64 Suggestions for Restaurant Customers

By: Patrick Maguire

Book Chapter: Personal Pet Peeves

Posted: 11/5/2009

Bruce Buschel created an on-line buzz last week when he submitted his list of 100 Things Restaurant Staffers Should Never Do (Part 1) on a NYT blog called, You’re the Boss, which is a blog devoted to running small businesses. As it turns out, the list is actually comprised of 50 dos and don’ts for the prospective servers and staff who will work for Mr. Buschel at his new seafood restaurant. One of the interesting, and arguably controversial aspects of this list is that Mr. Buschel has no prior restaurant industry experience. Perhaps the list is not the best recruiting tool, but it certainly has generated a great deal of publicity.

Despite the fact that some of the items on Mr. Buschel’s list seem a bit rigid, I agree with almost all of them. Most fine-dining establishments would be well served if their staff adhered to these common sense guidelines. The items listed are consistent with the basic tenets of professional, upscale restaurant service. In fact, many of them are included  in CARDINAL SINS, a list of 129 details given to employees at Le Bernardin in NYC by Maître d’ Ben Chekroun. This list is from Eric Ripert’s Life on the Line and reprinted in the NY Magazine. (I personally spoke with Ben today. He was extremely gracious and confirmed that he still uses this list.)

My list of 64 suggestions for restaurant customers has been compiled from my experience as a bartender and restaurant manager, my dining experience over the last 30 years, as well as questionnaire responses from 150 servers, and thousands of conversations with restaurant industry professionals.

I submit my list with a few caveats:


  • I tried to stay consistent with Bruce Buschel’s theme of service in an upscale restaurant.  (Many of them could apply anywhere.)
  • I purposely focused my suggestions on what customers should not do in response to Mr. Buschel’s intent of primarily focusing on what restaurant staff should not do. Obviously there are a lot of positive things that a customer can do to improve their dining experience. Future posts will focus on positive suggestions and “Hall of Fame” customers. There’s an entire chapter of my book devoted to great customers and people in general.
  • There are a few comments that relate to bar etiquette, but that’s a post for another day.
  • I tried to shy away from suggestions that have been beaten into submission on every customer list ever created, but there are some that needed to be included for emphasis. (Pardon the overlap of recurring themes.)
  • There are exceptions to every rule, and two sides to every story. Every situation and interaction is unique.
  • My list of suggestions for restaurant operators new to the industry is in the works. (Feel free to email me your suggestions.)


  1. Never ignore a warm greeting from the host or any employee of the restaurant, even if you are just going to the bar.
  2. Reciprocate a greeting with a greeting, not I need, I want, or silence.
  3. Never blurt your name, the number in your party, and the time of your reservation in response to a warm welcome. Acknowledge the existence of a fellow human being.
  4. Don’t think that holding up a specific number of fingers without saying anything is an appropriate response to a host’s greeting.
  5. Don’t walk into a restaurant, point to a table and say, We’re just going to sit there, as you breeze by the hostess.
  6. Don’t pound on the door before the restaurant opens. If the weather is nice, wait until the restaurant officially opens. If you are invited in early (out of bad weather, for example) as a courtesy, don’t start making demands. Good restaurants will graciously accommodate you while you wait.
  7. Leave the chip on your shoulder, sour attitude, and nasty disposition at home. The staff really does want you to have an enjoyable evening.
  8. Don’t throw a menu at the host and walk out yelling because there’s a long wait or you don’t like the menu or prices.
  9. Don’t make a reservation for 6 and show up with a total of 4 and say, We just wanted lots of room.
  10. Don’t glare at the host and ask, “What are we supposed to do?”, after she gives you clear dining options. I can seat you now at the bar, or “I’ll have a table for you in about an hour” is pretty clear.
  11. Make a human connection with your server and the staff to acknowledge that you value them and the difficult job that they’re doing.
  12. Remember that the customer has almost as much responsibility for the success of the interaction and experience as the staff does.
  13. Never attempt the old; Do you know who I am? Anyone who is ignorant enough to try any variation on that question should have a trap door open under them and they should never be seen or heard from again.
  14. Don’t expect or demand perfection. The world is not perfect, and neither are you.
  15. Don’t be a name dropper to curry favor. No one really cares who you know or how important you think you are, especially when they’re in the weeds.
  16. Some restaurants mandate that servers introduce themselves to their tables and some servers do it at their discretion. If a server introduces herself, skip the sarcastic, My name is Fred and I’ll be your customer
  17. Don’t be an (un)amusing douche. If you’re returning to a restaurant known for sending a complimentary taste (amuse-bouche) before your meal, don’t presume that they are going to do it every time, and don’t specify what you want for that little free thing. (Yes, there are people who actually ‘order’ their amuse-bouche.)
  18. Don’t drop the; I’m in the industry line and expect the seas to part for you.  (It defies logic, but some restaurant industry people can be the worst.)
  19. Don’t walk into a restaurant and start telling the staff what they should or shouldn’t do. There’s an appropriate way to offer suggestions if the opportunity presents itself.
  20. Don’t tell the staff that you’ve dined in the best restaurants around the world and expect them to be in awe.
  21. Be aware and observe what’s going on in the restaurant and imagine what it’s like to be in your server’s shoes. No, it’s ‘not your problem’ that a party of twenty arrived at the exact same time that you did, the computer (POS) is broken, or that the health inspector walked in at 8 o’clock on Saturday night, but try to empathize.
  22. Never snap your fingers, whistle like you’re calling a dog, waive your hand in the air like you’re hailing a cab, or yell Hey followed by anything, when you’re trying to get your server’s attention. (Pardon me, or Excuse me, when you have a moment please work really well.)
  23. Respect the fact that restaurants have policies for specific reasons, despite the fact that they might not make sense to you.
  24. Don’t show off in front of your date or dining companions by trying to upstage the sommelier or server with your worldly knowledge. (You actually might learn something from them.)
  25. Don’t expect the staff to create something out of thin air. We’re out of specials means they don’t have any left, and you’re not getting one.
  26. Treat the staff with dignity, respect and kindness. You don’t have to kiss ass, but common courtesy is a two-way street. Be friendly, polite and patient. Treat the staff the way that you would want customers to treat you if you were doing their job.
  27. Don’t be dramatic and make a big deal out of nothing. Don’t let a small mistake or miscue derail your entire evening. Some things happen that your server has no control over. Be forgiving and help get things back on track. Work with the staff. It’s not life and death.
  28. Speak up when something’s not right, and escalate the matter if necessary. Most high-end restaurants will go to great lengths to correct problems and to ensure that you enjoy everything about your meal and experience. Give them a chance to rise to the occasion.
  29. Be grateful that you’re out enjoying a nice meal. Life is short and fragile. A lot of people can’t afford to dine out, especially at expensive restaurants.
  30. Don’t act as if you are the only customer in the restaurant. Be cognizant of the fact that your service team has other customers who expect the same great service as you.
  31. Understand that everything is not going to happen at the precise moment that you want it to.
  32. Don’t interrupt a server who is attending to customers at another table.
  33. If your kids have a complete meltdown, take your food to go, and get them out of the restaurant, fast.
  34. While we’re on the obvious ones, keep your phone on vibrate, speak quietly if you have to take a call at the table, or take your call out of earshot of your fellow diners.
  35. Don’t start a sentence with Gimmee or Get me.
  36. Don’t argue with a bartender who tells you that the barstools you’re trying to claim are for someone who was waiting before you. Forget telling her that the people who just vacated the stools told you that you could have them.
  37. Be reasonable and flexible. Dining out is a fluid, dynamic event involving imperfect human beings and several moving parts.
  38. Don’t treat your servers or support staff with disdain as if they are members of a lower caste.
  39. Never say anything mean-spirited, degrading, condescending or abusive to any of the staff.
  40. Don’t brag about your income, or anything that is intended to demonstrate your superiority in front of the staff. Leave your insecurities at the door.
  41. Don’t get angry at a barback, busser or food runner who can’t fulfill your request. There are often limitations on what they are authorized to do.
  42. Be understanding when there’s a medical emergency, power outage, fire alarm or computer meltdown in the middle of dinner service. Be patient, flexible and supportive. Everyone else is in the same boat. Try to think beyond Me, Myself and I.
  43. Respond to your servers questions, and never ignore your server. It’s humiliating to be purposely ignored.
  44. Don’t say you’re ready to order, then contemplate forever while your server is anxiously waiting in a packed dining room.
  45. Don’t talk loudly about personal things that make the staff and everyone around you uncomfortable.
  46. Don’t talk loudly, period.
  47. Don’t indignantly tell the staff what they should have on the menu, the wine list or the liquor shelf.
  48. Don’t be that customer who isn’t happy until he gets something for free. Sending an entrée back after you’ve eaten half of it is one of the oldest tricks in the book.
  49. Never clap or laugh when a staff member drops something that smashes on the floor. It’s embarrassing enough without you piling on.
  50. Lose the I pay you, I own you mentality. Yes, the staff is there to serve you, but not as your indentured servants.
  51. Don’t be unyielding and play the I’m the customer card expecting the staff to fulfill unreasonable requests.
  52. Ladies- If you’re part of a bridal or baby shower brunch (or any celebration) at a large table that is part of the main diningroom, please be aware that your shrill, piercing screams are loathed by the staff and everyone else in the restaurant.
  53. Gentlemen- Upscale restaurants are not frat houses. If you want to shout and high-five each other, with no regard for those around you, do it at home.
  54. Police your own crowd. If your dining companions exhibit boorish or abusive behavior towards the staff, don’t tolerate it. Be assertive, speak up, and make sure they apologize.
  55. Don’t even jokingly threaten your server with a bad on-line review to curry favor.
  56. Don’t throw your credit card at your server like you’re playing cards.
  57. Don’t leave a shitty tip because you’re from out of town and will, never see these people again. (Tipping will be covered in future posts.)
  58. Don’t fold up a dollar or two and ‘slip it’ to the host in front of everyone to see, along with the patronizing; Here’s a little something for you. If you want to be a big shot, tip everyone accordingly, and send the kitchen a round of beers or a shot of Patrón.
  59. Don’t anonymously bash a restaurant on-line or anywhere without giving them an opportunity to address a problem or make restitution.
  60. Don’t lie, embellish, or omit critical details when you anonymously trash a restaurant on the Internet.
  61. Actively seek out servers and staff members who do a great job. Tell them and their bosses how pleased you are before you leave the restaurant.
  62. Be as diligent with your compliments as you are with your criticisms. Take a moment to post a positive review, make a phone call, send an e-mail or drop a note to the owner. Exemplary service should be acknowledged and rewarded.
  63. According to more than 150 servers who responded to my questionnaire, 19% of customers are impolite, disrespectful or downright rude. Please don’t be one of them. Thank you.
  64. For the sake of everyone who works in the restaurant industry, please forward this list to everyone you know. Enjoy your dinner.

