will actually leave a bible verse in place of a tip. Granted, they probably think that they’re helping the server in some way by giving them what they deem to be an uplifting and inspiring message. However, that message isn’t going to help that server pay their bills, and it’s best to leave a real, monetary tip if you were satisfied with the service you received.
If you weren’t, tell someone about it—don’t just leave something else in its place without letting someone know what you think went wrong.
Just Wait for the Table
“Please don't sit down on a dirty table. The other customers may have just left or I've been too busy too turn it around properly. Please be patient. I've had people sit down on dirty tables when there have being other clean tables around the area and it also distracts me as I'll have to immediately stop what I'm doing to clear your table.”
Restaurants that have seating charts put guests at certain tables based on the volume each server has at any given moment. When customers just walk in and take whichever table they think looks best, it can mess up the restaurant’s system and overload one server. Not to mention that sitting at a dirty table makes things a little awkward for everyone, as your server will now have to reach over you to clean the mess. Oh, and it’s also just gross.
Tell Them If the Food’s Good
“When I ask if the food is okay and everyone just stares at me silently because they don't have any complaints and are waiting for someone else in the group to speak. If it's good, everyone say it's good. I don't mind if you all speak at once. I can't walk away without someone answering the question.”
In the eyes of the customer, it seems like servers always walk over to ask how the food is either before you’ve tasted it or right when you’ve put a forkful in your mouth and can’t answer. However, it’s best to just acknowledge the server in some way when they come over to check on you. If you haven’t tried the food yet, tell them if you think it looks good. If you’ve got food in your mouth, just give a silent nod or a thumbs up.
“The one thing that covers the broad spectrum of being helpful to us is to just be patient with us. [People sometimes say] 'Well, I had a terrible server this one time...' and [that] devolves into an extrapolation about how that one server so complicated their lives that they now carry a healthy mistrust of anyone in the food service industry. We know there are a few bad eggs out there amongst our ranks. We try very hard not to be that person, even if our jobs exhaust us.”
For anyone who’s never worked in the restaurant industry, we hope that you can realize what a difficult place it can be at times. As a customer, you’re definitely paying good money to be taken care of when you dine out at a restaurant, but so are a lot of other people. Remember that your server is trying to serve others, too, and give them a break.
“If I mess your order don't call my manager, it's not cool to get me fired because your sandwich was missing mayonnaise. Instead you can tell me personally and Ill make your sandwich free of charge and remake it for ya.”
If what you get wasn’t what you had in mind when you ordered it—whether it’s because the kitchen messed it up or because you just think it tastes bad—tell your server, and do so nicely. No one wants to give you something you won’t like on purpose, and the staff will usually be happy to take care of it for you if you just tell them about it politely. Additionally, making a big deal out of something that could be fixed easily will just make you look bad, and any good manager won’t take you seriously.
No Dad Jokes
“If I ask, 'Is there anything else I can get you?' And you say, 'A million dollars', I will forever hate you.”
We realize that anyone making a joke like this is doing so to give their server—and probably themselves—a good laugh during a busy shift, but it’s just not going to work. During a busy dinner shift, that server wants to take your order and move on to other tables. While they absolutely want to be polite to you and give you a good experience, the lame jokes just aren’t going to be a part of it. If you feel like you have to make one, at least try to make it original.
No Plate Stacking
“Not me, but my cousin said that unless you stack plates right, it's super annoying. Like not cleaning them off completely, not stacking biggest to smallest, not putting cutlery on top, etc.”
Much like stacking cups together, there are a lot of people out there who feel that stacking the plates on the table gives their server a hand during busy nights. While those people aren’t necessarily wrong, there is one particular way of stacking plates that will help that server—the other ways just make it more likely that a plate will fall and break. If you’re a restaurant plate stacker, make sure you stack the plates with the largest ones on bottom and the smaller ones on top, and don’t stack them if there’s still food or silverware on them.
Split the Check Early
“It's okay to split checks. It's really not that big a deal. Just tell the server right off the bat so they can keep all the drinks/food orders separate in the terminal and in their notebook. So much easier than at the end suddenly wanting to split and they're looking at a table full of multiple empty beer steins and are stuck going through each customer's order like an idiot.”
Many restaurants have policies about splitting checks for this very reason. While most servers will typically remember what each person at the table ordered, it can be a time-consuming process to go back and separate everything in the bill after they’ve already brought it out. If you know ahead of time that your meal won’t be on one check, tell the server before they even take your drink order.
Get Your Payment Ready
“It is way better to have your card ready and give it to us when dropping off the check than let the check sit on the table for 20 minutes. We have no choice but to walk by every two minutes to see if you are ready to pay; half the people get pissed off if we let them sit with it too long and the other half get pissed off if they feel rushed.”
If you don’t have your card or cash ready to go when a waiter first drops off your check, at least get it out right after they do. On a busy night, the restaurant staff will have a lot of tables to pay attention to, and you can make their night a lot easier by giving them one less thing to keep track of.
Don’t Hand Them Things
“There's usually a method to clearing the table of dishes, and if I'm handed a plate when I'm not prepared for it, it throws off my rhythm and I won't be able to achieve maximum dirty dish carrying efficiency and I might even end up dropping something. If you actually want to help with the clearing, make everything easy for me to grab on my own (by placing it on the end of the table for example.) Unless you're at a fancy restaurant, then don't move anything.”
In general, don’t try to hand anything to your waiter to help them clear off your table unless they’re asking you to do so. As they began to take things of the table, they’re essentially starting their own balancing act, and they can’t just throw things into the mix at random. If you try to hand them things at random, they’ll probably take it just so they don’t make things awkward, but it could make their load harder to hold onto.
If Possible, Don’t Linger
“When you're done eating your entree or dessert and you're all finished with your meal, if we're busy or closing, GET OUT. You're either costing the server money by sitting there and not letting them get another table, or you're making them wait for you to leave. I work at a restaurant where the server can't leave until his/her section is empty.”
Restaurants get it—you’re there for a night out, and sometimes people get on a roll when it comes to talking after the meal is over. However, if you’re there on a busy night, take the conversation somewhere else. Yes, you paid for a meal in that restaurant but, when the meal is over, you should be on your way out shortly after.
Skip the Small Talk
“Starting conversations with me during rushes. I get that you're trying to be friendly, but I have other guests waiting and every unnecessary second I spend chatting with you takes time from other NEEDY people. They get upset, don't tip, and I lose wages.”
Any good server will try to engage their table to some degree, but it won’t be for as long during a busy night. Of course, they want to make sure that you’re properly situated when you enter the restaurant, but it’s also likely that they’re dealing with a few other tables in various stages of their meals. Try to keep the chatter with the server to a minimum so they can serve all of their customers well.