106 Responses to “64 Suggestions for Restaurant Customers”

  1. Micaela says:

    Patrick, I’m a little surprised you only came up with 64 “don’ts” ( I’ve seen that pet peeve file!! ) but found myself nodding to all of them so, thank you!

  2. KP says:

    I was behind the bar at Olives this weekend and was reminded of a few HUGE DON’TS…

    When attending a private party DO NOT try to take over for the host by yelling at the waiters about timing of the food…Especially when the host is more than happy about the service…

    More importantly DO NOT ever go to the food window in an open kitchen and start clapping your hands for the wait staff and runners to start bringing the food to your table…This goes hand and hand with the biggest DON’T bar rule… NO yelling or finger snapping at a bartender to get their attention….

    Intoxication is NOT an excuse…

  3. zootiz says:

    Just an FYI. Dealing with this sort of stuff is part of serving. As most good servers know it is part of what you deal with to walk out at the end of each night with a couple of hundred bucks in your pocket for 5 hours work.

    People are A$$holes, that 20% number sounds right. They will never change. I prefer to focus on the 80% of people who are cool and ignore the rest.

  4. Meals says:

    Restaurant work is a bizarre subculture of the service industry — it is the only situation (as far as I’m aware) where the customer service representative’s salary (ie. the waiter’s/waitress’ tips) is directly dependent on the person they are serving. Just because a diner shells out a waiter’s tip (which, as it turns out, is the only form of take-home pay, as the $2.63/hr wage a waiter earns goes to taxes) does not mean they “own” that person and get to abuse him/her. Sadism is not included in the waiter/diner service program. It’s a restaurant, not some sick dining equivalent of the movie Hostel.

  5. Henry says:

    How about if you’re kid is crying his freaking head off, take him outside. People have told me they’re training their kids and ignoring them on purpose because they want attention by crying.

    Good for you, but train them at home, not in my fucking restaurant where you’re ruining 100’s of people’s meals because you want to “train” your kid.

  6. GirlX says:

    I can come up with 36 Don’ts for customers at ethnic restaurants if you need more to round out your list to an even hundred.

    My biggest pet peeve: Some customers who come to ethnic restaurants try to impress the waiter/waitress by speaking Chinese/Japanese/Kenyan/Indian/Thai/Vietnamese to them. The rest of the time, they act like total douchebags — trying to dictate orders for everyone at their table, being sarcastic, making jokes about the ethnic cuisine right in front of the waiter, making the waiter wait in a packed dining room while they ask every possible question on earth about the sushi menu — but they think that saying “Arigato” makes up for everything. Yeah, whatever.

    Oh, and also, ethnic restaurants get the WORST customers as far as the eating half the plate and then sending it back claiming there wasn’t enough curry kind of crappy behavior.

  7. ChewableC says:

    These were great, but I found myself not getting enough of the worst things in a restaurant: out-of-control children (actually irresponsible parents incarnate), any kind of cell phone interaction and myopic dolts who plant themselves right exactly in everyone’s way (usually fat tourists from wide-open strip malls). Especially in Manhattan, children are pampered and treated like gods: wheeled inside via S.U.V. strollers, which are left unfolded in a public hallway because they won’t fit anywhere else or–because Americans love their vehicles–just left next to Mommy’s table and in the way of staff and customers. Children then proceed to switch on their DVD’s, video games or run wild over and under the banquette while mothers mourn about lost freedom and dreamed-of affairs, though that’s the price of money and children on Park Avenue.
    And take the Blackberry off the table (“There’s a chance someone more exciting will call me at any time”), out of your ear (Don’t you NOT want to talk through a phone for once and pay attention to a real human? One who will think less of you if you take a call while “having lunch”?) and into your bag (it’s not work, it’s rude). When people use cell phones at restaurants, it’s always at high volume and about either A) pointless B.S. or B) Wildly inappropriate, almost nastily illegal topics. Did I mention that these people talk too loudly, way too loudly? That means any louder than a one-on-one conversation, which you just didn’t have due to that phone.
    And, this being America again, good ol’ boys love their space and don’t give a damn about anyone else’s. It’s usually people who don’t take subways, move themselves exclusively by car or are from places with fields and such… Republicans? But these bridge-and-tunnel-and-beyond’s never fail to spread themselves abreast all doorways and thruways, staring at the bizarre, disturbing sights of the Naked City: food sans Diet Coke or surplus corn products, for example.
    These things have one element in common: they annoy waiters AND guests (I have been both). Another thing, a suggestion for a new post: what should patrons at a catered event not do? Put a 1,000 top restaurant in the middle of an animal museum with free booze and… I got out of waiting tables because I had to smile for my money (and then, not even getting any!) at the same place every night, so I started catering. And what these people do with free food and drink, especially at Bloomingdale’s or Fashion Week!!
    I say the catering world has many stories, shall we hear them?

  8. Miguelito says:

    Reading this, I am reminded how incredibly poorly people behave when they are spending money. It’s as if dropping a couple hundred bucks entitles them to treat everyone like crap.

    This list is really 64 different ways of saying don’t be an asshole, treat other people with respect.

  9. Patrick:

    Thank you so much for responding to the NPR interview with Bruce Buschel and addressing the other half of the equation here. I was wishing I could call in while I was listening, but was driving and couldn’t manage it. The interview was, and seemingly the book is, very one sided. Everyone should behave well–server to customer, customer to server. It is that simple, we are all people and no one’s ego should be allowed to be a runaway train to impress their friends as in KP’s post above. Clearly the orchestrator in this case was trying to impress his/her friends while shouting orders, snapping fingers etc.

    One of the most pleasurable restaurant scenes that I was witness to was in Olives many years ago. A customer having a temper tantrum about how he (wrongly) perceived he was treated by the waitress was given no satisfaction whatsoever by the host Keith Orr at the time. He stood up for his staff member during multiple rounds with this man who was clearly suffering from infantile narcissism. He would storm out of the restaurant to his waiting driver and then storm back in. I was so proud of Keith for standing up to him. I don’t care how much money you are spending, you do not get to throw fits when you feel that the wait staff is not impressed enough with you.

    Thanks again for this lovely list, Tricia

  10. GingaNinja says:

    I’ve got another one that used to drive me insane: Don’t touch your server or bartender!

    I don’t care whether it’s sexual or not, keep your hands to yourself. There are very few appropriate reasons to get physically engaged with your server. I’ve got red hair, and when I was worked in restaurants customers for some reason always wanted to touch it. Obscene jokes about whether it was my natural hair color aside (and hoo boy, I definitely got those), I don’t appreciate strangers putting their possibly filthy hands on my head.

    And don’t get me started on sexually touching the servers/bartenders! I don’t care if you make more money than God, or if you used to be some athletic stud back in the day, or if you’re a veteran, if you’re friends with the owner, if you’re really drunk, or even if you plan on leaving me a tip large enough to put me through grad school, the second you put your hands on me I will take them away from you.

    And a few others:
    -Don’t base your tip off of whether your server will give you his/her number. I was a good server, not wanting to date you doesn’t change that.
    -Consider where you’re taking the your children before you get on your high horse about what we have to offer. Don’t yell at me if we can’t make your kid a peanut butter and jelly sandwich if you’ve taken them to a sushi restaurant, or balk when the Indian curry house can’t make your kid a hot dog covered in mashed potatoes and ketchup. Go someplace child-friendly or get a babysitter. And if you insist on going out in style with children in tow, and your kids wreck the table like it’s Wendys, make an effort to clean up a bit.
    -Don’t bring your own snacks into the restaurant and just drink. If you want Doritos and raw baby carrots so bad, drink your beer at home! It’s one thing if you bring cereal for a 2 year old, but if you’re old enough to pay for yourself, you’re too old to bring your own snacks. And don’t leave your outside trash on my table! I’m a waitress, not a maid.

  11. tpdx says:

    Reading the Bruce Buschel think in the NY Times I thought he came across as a control freak. Hire good people, trust them and give them tools to do well. Micromanaging people does not make you a better manager, it makes you one who can’t seem to trust their employees. As an employee I’ve never been able to respect someone who chronically micromanages.

    I haven’t worked in restaurants, but I’ve spent a fair bit of time doing other service work. People tend to treat you like they own you if they are paying for service. This is my job and I do it for money, I also have a skill you are willing to pay for. If you aren’t willing to pay or can do it better yourself then please do. We are just honest people trying to make a living. It doesn’t mean we are stupid or lazy just because we have a service sector job at the moment.

    So, be a decent customer by being a decent person. Leave the ego behind. I don’t care that you make tons of money, drive expensive cars or go out to expensive places with the mistress. It means nothing to me, just be a decent person to me and I’ll be a decent person to you. You get great service and I get to have a decent time while working service. This sounds like a fair trade to me.

  12. Kraken says:

    The Bruce Buschel article talked about a lot of things that are out of servers control (music, tab transferring policy, the ability to give away free drinks, desert etc). It came across as clueless to anyone that has actually worked in the restaurant industry. Some people want to be coddled, and some want to be left alone. A good server can read their customers, and doesn’t need a random and arbitrary list of rules to figure this out.

    Here’s one more rule- don’t tell me how big a tip you’re gonna leave (or tell me how my tip just got dinged when something out of my control happens and you don’t give me time to fix it). The people that say these things tip like crap no matter what happens.

  13. Lgee says:

    So basically the staff can be all the above, but NOT the customer ?

    When I tip, I give it to the waiter/ess personally while everyone else has gotten up to leave…. You never know who may have sticky fingers and see the tip as an opportunity to swipe it before the staff see’s it.

  14. Kitty says:

    Solid list, Patrick, but my utmost favorite point was this:

    #29. Be grateful that you’re out enjoying a nice meal. Life is short and fragile. A lot of people can’t afford to dine out, especially at expensive restaurants.

    Sure, I have a venom tongue when I’m working and I’m not in the mood to deal with a snotty guest’s crap. I bitch quietly to my fellow servers in the wait station and let it go. There’s so much bullshit that comes with being a waitress, but at the end of the day, that’s true of every job, so I try my hardest to not get too worked up. Doing lots of yoga helps 🙂

    I had an amazing dinner at Salts on Friday. We were out with good friends, drinking delicious wine, and the owners and servers made us feel so special. I wished I would never get full because the food was so good and I wanted to keep eating it, and the wine wouldn’t make me (too) drunk so I could keep drinking it all night and still remain coherent. I felt so happy to be there and so grateful for my friends, the food, the awesome staff, and the entire experience.

    Dining out is special. My family couldn’t afford to do it very much when I was little, so perhaps that’s why I love to do it so much now. I wish more guests actively appreciated the privilege.

  15. Mandamus says:

    It amuses me that people think that The Keg, or Olive Garden is the kind of restaurant that these articles are about. Those are restaurants that the masses go to so they can think they’re classy. I highly doubt you’ll find anyone in one of those places that knows what an amuse-bouche is, let alone when it’s appropriate to serve one.

  16. Xiao Gou says:

    It’s good that you’ve come up with this list and put it on the ‘net. It’s also good that you managed to direct us to your list with your comment on the Times’s website — it’s the last comment they posted before they displayed a message that comments were no longer being accepted.

    More interesting than Buschel’s list (portions of which are common-sense, portions of which are micromanagement) are the hundreds of comments that they generated. It seems that 25% of them were from servers, and 25% with them from people who’re supportive of servers (“I’m not going to patronize a restaurant that pays less-than minimum and imposes all those rules.”) Now, the other 50% of the compliments seemed to be coming from the kind of people who just delight in finding something to complain about.

    Sadly, now that Buschel’s lists have been published, these cheapies will have at the ready a list of 100 reasons why they should leave a minimal/nonexistent tip, not just at the fine-dining establishments the list is aimed at, but other establishments, as well.

    I’ve spent many years in the restaurant business and it still never ceases to amaze me that people will intentionally turn a splendid evening out into an orgy of passive/aggressive behavior and complaining — merely for an excuse not to tip.

    The comments also disclose those people who’re clueless that their past behavior has alienated the restaurant staff. There was the lady whose table didn’t receive a free glass of dessert wine when another table had — boo hoo! Perhaps if she and her guests were as polite to the server and spent as did they she’d have gotten a freebie also. There was a needy customer who was furious that a server *saw* him wave his hand yet ignored him. Most perplexing are the “regulars” who keep on coming back to a restaurant over and over even though they’re upset about their seating, drinks, food, lack of water re-fills/abundance of water re-fills, etc. Why go back to a place you always complain about? (I’ll tell you — it’s a place where they can consistently stiff the servers yet nobody’s bothered to just tell them that they’re not welcome.) They’ll keep coming back, reciting their list of complaints to the manager in hopes of a free drink or free dessert, maybe getting something, maybe not. But when they *do* get something, they’re jubilant. They march out of the restaurant having won a battle — but they’ve lost the war. The customers who truly win are the ones who come in intending to have a pleasant meal and succeed in doing just that.

  17. sammy says:

    24. Don’t show off in front of your date or dining companions by trying to upstage the sommelier or server with your worldly knowledge. (You actually might learn something from them.)

    While that is certainly good advice, I wouldn’t call it a rule of etiquette. If you’re going to drop hundreds of dollars on a bottle of wine, I think you’re entitled to a relatively harmless bit of showing off to your date.

  18. George says:

    Here are a few other things that came to mind while reading this:

    * Stop talking while the server is trying to take the order.

    * When the server is taking the order, don’t interfere. Wait until your turn comes.

    * Don’t place your drink order at different times despite the fact that you were asked at the same time with others sitting at your table. If your drink doesn’t come as fast as you would like, don’t complain.

    * Don’t ask for a totally special dish to be prepared just for you. We are not your mom, so choose from the menu you came for.

    * Don’t ask the server to explain to you the whole menu, especially if he or she is busy. You are not the only person the server has to attend to.

  19. Carol says:

    I am very glad to see your list. One of my first jobs was working at a greasy truckstop where I would sometimes serve as grill cook, sometimes as a waitress. Humble food for humble people. Later when I was dragged out to bumble-F**k USA by a husband, I found work at a restaurant that was trying to pass itself off as an upscale restaurant at reasonable prices to tourists. Horrible situation. And add to that, I was a pretty bad employee.
    Just adding a couple of notes:
    If managers want staff to knowledgeably talk about wine, it helps if staff get a chance to taste the wine. Maybe even regularly.

    If customers repeatedly ask for a side with a main dish or a condiment to be served with a dish, please change the menu accordingly to please the customer.

    I can barely stand to eat in a restaurant that either really is upscale or pretends to be. I start to think of all of the training I got, the do’s and don’ts, the customers who had their sense of entitlement…it’s almost like post-traumatic stress disorder. Perhaps the experience has been ruined for me.

    My hat is off to the staff who manage the dance and also to the customers who clearly are there to pay well, be respectful human beings, and really enjoy a night out.

  20. ChristineB says:

    Just love both your and Bruce’s lists. Really, they are simply about using good manners on both sides of the service equation.

    My FIL is one of those “snap your fingers for the boy/girl” types of diners, and I absolutely cringe when eating out with him.

    Common courtesy, folks. That’s all it is.

  21. Jimmy Jim says:

    So, what should a diner do when she has received truly lousy service (it happens)? The other night at a very uncrowded bar, my friend and I waited forever for the bartender to take our food order, so long–more than 15 minutes– that we thought she had left for the night, so we ordered from someone else. Instead of stepping up her game after that, she continued to be disinterested and slow to respond to us. That she did no visual checks was obvious, as my glass was empty for 10 minutes before she asked if I wanted another. She was unfailingly polite, as I think we were, and I did leave 20%, as I almost always do, regardless of service quality. Is the only way to communicate dissatisfaction with service to avoid the restaurant? I don’t leave meager tips because I’m sure the server will think I’m the dick, not him or her…Ideas?

  22. Bryan says:

    Way to many rules. Couldn’t you just have one that says “Have Common Courtesy to all?” If I have to read ‘ll just at home before if I have to read 10 pages of rules before I go out to eat, I’ll just eat at home.

  23. Jude says:

    I was reading the ‘100 things Restaurant staffers should never do’ and realized that:
    1. Bruce Buschel will soon be a former restaurant owner.
    2. A lot of New York Times readers have an incredible sense of entitlement.
    3. Bruce Buschel will soon be a former restaurant owner.
    4. A lot of the points there are meant for the MANAGEMENT; in my world waiters usually have little or no control over whether or not amuse-bouches are served, whether or not to seat incomplete parties, whether or not the music is loud, where the guests are seated, whether the specials are printed, or whether the chef will make changes in the dish. Do you go to the opera and tell the tenor to perform that aria soprano? Or go to Broadway and tell Hugh Jackman how to say his lines? But you’re paying for it, just as you’re paying the waiter, are you not? So why do you feel that you can tell the waiter how to do their job? Because it’s “waiting tables” and “anyone” can do it?
    5. For the commenters who talk about ‘It’s your job, do it without complaining, just as I do mine’, I wonder how many of them have their salary determined by their customers. If at the end of every month, instead of a paycheque, their manager compiled a list of grievances and compliments from people they encountered every day, and paid them according to the suggestions that people had put on their card, how quickly would we see a revolt? Walk a mile in my shoes, before you call me names.
    6. Did I mention that Bruce Buschel will soon be a former restaurant owner?

  24. Jude says:

    Oh, and I have to say, I came directly to this post from the NYT article, and so hadn’t seen the rest of the blog, so imagine my smile of recognition at the post below, ‘Walk a mile in my shoes’. Yes, I’ve been there. And yes, anytime I dine out with any of my friends, I talk them into contributing towards a 20% tip minimum. Recently, I went out for a drink with a friend who used to leave miniscule tips when we started hanging out, and I was pleased to note that he calculated a 20% tip, and then rounded it off to the nearest $5. One customer at a time.
    Obviously, I’m not asking you to overtip, and we’ve all been there when we’re broke and can’t afford to leave a big tip……go back there again, if you can, and make up for the last time. It’ll bring you good karma points.

  25. lukeoneil47 says:

    Jimmy Jim:

    I’ve worked as a server for years, and sometimes it’s worse to get an 18% tip than a really bad one because you know the person isn’t cheap, but wasn’t entirely happy. If you think the server did less than their best, it’s reasonable to leave less than 20%.

  26. TendNoMore says:

    I think all of this comes to the issue of common courtesy and (not to quote Charlie Sheen or anything) that no one is above it. Sure, while in the service industry you have to serve the customer. And while, in the end, if the job is not for you (eg – you don’t like to serve) then don’t. Move on. Because as one of the commenters said: this is one of the only jobs where your salary is directly determined by those you serve right then and there.

    At the same time, I think there is almost too much emphasis on the server/customer relationship. The fact is that the server is there to do his/her job and the customer is there to reap the benefits of the staff’s full execution of its duties. That’s it. Move on. Don’t become too involved, don’t do more than what you are there to do. Any customer who wants more attention usually is headed towards a complaint anyways. But when the magic happens then everyone should be thankful and let it be reflected in the tip.

    A couple of points from my perspective (which was behind the bar and NEVER on the floor as that was too much for this kid):

    **when someone cops an attitude while at your bar then just smile. Plain fact is that you are the one dolling out the liquor. If anyone doesnt make nicenice then they get no cocktails. Works like a charm. Bring on the rebuttals.

    **when someone determines that its become time to raise their voice and call you out, then it served me well to stop doing EVERYTHING. Literally, just stop. Put everything down. Ask the customer what s/he needs and then, when they are done, kindly ask them to wait their turn. For added emphasis you could even mutter “douchebag” or something along those lines. Also, please refer to above: when the customer with the great vocals cords needs to stop you while three deep, have them recite that order (which, along with the money, wont be ready) and tell them to wait. If you can, make drinks that look like theirs and then hand them off to other customers or servers. Yes, I know: I’ll never work at Le Cirque.

    **Personal favorite: don’t care too much. Maybe this is why i needed to get out of the business, but I never really cared. I have a great time, made great money, partied to a great extent for close to two decades. Made lifelong friends. But to be absolutely honest, I never really cared that much what the customer thought of me. SURE, I executed so I could convey the experience that the chef/kitchen intended. Sure, I did everything to the best of my abilities, busted my ass, and worked real hard. But in the end, did I care if these people loved me? Nope. And that might be part of the problem: these days there is so much emphasis on the “experience” and the bar has been raised to such a high degree that there seems to be the need that every server must establish a connection with every customer or that customer will end up having a bad experience. Its a bit too much for me (hence my exit).

    Its a tough line of work, but lucrative, fun, eye-opening and (for a lot of us) quite a deviant existence. The hours are long and the interaction can be brutal, but the contacts, perks and war stories make up for all of that (for a while).

    In the end: servers have fun (and save your money), customers have fun (and remember no one is above common courtesy..ever).

  27. terri ann says:

    Thanks to this article being posted on Facebook, I now know about this website and your task at hand. I couldn’t be happier about it. I’ve been in the service industry, in a number of different positions, for about 13 years now. It actually pleases me to take care of people by introducing them to wine and food, two of my favorite things in life. Making sure that they feel at home and have enjoyed every part of their experience. That being said, it has become increasingly hard not to “burn out” or lose faith in humanity ( i mean this literally, by the way ) because of how badly people’s BLOATED sense of entitlement (or blinding insecurity ) cause them to behave. I keep seeing in everyone’s posts that it’s common courtesy and respect that people should possess naturally. Sadly, it doesn’t exist anymore. The percentage that you have gotten from your survey surprised me, it seems way too low. Maybe it’s living in a big urban city, but literally 40-50% of the people I take care of are rude on some, if not multiple, levels. I really think it should be mandatory that all people work at least one month in the back of the house and one month in the front of the house in their lifetime. Impossible, but can you imagine how differently people might behave? And not just to servers, but the lady checking them out at the grocery store. Or the tellers at the bank. And there are plenty of crap servers out there, I know from experience. But I’d say that about 30% of them are the bad apples, and the rest are people who have given up trying due to how badly they are treated. I’m sending this link to every person I can think of. I cannot wait for more! Thank you!

  28. Eric says:

    As someone who enjoys eating out but is not a server (though I’m in a different kind of service industry), I agree with most of the comments here but I’m a bit baffled by the assumption some people have that it’s a completely mutual relationship. It isn’t. Sure, just because someone’s paying you doesn’t entitle them to be rude, abusive, sexually harassing, etc. But surely to God it’s a customer’s business as to whether they feel like returning a “warm greeting” or not (items 1 to 4 on the list)? I mean, civility, absolutely, yes, always; but making it mandatory to be friendly? I agree that may make it a better experience for everyone, but surely laying down your hard-earned cash at least gives you the right not be chatty if you don’t feel like it. When someone’s paying me, it’s my job to provide service to them, not vice versa.

  29. carpebliss says:

    This is outstanding…what a reminder to all of us about basic common courtesy, respect, decency, civility and dignity…that everyone deserves….

  30. Jennifer says:

    This is a great list but it could definitely be longer!! Ive worked in the service industry for about 5 years and I can’t believe how rude people can be to complete strangers! Bruce Buschel’s article was horrible. He sure will have a hard time trying to find someone willing to be a slave for $2.13 an hour.

    how obnoxious.


  31. Jesse says:

    Jimmy Jim,

    As a ten year server/manager veteran, I firmly believe a bad tip is sometimes in order. However, I want the server/bartender to LEARN from the experience, so any time I tip less than 20%, I leave a note explaining why. It sounds rude, but I think it’s fair, and if someone did it to me, I might be hurt, but I would learn from it.

  32. melissa says:

    patrick, thank you so much for this! (i’m so pleased to have been directed to your site via the NYT’s blog.) as someone who has recently returned to work as a server i was quite intrigued by buschel’s article (though i did find the TONE to be a bit pretentious.) to me, most of the things he addressed we par for the course for anyone who works in this business and treats it as a profession. moreover, i was truly enthralled by the range of feedback. my. word. the sense of entitlement and the excuses for treating servers as though they are some kind of sub-human life form-amazing, but not so surprising.

    a couple of things i would add to you list:

    -we are servers, not mind readers. if you want separate checks, please tell your server from the get-go. it saves time in the end.

    – we can’t always do separate checks- either because it is prohibited by management or we have an antiquated POS system. (no. really.) please don’t take it out on your server.

    – it is YOUR responsibility to alert me to your food allergies. don’t wait until the dish is served to ask if it has garlic or [insert allergy here] in it.

    – when you order a steak medium- rare, please KNOW what medium-rare looks like. it is going to have a warm red center.

    – for the LOVE OF GOD, don’t order the ahi tuna well done. just stay home and eat some starkist straight from the can. (and don’t be surprised if i gently inform you that my chef will NOT prepare it that way.)

    -we serve the food, we do not cook it.

    – i tell you name because a) it is required of me by management b) i do not want to be addressed as “hey, you” or “hey, waitress” and c) if you are pleased with my service, i hope you will request me the next time you dine in my establishment. i, in turn, will make every effort to use yours.

    -not all servers are unemployed actors/writers or whatever. some of us actually enjoy the work, find the hours suitable, or derive some other pleasure from being in this industry. in other words, we are professionals. don’t assume that this is any easy job. it most certainly is not and to act as if you could do it better yourself….well, go ahead and give it a try for a month or two. let me know how that works for you.

    thanks, patrick!

  33. Dave says:

    Great stuff. Unfortunately we are dealing with human psychology, such as the needy/neurotic customer who will ask if the dressing is served on the side, and if it is, ask that it be tossed by the kitchen; but if it isn’t, will ask that it be put on the side (and probably not used; or, complained about). (Yes, this describes someone I know.) Some people need a lot of attention, and perhaps drama, & they will use the public sphere of a restaurant to act this out.

    Anyway, here’s another pet peeve, related to your #43: the waiter approaches the table while a conversation is taking place, and the speaker fails to acknowledge the presence of the waiter for a period of time that’s uncomfortably long — as if to indicate, “What I’m saying to my companions can’t be interrupted, and you are a mere servant who can wait it out.”

    So (unless I missed it in your post), another rule proposed: Don’t ignore your waiter if s/he approaches the table to take your order. If you are in the act of speaking, hold the thought, treat your waiter with respect, and continue your conversation (or monologue) after the waiter is gone.

  34. pineapple says:

    Another customer don’t : Please don’t pile all your personal belongings on the table! Where am I supposed to put your drinks and food when your keys,wallet,phone,purse, sunglasses, and gifts for your friends are in the way? Move your shit! And ladies, when you put your giant coach purse next to the table where I need to walk, I’m going to step on it and not even try not to. Put your purse under your chair or table and out of my way.

  35. carpebliss says:

    Dave …I LOVED your comment regarding “some people need alot of attention and perhaps drama and will use the public sphere of a restaurant to act this out!” OMG that is so real…. this kind of obnoxious behavior is exhausting for all of us whether we are serving or accompanying them!!! I think it is rude, manipulative, and narcissictic to capture the stage and “make everyone pay!” Seriously, so many of our lives are so busy and demanding…. if we have/take the opportunity to break bread with family and friends (either in a restaurant, someone’s home, or a formal function etc.).. can’t everyone be aware that it is NOT an appropriate forum for needy, self-absorbed, inappropriate, immature, and impolite behavior? God, you just want to say, Enough!!! It is just so over-bearing and pathetic!

    Also, the “salad dressing on the side” thing is a huge red flag…(for more “special” requests to come!!!) It just takes on a life of it’s own and becomes ridiculous… another sideshow for attention!

  36. digglesworth says:

    Realize you are in the service business, emphasis on service. While most of your points would be mandatory for most sentient beings, people are idiots and expect that resto staff are mere plebs. I am a server, so while I agree with you on most of this stuff, I realize that most customers look at me as a second- class citizen, but taking this job was my choice.

  37. pinball29 says:

    If I may add one more: THE RESTAURANT IS CLOSED means just that. Dont say ‘cant we just……’. Also, dont linger for hours when its apparent that the restaurant is closed and the waiters are all waiting for YOU to leave. I’ve always been amazed at how clueless some people are to this one point. They will literally sit in an empty, closed restaurant for an hour w/out the slightest concern for the staff waiting to go home.

  38. justAdude says:

    Look, i know people suck. but this is so complainy that it will garner absolutely ZERO sympathy. and i feel completely justified in saying so because i’ve been a little of all things (good customer/bad customer, good server/bad server).

    Service in this town goes every which way and is far from steadfast wherever you go. i’ve run into just as many ornery and self-entitled servers as i have been in the presence of bad customers. hell, i worked the 10am to 4pm drunk shift at a burrito/pizza joint upstate during horse-racing season. so i’ve seen all the fights and sexual harassment you can imagine; i’ve also been tipped $88 on a $12 order.

    maybe someone can answer this? what do i tip the server who isn’t bad, but just going through the motions? because the expectation where i eat SEEMS like 20%+ and i refuse to do so. 20% requires great service and good disposition. yeah, working during brunch sucks, but i don’t need to pay you to frown at me while i ask a simple question.

  39. Jeff says:

    I agree with most of these points in principle, but the more I think about it, the more I find the entire concept of this list fallacious. Let me try to explain (as I work it out myself in my own mind):

    I thought Buschel’s list was interesting because it contained the things HE personally felt were important for HIS restaurants, and in doing so, provided something of a template for others to follow.

    The difference is this: Buschel has the “right” — term used loosely — to demand whatever he feels of his employees, because they’ve partially traded personal autonomy away in exchange for money (as we all do in our respective jobs). You, on the other hand, are making demands of people whose autonomy you’ve “exploited” (again, term used loosely and non-pejoratively), by way of advertising or some other incentive, to come into your restaurant. It seems onerous that a person should have to live up to additional, fictitious demands, particularly when the contents of those demands pretty much amount to, “hey, everyone please be respectful of one another.”

    Which is a premise I totally agree with! Its just that putting that principle in the form of what you think you are owed, or what you think your servers are owed, is petty and, like I said, illogical.

  40. John says:

    You could sum 90% of this up in one statement: Don’t be a total jerk.

    And I get that servers get a bad rap. But at the same time, a service job is about just that – providing excellent service.

    There are a lot of moving parts in say, a baggage handler’s line of work, but I wouldn’t imagine you would take it with an understanding grain of salt if the airline lost your bag when you go on vacation. The fact that we’re all human and make mistakes can’t be a catch all.

    I will note that as a frequent NYC diner, I follow all these rules, I tip very well, and I never deviate from the menu offerings aside from a “hold the onions” now and then.

    And i get that it’s nice for servers to have a forum to gripe about awful diners–I see plenty of jerks out there, and that must suck.
    but the flip side of this is 20x worse. Ever sit down to a nice meal, and the server smirks at you when you ask a ‘novice’ question? Now THAT is annoying.

  41. chris says:

    never “waive your hand in the air like you’re hailing a cab”

    really? how else do you get the attention of the waiter in a crowded restaurant? this is how i’ve always done it and i’ve never thought it was inappropriate

  42. Dan says:

    If I have properly set the place setting in front of you to leave enough space for your dinner, but then you put something (like your napkin) in the way of your plate, please don’t expect me to take my third arm and move your napkin as I place your meal in front of you.

  43. mark says:

    If you want to create your own meal in my restaurant, please realize that you are now asking for something we don’t offer, and have not labored hours over preparing. Don’t tell me that your meal sucked if YOU are the one that asked for cheese on your fish. Chefs SLAVE over making the perfect combinations of source, flavor and preparation, just for guests to come in and send their dish back for not being seasoned enough even though they asked for the blue cheese to be taken off, or no butter, or no sauce.

    ps. well done steak tastes like hell and will either be dry, charred or lathed in butter. Know that now.

  44. alice says:

    How about, don’t sit in the dining room well after closing time, especially if you are done with your meal. Sitting with an almost empty glass while your waiter waits for you to leave is the worst. Try moving to the bar to finish your drink/ order another. Most restaurant bars are open longer than the dining room.

  45. KP says:

    Chris – If you’re in a bar during a Red Sox game and it’s packed door to door.. you can absolutely wave a bartender down politely…As a bartender myself, when the bar gets 10 deep with people…you all look the same to me.. However, I was talking more about when you’re seated at your table and you’re snapping your fingers as if you are hailing a cab for your server to see you…or you’re seated at a bar having dinner and doing the same thing…But in a rude way.. its unacceptable.. I mean if you’re sitting there and you have been ignored because the bartender is busy a simple head node or eye contact works… I think that the general sentiment from servers is that the jackass who snaps his fingers needs to realize that there’s a way to be more courteous about getting our attention.

    “tendnomore” – I loved the comment about the “and maybe throw in a douchbag comment under your breath… Nope not a maybe.. Throw it in there..in fact at that point if there whistling, clapping their hands, yelling “hey you”, or doing the pee pee dance… chances are that telling them that they are a douche bag wont hurt your tip much!

  46. Frequent Diner says:

    the editor in me finds a lot of redundancy in your 64 points, but the underlying theme rings true. As a non-wealthy person who enjoys a good meal out from time to time, I have to add that everything you mention is not only an annoyance to staff, but to other, well-mannered customers as well. Those guys yelling and taking over the room take something away from MY meal too.

    I also apologize for the third wheel who joined a friend and me last night at a nice place – and proceeded to make two cell phone calls at the table while we waited for dessert to arrive. what an idiot – and what could I do about it? Nothing, except hope either he or i would be struck by lightning right there.

  47. Gwen says:

    I am no longer a server, but I hold the position dear to my heart. I never forget my years waiting tables, and there are a few things that stand out even years later.

    As Ginger pointed out, DO NOT EVER TOUCH YOUR SERVER. Servers are not there for your amusement. Personally, I had years of martial arts training and had no problem instinctively taking someone down if they grabbed me by surprise. Assume your server is the same. Sorry, call it respect of personal space. This is one of the most important things EVAR. Really. No one wants anyone to get hurt.

    When I say, “hello, how are you?” the response is not, “glass of merlot.” Don’t be surprised if I answer, “can I be shiraz?” Yes, I’ve done that.

    Re: avoiding being a douche: it’s a shame this comes up, but it invariably does. Know that if you’re a jerk, servers will remember you and pass your rep on to other servers and chefs. Some places may do illegal things to your food (and to those guys, I hope you get arrested – that is NOT OK). Though I’d never mess with a customer’s food, I had no problem telling the cooks to take their sweet time getting the table’s food out, even if based on the bad behavior of one customer. Don’t be THAT GUY. You don’t want cold food with bad karma. Be a jerk in my restaurant, and expect an additional ten minutes to receive your food.

    Don’t request to change the music or the volume of the sound system. And don’t mention it to the server. They can’t do much about it. What? You think we LIKE Celine Dion? Right. No one here is doing interpretive dance to the love theme from Titanic.

    Lastly, most of us who work in restaurants are told to address our customers as our “guests.” Prove you’re worthy of the title. Act like a true ‘guest’ in someone else’s establishment. Those of us who serve you are ambassadors of the business to which you are a guest. BEHAVE. Be nice, and we’ll treat you like you wish. We’ll appeal to the pretty princess in ALL OF YOU. Yes you too, that burly looking dude reading over his wife’s shoulder. You can be our princess too.

    Oh yeah. We provide a service. Pay us for it. The restaurant doesn’t. Really. If you can’t understand that, stick to Wendys.

    No, really.


  48. JP says:

    Thank you for this list. I would also like to add that nearly all of these suggestions can be applied to the flight attendant profession, your servers in the sky, as well. Just please be respectful and acknowledge people in the service industry as human beings. It’s really not that difficult.

  49. sigma_greg says:


    “Just an FYI. Dealing with this sort of stuff is part of serving. As most good servers know it is part of what you deal with to walk out at the end of each night with a couple of hundred bucks in your pocket for 5 hours work.”

    WHAT?! Seriously? You’re justifying people’s bad behavior because of the money servers make? “Everyone has a price” then, right?! shame.

  50. riles says:

    Forgot one – don’t interrupt your fellow diners who are ordering to inquire whether your server really can “remember everything, seriously?” Not if you keep jumping in with the comments from the peanut gallery, jerkoff!

  51. Michelle says:

    One of my worst experiences being a food server was a guest slapping money down on the table, and before I coul even greet them the guy said, “If you do a good job, you can have this tip” Come on now, am I a dog and will get a doggie treat if I perform well? I wanted to give the table away to another server, but I endured the “precious” time w/ them. I did make sure they got their stuff as fast as possible to get them the HELL out of there.

  52. Michelle says:

    For a comment up above. A lot of servers don’t come home w/ a couple hundred bucks in their pockets. There aren’t alot of 5 star restaurants around where I live. Just because someone you don’t know is serving you a meal that you’re paying for, does NOT justify rudeness! There are jerks out there, but can’t you be nice in public? A lot of people have issues, but try not to make an ass of yourself in public.

  53. Number 6 says:

    Amen and thank you!
    A caveat to the first few rules – when you approach the Maitre ‘D or host, take the F*#&ing cell phone away from your oh so privileged mouth to ask for a table.

    Frankly, I ignore such people.

    PS: I inform ANY customer that snaps his or her fingers at my staff that they are “Servers”, not “Servants”.

  54. Naif says:


    Please don’t agonize over the 18% tip. Until reading this blog I didn’t realize that 20% was now the standard tip. How I fell so far behind the times I don’t know, but there are are probably others in the same boat.

    I feel quite embarrassed. I do appreciate good service.

  55. Thomas Korn says:

    ” chris says:
    November 11, 2009 at 6:23 pm

    never “waive your hand in the air like you’re hailing a cab”

    really? how else do you get the attention of the waiter in a crowded restaurant? this is how i’ve always done it and i’ve never thought it was inappropriate”

    Unless you’ve been waiting over 20 minutes for any service, hailing any server like you are flagging down a taxi INDOORS is highly rude

  56. Michelle says:

    Please don’t tell me not to go anywhere, when I’m “in the weeds”, when you’re with your family – at the table – having a pleasurable conversation on your cell phone. ” I had this done to me, waited about 5 minutes and just told them I’ll be right back ( my other tables needed things!)” I kept an eye on the table and it took 15 minutes for them to get off their cell phone, then I greeted them. You are not my only table! ( I didn’t tell them that! ) Come on people, what would you do w/o your cell phones? Do you want to have a nice dinner w/ your family or talk “spank” to your best friend on you cell? Also, parents tell your kids not to “text” at the table. My Lord.

  57. Michelle says:

    Where I’m from 18% is a spreading standard restaurant tip that alot of people don’t know about. Alot of people still tip the 15. (I’m not saying to me). 20% is a very good ego booster and makes me feel good. I must say though, if you have a coupon – don’t tip on the bottom line (esp… if you just ate for say 50% off)!!!…..and you ran my butt off. I believe you should tip as if you didn’t have that coupon, come on, you just saved alot of $.

  58. Paul says:

    Some good points about respect and manners that should be common inside & outside a restaurant. Obviously it costs a lot of money to eat out (your restaurants are charging me a tidy sum for the food & wine) and squeezing me into tables that are tiny and 5 inches from the next table. For the money, I expect 1) good food 2) clean surroundings 3) a well mannered staff that is attentive to my needs and comes by once in a while to ask if I need anything rather than disappearing to smoke or call their friends. 4) Busboys that keep the water glasses full and the tables clean. 5) Service staff who don’t flirt and chat with each other constantly. I’m not asking for much, but these things do not happen in many places any more. Then the unattentive servers feel slighted if you leave them anything less than 25% tip! For what??? taking my order and relaying it to the kitchen? Disappearing for 30 minutes and then reappearing to drop the bill on the table? One of these suggestions is don’t snap fingers or wave hands at waiters and bartenders- I can tell you that you will be ignored unless you yell out or wave at them because they’re too busy chatting with their buddies or tending to the annoying couple from Westchester with their 3 year old. I’ve frequently stood for minutes in front of a server and they just ignore me while tending to the hot blondes from LA. If a waiter doesn’t offer anything special (i.e. meal advice, free drink refills, free bread, free dessert, prompt attention) why should they even get anything more than 10%?

  59. Boston restaurant guy says:

    A couple of items for our customers:
    When comparing the amount of tables, space, beverage and food mark ups, number of staff, type of silver, plates, beverage presentation, etc. you are provided from restaurant to restaurant, please consider the varying overhead that each property deals with.
    Those of us that serve as a profession consider location, rent, concept, age of business and my personal favorite, is the establishment profitable, when assessing the previously mentioned features of our competitors.
    Most establishments would love to give you more space, food, beverage, silver, crystal, bells, whistles, but in the end there needs to be profit.
    The average restaurant profit and loss statement has 30 line items to manage. Add to that typical business challenge an organic, perishable, maddeningly inconstant product that must be consistently manufactured by hand hundreds of times a day. There is the varying human element in production, distribution and of course consumption. Oh yes, toss in the weather and you begin to more fully understand the challenge your corner bistro undertakes in their daily battle to do what they love and keep the doors open.
    As an industry we are constantly reminded by critics, bloggers, authors, etc that we are a “home” to you, our guests.
    With all humility may I remind you that a restaurant is a business generally filled with experienced professionals. We probably have imagined all of your concerns and have made a business decision to do otherwise. After all, unless the Government develops a bailout plan for us, only the strong ever survive more than a few years.

  60. NYC eater says:

    Other than not being such a big asshole-patron(only requires one rule), forget these stupid rules! My time, my money, and my effort to come to a particular restaurant means you wait on my table like it’s the only table there (and you treat EVERY TABLE that way). I don’t go out and dine to make you(waiter/bar/hostess/or whoever)happy. I dine out to be waited on…served with f-ing respect. I’m there…you need to make me happy to be there, or I don’t ever come back! If you(waiter/staff) feel the need to be treated more/better than a person paid to serve me, then go to medical school(at least their god-like complex is backed up by IQ/training). So, if you don’t like being a waiter..DO SOMETHING ELSE!!!!! Get a clue or go out of business!

  61. Micaela says:

    Wow NYC eater! Such distain! I’d like to say that you hit the nail on the head with the fact that there only needs to be one rule, the not being an asshole one. Maybe think of the other 63 as just some suggestions on how not to be that. I’d also like to ask you if every time you have a bad day or hard situation at work does someone tell you to just stop doing what you do and get a clue? I think if that were true almost everyone would be switching careers at all times. I personally love what I do and think of my job (running the floor at a small love note of a restaurant) as throwing an intimate dinner party every night. It takes a team of people to do it, 2/3 of the work is behind the scenes and we want EVERYONE to be happy. Believe me, all of our lives are better if everybody is happy. I know that my staff comes into the situation realizing what it is that they do and want to make your experience a very good one. We don’t expect you to “make us happy” but to treat us with some basic human dignity and respect. The same respect you expect from us. I mean I wouldn’t walk into an office building and start making crazy demands and treating everyone badly just because I COULD…the restaurant business is a crazy one with different situations popping up almost every minute and the people in it who love it work really hard to combat those situations and still provide an awesome experience to their patrons. I guess a forum like this is just a place where we can let off some steam and say..hey! think about it for a minute! We are all just people here!

  62. Jon C. says:

    This is not just a matter of discreet conflict between server and guest. Oftentimes, there are subtle, and not-so-subtle consequences involved. I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to suggest that boorish behavior in a restaurant has a “collateral damage” effect.

    Due to normally close (often times very close) proximity to other diners, some of those behaving well and enjoying themselves are subject to the unpleasantness at-hand. Who wants this experience while trying to enjoy a meal out? It’s an owner’s nightmare; no matter how good the food or the service, the lingering memory in the guests’ mind was how rude another patron was.

    For some, it doesn’t take much more than overhearing one nasty exchange to cast a pall on the dining experience. When things get really ugly? I have seen other guests interject on behalf of servers and start their own guest-on-guest scuffle. Invariably, other staff get involved too.

    In almost all cases, rudeness and arrogance have a ripple effect, sometimes throughout the entire establishment….

  63. lala says:

    NYC eater- You deserve the service you pay for, but no restaurant anywhere in the world would survive or stay open if they took care of one costumer at a time. Do you really show up at a restaurant and expect to be served as if you are the only one in the room? What you are asked to pay is based on serving you as a part of a large group of people dining at the same time, getting the same service , time, and portion etc. If you want to be treated as if no one else exsists,(every costumer would like to, but most are realistic) it is very simple, just pay the amount the other 100 diners or so would collectively pay, rent the place for a couple of hours, and ask for no one to be let in.

  64. liz says:

    I love this! I’m posting this at my restaurant in nyc. Some
    Never sit down and tell the server you’re in a hurry. If you
    Are in that much of a rush ask to see a to go menu. If you have to
    Leave quickly, ask the server if he/she could bring the check
    With the meal. NEVER tell the server you are in a hurry after you’ve
    Ordered. The server will most likely know what takes a long time
    To make, so communicate your time constraints politely and with no
    Rushed tones.

    Don’t be the make your own meal douchebag. Most restaurants do not
    Substitute one item for another, and if they do, keep it simple(ie
    Fries for salad) DO NOT try to change every ingredient for something
    Else. Chefs were hired for a reason.DO NOT make up food allergies.
    If you are allergic to something ask your server.
    If they can take the peanut out, they will. If
    Not, they know what is good.

    Also, I love the comment about telling bosses
    About good service, but may want to check with
    Manager first before buying the kitchen a round.
    If they work where I work and its sunday past ten?
    They’re on it 🙂
    Thanks for a great post!

  65. Joe C says:

    Just amazing how “entitled” some of us are! Doesn’t cost you a cent to say something nice to another human being and, quite possibly, turn a miserable day into a rewarding one for him/her. Your list was a real “eye-opener”, Mr. Maguire! I recall back around 1970, being in an Asian restaurant and hearing a customer, upset with the wait staff, yell to them, “Give us back the Pueblo!” in reference to the U.S. ship seized by the North Koreans a year or two earlier!

    Thanks for the opportunity to participate in the discussion. I look forward to reading your book and those that follow.

  66. Whitfit says:

    Amen to numbers 52-53, though I have to say I notice it with other large groups of customers that are mixed as well. It is such a bummer to have to sit next to a large group of obnoxious people. I guess it is partly alcohol, but some people lose all decorum when in groups. If you want to do that, go to a bar. Don’t ruin my nice meal.

    Other than that, as a restaurant customer, I feel for you. People actually do these things?

  67. h says:

    re: #35 Carpebliss–

    what is wrong with salad dressing on the side????

  68. Jenny says:

    I agree with Whitfit – SERIOUSLY people do this? In public? You must feel like you’re being Punk’d every single day at work. Not ok. I feel sad that you had to make this list at all, let alone that there are so many things on it.

    I’m sensing (and welcoming) an overall movement formed of restaurant staff and patrons alike who are no longer willing to smile politely in the face of jerks. I hope it catches on.

  69. carpebliss says:

    I’m not suggesting anything is wrong, per say, about requesting “salad dressing on the side..” in and of itself..I was referring to the extended and continual requests made of the server by the same party at times….beginning with the “dressing on the side ” thing!! To Dave’s point … it can become an unnecessary drama for some needy/neurotic customers…to capture the spotlight and draw attention to themselves!! So over it!!

  70. Michelle says:

    I am a food server, and I do know it was one of the toughest jobs for me to learn. I actually quit my first one only after 2 weeks. As time went by, as maturity and the need of money goes…I got another server job. I am a perfectionist, to say this, the skills of attentiveness, knowing the menu throughout, wine list, when and what to say to your guest, great customer service, keeping in your head what 20 people need at all times —is a skill, that I’ve worked at and it’s hard to learn. There ARE food servers that don’t try as hard as me to please. I’m not a food server because I want to be, it’s because I’m trying to get myself through college, with a husband and son. It’s hard and often “sweaty” work. The hours often suck, working nights and weekends takes time away from my family. But, yes, I do it to get by. Kudos, for FS who stay in the field forever! I couldn’t do it.

    To NYC #60, I am going to school, and so are alot of other servers, and I try my damnest to treat every table like they’re my own, but know, It can be pretty damn difficult when I’m not your servant in your personal kitchen. Most good servers have more than 1 table they do try to treat that way. Sorry if you’ve had a bad one! We ARE getting paid to serve you, it does not mean that we ONLY come to your table and not the others. Go hire a Nanny.

    Oh, and thanks, #61

  71. js says:

    TendNoMore, great comment!

    “Don’t care too much,” is the best way I know of dealing with the impossible-to-please 19% of my guests. It can be very hard to accomplish at times, but my best days at work have been those in which I was able to shrug off the a**holes and enjoy doing my best to ensure the other 81% have a great time.

    My method of dealing with those few absolutely abhorrent customers? Saccharin sweetness to the max. Fellow service workers — try it. If you can strike the right level of condescending charm, it’s like a slap in the face, and the best part is that there’s nothing substantial for the customer to complain about to management. Honestly, can you imagine anyone successfully lodging a complaint regarding your service being “too nice”?

    Diners, if you’re going to behave like petulant children, you deserve to be treated as such. Everyone else, thank you very much for making my job enjoyable and helping me pay for college.

  72. colon says:

    Do not ask me if I have day job or tell me I should go back to school. I have a degree and I don’t give a s#@# if you think I could get a “better job”.

  73. Kim M says:

    Great motivation to be a better customer…I had lunch in a bagel place in NJ last week — not fine dining but the sandwich was great and the place immaculately clean. I spoke with the person who made my sandwich to let him know how thankful I was. I guess the bottom line is be aware of your surroundings. People have become so self-absorbed that they miss opportunities to experience…

  74. Michelle says:

    Would be a great idea if it was enforced before you graduate college, you need to spend a mandatory 6 months in the restaurant industry being a food server and had to be graded on your performance with an A or B to graduate. This would change the face of the Earth, on how people are, learn respect, how to learn customer service, know what the food industry goes through, and learn the “good ole sweat” of being “in the weeds”, trying to catch up to kiss some ***. In every field there are “the lazy ones”, for some of the comments up above. But the majority of food servers are there to try to please you as much as possible and try to make some money at the same time. I work nights and weekends – Most who come to sit at my tables do not. Where would you rather be? On my side or yours? Trust me, it’s not always fun. I’d rather be sitting down enjoying a nice meal. But I can’t – I have to serve it to you, and try my damnest to make a nice tip. Thank goodness I’m almost out of college. The night shifts and the weekends away from my family have put me into tears sometimes. Sometimes a rude table can upset me and I go in the kitchen so the other tables don’t see me upset. I feel a good food server could probably be a great actress/actor, because you don’t have much time to stop being upset so you won’t fall behind – you’ve gotta “paint” on that happy face, or you won’t get any tips at all!!! gotta push on gotta push on gotta push on …………

  75. Greg says:

    If people who went out to eat could use more common sense, like treat people how you would like to be treated, you would not have 64 items here. Thanks you for recognizing that to go out and have a good evening, it takes a little participation and common communication to do this. The Service industry knows how to make sure you have a better time than planned, just be civil, and let them do it. It is a profession.

  76. epices6 says:

    I am surprised by the amount of defensiveness and acrimony spilling out of these posts and the abuse Mr. Buschel is receiving for the suggestions he makes for restaurant staff to observe. Most points are simply part and parcel of professional service, nothing more, and here lies the crux of restaurant service in most US restaurants: the low level of professionalism. “Hey guys”, patting customers on the back, the cringe-inducing crouching down when taking the order, just to name a few ubiquitous bad habits.

    I respect all styles of sincere service (except snooty arrogance) and the hard work staff is doing to serve restaurant goers, and I certainly empathize with staff when they have to deal with a really rude customer. I cannot believe that almost 20% of people fall into this category, at least I cannot say I observed such massive abuse myself. A certain type of person will be insufferable everywhere (at the airport, at the job, mostly likely also at home), and good riddance to them when they finally leave a restaurant. Most patrons are at a particular restaurant because of some specific reason (quality of food, type of cuisine, proximity to work place, etc.) and they expect efficient and, if possible, friendly service, not perfect service.

  77. B. W. says:

    After 20 years in the service industry I am still surprised by by the fact that some restaurant patrons feel free to say things to servers that they would never dare to say to friends, contemporaries or strangers on the street. Victorian England was a long time ago, in the 21st century the rules of polite society also apply to the help. There is never any reason to treat another human being like a second class citizen because of their vocation.

    That being said I agree with almost everything Buschel and Chekroun have to say. As a server I am probably more aware and critical of service when I go out than most and it drives me crazy when I get the “we’re doing you a favor” attitude or sloppy service in general. I appreciate someone who takes pride in their work.

    Let’s remember that life is a two way street and try to treat each other with common courtesy and respect.

  78. K.W. says:

    How about leave when the restaurant closes? Do not come in 15 minutes before closing and stay for an hour and a half.

  79. Michelle says:

    Amen to that K.W. I have had many people/groups come in at 10 minutes before closing and stay for around an hour and 1/2. If you’re there earlier, please at least pay your bill when we are suppose to close then I’d have no problem w/ you staying a little longer so that I can get my cashout done and some of my sidework done in the kitchen. But when people come in at the last few minutes upon closing, don’t expect your server to be happy, really: If you thought you were going to get off work in 30 minutes to go home to your husband and child after a long shift, but at the last minute was told, ‘No, you must work for another 1 1/2 – 2 hours longer, would you be very happy????? If you do do this, make the tip well worth the service and me staying longer for the only table in the restaurant please and thank you.

  80. Natalie says:

    Add another to your list:
    #65 — If you’re using a coupon–say buy one entree get the second entree half off–tip on the amount your bill WOULD HAVE BEEN.. The server, the runner, the host and the kitchen are working just as hard to serve you. Those extra bucks do make a difference.

  81. It is nice that you took your time to write all this up; it’s inspiring to read another’s opinion. I respect your work on this site, and I’ll revisit for more info.

  82. Ritz says:

    Don’t stiff waiters! Ever! It’s almost never their fault, and when it is they’ll gladly make up for the screwup, that is… as long as you point it out politely. Also, most good restaurants pool, so why punish a whole bunch of people for one person’s eventual shortcomings? Write a comment on the back of the CC slip, if it’s really necessary. That’s gonna go straight to a manager the same night, and can’t be brushed off with the usual “it was just a table of foreigners” lie 😉

  83. Daniel says:

    I’m sorry to any waiters that came across our family when we traveled overseas to America from Australia.

    Our waiters don’t have to worry about tips so we were new to idea. we thought 10% was a good tip so that’s what we did… oh well hope they weren’t too annoyed.

  84. Japhet says:

    Everyone benefits from better manners but poor performance is pretty clearly linked to equally-bad training which can be blamed on the managers and, by extension, the owners:


  85. phrage says:

    the new zealand and japanese systems are best -drop the whole silly tipping culture and pay your staff properly

  86. Rhonda says:

    Always return or turn in something that is left at the table when a customer leaves it by accident. I left a good some of money on the table that was not meant to be a tip because I had already left one on the credit card and when I returned, the waitress had not seen it. Obviously the twenty percent on the card was not enough for her. AND the service stunk….

  87. Katie says:

    I really appreciate your list. I have been a server since I was 16 through college. It is hard to get a job that will pay anything over minimum wage if you are not out of school, and many times, this is what you have to do to get through school. Some are just personal pet peeves, but I can see if a customer needs something, to wave their hand to get your attention, but yes, it is still annoying.
    I don’t know how the stereotype has come about that servers are lazy, and it has given people the right to think they can treat servers like servants, but I have found that my server job was physically and mentally the hardest job I have ever had. It is truly difficult to get yelled at from some asshole about the price of the food, where they were sat, things completely out of the server’s control, and walk to the next table and put on a grin, but that is what you have to do, and many people do not realize how hard servers work. At my old restaurant the server’s sections consisted of 8-10 tables, and we were running around most of the time.
    It still makes me angry that so many people are so quick to talk to a manager if their food took over 15 minutes to come out, they don’t like their seat, or their water was only half full at one point because servers honestly many times work harder than any person in an office job who makes over 100k per year, I would know. Instead of being so quick to look at the server’s flaws, and get on them about everything (mind you, they are FRIENDS with the cooks—-the people who are handling your food—- and yes, while it is wrong, messing with a picky customer’s food DOES happen whether it is wrong or not) why not write the manager a note telling them when the server is actually good??? This way the manager can help that server train others to be better servers, and they get rewarded for doing so.

  88. Brenda says:

    Over 20 years in restaurant service…..
    I’ve never really understood people who come into a restaurant and are rude right from the get go. I’m part of your total dining experience. If I can’t convince you to change your attitude, I have and I will ensure that you have the absolutely worst dining experience of your life — all with a sweet smile and constant apologies, taking full blame for the fact that your order was screwed up, your wine was old, your hot food is cold, your cold food is warm, etc. You will have no grounds to complain to management, and even if you do, I get so many compliments and so few complaints my manager will simply ask me if you were an asshole, which I will confirm. Give me a smile and a little encouragement and I will do my best to ensure that you compliment the manager as you leave.
    I appreciate the list. I Agree with the 19% asshole count, but believe that some of them can be turned with the right attitude and actions. Definitely go saccharine on the assholes — strangely enough, most of them apologize. I also agreed with quite a bit of the “other” two lists. Anything that helps me to provide better service increases my tips and take home pay, so no problem.
    While I do enjoy serving as a rule, I don’t do it because I like helping people. I do it to earn money. Every interaction I have with a customer is based upon the fact that I want to make money. The better I do, the happier you are, the bigger my tip and the more likely you are to return and recommend my restaurant and me to others. That means more business and job security, repeat customers who ask for me, an increase in my income….and the circle continues.
    That said. I am a server because I want to be a server. I have a college degree, but can make more money working fewer hours as a server. Personally, I am opposed to eliminating tipping and paying a “fair wage.” I work in California where I am paid the minimum wage of $8.00; however, at an upscale restaurant, I will average between $30-45 an HOUR in tips depending upon the day of the week and the shift. This does not include the occasional super tip. And I work in an area of California that is predominately rural and not known for its wealth or prevalence of high paying positions. Where am I going to find a restaurant owner willing to pay me between $38 and $53 dollars an hour to wait tables? How many people are going to be willing to pay what their meal will necessarily cost? There really aren’t that many occupations that pay such great wages without specialized training or a graduate degree of some sort.

    The most offensive thing ever said to me? After providing a few answers off the cuff on various topics, a table of teachers told me that I was pretty smart for a waitress! I said, “Lady, I’m pretty smart period,” And walked off.
    The coolest thing: I had one guy at a table of 6 constantly sending me back to the kitchen stating his order was wrong. The chef and owner finaly asked me what was going on. When I told him, he went out to the table, started picking up everyones plates and told them to get out and that they weren’t welcome back — that I was a server, not a servant.

  89. nana909 says:

    Do not bring cheerios or what not for your two year old, let them huck them all over the place, and leave a big mess for someone else to clean up. For that matter, do not leave a big mess on your table at all! Don’t leave shredded up straw papers all over the table. Your server is there to help you have a good time, that doesn’t mean you can trash the place and a tip makes up for it.

  90. annie says:

    I don’t understand how the public automatically assumes that waitstaff are stupid and uneducated. Most are college educated working a second job or in between jobs. In this economy, you would think people would be a little more understanding. If anyone ever told me I need to go back to college I think I’d accidently spill a full glass of ice water on them.

  91. Amira says:

    This list is nothing short of amazing!! I’ve got nothing to add that hasn’t already been posted. Peace to all.

  92. Katie says:

    I just read the Buschel list, and I think it’s brilliant. It seems to me that in this way his inexperience was an asset, because he hasn’t become jaded. I hope those who read it are able to remember that this isn’t his list for all servers everywhere, it’s his list for *his* restaurant. Nevertheless, all high-end restaurants should already have these rules, spoken or unspoken. Many of those rules apply just as strongly to all restaurants as well, regardless of price.

  93. Adrienne says:

    Sooooo… don’t be a pompous a**hole. That about sums it up.

  94. Sam says:

    Regarding part of #22, I was at a restaurant in Frankfurt with a German friend. I asked, “How do I let the waiter know to bring the check?” Waive, and when acknowledged put your hand down. The waiter will be by ASAP to find out what you need.

    And yeah, you tip, lightly, in Germany. Our order of €31,50 was rounded up to €35,- to be polite.

  95. Scott says:

    Allow me to get a few things off my chest. I worked in the restaurant industry for over 15 years. I have been a busboy to a KM. I have never worked fast food in my life. As server you have to remember one thing, these people pay you. It is not the other way around. If your customer/guest wants to act like a moron well thats their choice. It does not give you the right to be a schmuck. It has always seemed to me that the people in the business are getting more and more attitude as time goes on. You need to remember that you should be grateful , and act accordingly, that these patrons have decided to visit your establishment instead of the one accross the street. I assure you that the owner/corporate offices feel the same way. If you look at any medium sized city in the US and open up the yellow pages to restaurants and start counting, I would venture to say you would find over 5000 restaurants. Tell me again why I should come back to yours? What do you offer me that is so special that I can’t find around the corner?

    I am not saying the customer is always right, however its your job to take the order and put the food on the table. If the customer tips great if not sorry about your luck. Try harder on the next table.

    I have one more comment for the guy in California, only making $38 per hour. Really your going to complain about that? A 100k a year to wait tables your over paid or the rest of America is under paid.

  96. Kelly says:

    #44, too true

  97. Vin Kermit Diesel says:

    A nice piece of work, and certainly customers shouldn’t be @ssh0l&s. I do take exception to some of these points, though.

    RE #1-4: Customers do not walk into restaurants to take care of your emotional needs, their purpose is to hand you money (and they’re hungry). Maybe this job IS your entire life and you are expecting that it will provide you with friends and love, but the reality is that customers don’t know you and aren’t particularly interested in knowing you. In 2011 America people do not relish having strangers get in their way in order to force them to talk: it’s unnecessary, annoying and creepy. And I’m not even from NYC.

    Which brings us to RE #43: If someone is ignoring you, you should take this as an indication that you may be doing something that does not have any value. You can also be thankful that you aren’t hearing the words “Get the f^ck out of my face with this stupid crap”, which was probably their first inclination. Customers do not enjoy having you waste their time with lame conversation gambits or probe them with nosy questions. If you want to stick your head up someone’s @ss and then call them an @ssh0l& you’re the idiot. Unless you are prepared to fix someone’s financial/health/business/career/life/… problems right there and then, asking the question “How are you?” is rude, not you being a friendly great human being. Do you notice how I’m not asking you how your obviously unimpressive/ruined/probably desperate life is going?

    RE #59: The reason why I don’t even respond to the actually legitimate question of “How was everything?” anymore is because the only response I’ve ever gotten when I have is an argument, and I don’t think I should be required to both pay and argue with you. This is why you get those bad online reviews by the way (and the surprise charge that you tried to sneak on the bill was subtracted from your tip, which itself is nothing other that the answer to the question of how the evening went).

    RE #11: The bottom line here is that if you think this sub-minimum wage job is “difficult”, be aware that the people you are doing it for are sitting there thinking (A) if you tried to do their job you would be fired on the first day, (B) they could do your job better than you can, and (C) they would actually prefer to serve themselves because it would be less aggravating.

  98. MuffinBunny says:

    @Vin Kermit:
    You obviously didn’t even work to put yourself through college. First of all, #1-4 is concerned with basic human decency. If someone walks up to you and says some variation on “Hello, welcome!” when you enter a restaurant, it is not because they want to know how you are doing. THEY realize that it would be unforgivably rude to do what you are suggesting, and they would probably get in trouble if they walked up to you and just started talking about the specials. And it’s not just about asking how you’re doing. Most of the time people don’t pay attention to anything you say to them, if they’re the type of customers referred to here e.g. responding to “How many?” with “fine, thanks” or answering “four” to “Hi, did you have a reservation?” etc. It’s about not realizing that the people serving you are even human beings. We don’t want to have a conversation with you either; we just want you to act like you’re not talking into a speaker box.

    So if I ask a table what they’d like to drink and get only two responses out of six, I should assume that no one else wants drinks and NOT that they should get their heads out of their own asses and answer a question SO THAT I CAN SERVE THEM? I assume you think it’s perfectly okay to ignore the question, “Can I get anything for you right now?” and summon me back three seconds later for something you probably won’t even eat but feel entitled to just the same? Or, even better, wait until a companion of yours answers the question, let me bring him or her what was requested, and THEN demand whatever it is you fancy.

    If you really just sit and stare when people ask you how your meal tasted, you deserve whatever cardboard crap they handed you. If you get argument in response to your answers that often, you should probably consider that you are the problem, not waitstaff everywhere. Based on your writing I will venture a guess that you do not try to be polite even the first time you complain about something and rest assured, most of the time if something is legitimately wrong we WANT to fix it and will probably try to convince those in charge to knock off the price a bit if we couldn’t make it 100% better. If your complaints are about things like the temperature, music, other patrons or something circumstantial or out of our control, I have a hard time believing you got anything other than “I’m sorry, but I can’t do anything about how long your food is taking seeing as we’ve got a line out the door and thirty other tables ordered before you.” And if you hadn’t been such a tightass about it, you probably would have been offered a free appetizer or some such. The “surprise charges” probably wouldn’t be so much of a surprise if you felt it was necessary to pay attention when you’re being spoken to and respond in a coherent way. It was probably printed clearly on the menu or on prominently displayed signage, to which you likely thought, “Get the f^ck out of my face with this stupid crap”.
    You are the embodiment of why this job IS difficult. If you didn’t consider yourself above the rest of us poor unimpressive/ruined/probably desperate people you might take a look around and realize that most of the people who do your job are ALSO morons. Wage is no indication of intelligence or basic human decency, as you have beautifully illustrated. Really, I couldn’t have said it better myself.
    By the way…if you tried to do my job, you would probably be fired on the first day also. If you walked into even MY place of employment (family-owned burgers, steaks etc), you would not be able to serve yourself. You would most likely make something weird-tasting and end up poisoning your fool self because you do not know the first thing about what actually goes on in a restaurant (kitchen or front of house).
    I can’t speak for anyone else on this, but I personally am working solely restaurant jobs to put myself through college, both for the money and because I plan to open a restaurant of my own someday. And I guarantee that if you walked into a place I managed or owned and acted like you were surrounded by subhuman creatures just because we said hello and asked how your day was going as we cheerfully and competently did our jobs, you would be thrown out. Deservedly so.

  99. Chad says:


    If I kick out, cut off, or don’t seat the moron customers then I can tell you exactly why you should come to my restaurant instead of the one across the street. The restaurant across the street is (half) full of all the morons, jerk-offs, and douchebags I kicked out where as mine if full of happy, gracious, fun-loving guests (and staff!).

    @Vin “thinks he clever” Diesel

    I’m glad your not from NYC, and stay there…

    As for me, I was working brunch** as a bartender taking an order and turned around to find a child at my feet surrounded by sharp metal corners, pairing knives, and teetering glassware. With no parent in sight I carry it, arms outstretched, around the restaurant until I find the oblivious, happy-pilled up, parents who’s only response is, “He’s such an adventurer”. Another day, another pair of tikes having a yelling contest at a table. They were literally seeing who could yell louder. I had to put my finger to my pursed lips and shush them from behind the bar then shoot lasers out of my eyes at the parents. Also, now waiting, went to a table and before I could finishing saying, “Good evening” the lady looks at me and says in her tobacco cracked voice three words, “Chicken, Caesar, Salad”. Yet there is nothing like that one the menu. No Caesar salad, no chicken salad, nothing. Caught off guard more than anything had to leave the table before I started laughing and kept the joke going for days.

    **Brunch – A meal popularized by some loose middle aged women on HBO where patrons pretend they are having a dining experience and expect twice the food for half the price with four times the condiments, eight times the refills, and some extra cheer. While all the employees just finished working 6 hours ago and barely downed a cup of coffee before they started working twice as hard with half the usual staff for half the money serving eggs and leftovers to people who somehow manage to jam 3147 calories of pancakes down their throat washing it all down with a diet coke. And how can a restaurant that offers 7 days of dinner and one day of brunch have half of their online reviews (practically all good) be about brunch.

  100. Heather says:

    I have been in several service industries, though I never worked for an upscale restaurant. I probably had the worst experience working retail clothing sales during Christmases, Back-To-Schools, and Tax Free weekends. I worked for commission as well, so I get how your customer determines your pay and how this power can go to their heads. Anyway, I mean to say I understand that customers can be rude and awful (and often GROSS – (actual) blood money or sweat money anyone?). I have had my fair share of various egregious behaviors from customers (inappropriate touching, abusive name calling and yelling, ridiculous expectations, religious preachings), but I still disagree with some of this list and especially with many of the comments posted after.

    The thing is that we don’t (usually) have a personal relationship with our customers. We ARE serving them. This doesn’t make them better than us, but they shouldn’t have to worry about whether or not we feel they are friendly or welcoming. If a customer is hurried or antisocial, that’s fine! They can be themselves as long as they are not abusive. Sure, it would be nice if everyone was a peach, but it is THEIR experience. People go out to have an experience or to treat themselves. It’s MY job, not a playdate with them. Again, they shouldn’t have to worry about cultivating a relationship. They ask for things politely and we serve them politely. The End.

    In addition, if I shell out 50-100 bucks for a meal, I expect my special requests to be no problem. Even Burger King makes it “your way.” If I can go to Taco Bell and get extra sour cream, I don’t think dressing on the side (a trick for people who have to watch their salt intake btw) should be “a red flag.”

    Having worked commission, I believe in leaving a bad tip for bad service. If I feel someone paid 10 percent less attention to our table than they should have done to provide an adequate experience, I will take 10 percent off. Usually I complain on the spot, instead of being passive aggressive with a tip at the end though. But I always had to please my customers to get my money. Even the dumb ass pain-in-the-brain ones. It’s part of how these things work. Sometimes this benefits us, sometimes it doesn’t.

    What strikes me most is that people just seem unhappy in their service jobs. If you feel you have to be validated with a nice greeting from a customer – I mean if you really care and it bothers you – perhaps you should not be in service! It’s a HARD job, and I think it takes a special kind of person to do it well for long. You have to be patient, have tough skin, and it helps to realize that when people are rude, it usually has nothing to do with YOU. When I have responded to rudeness with empathy, I have often found that the customer is really not an asshole. He’s just some normal guy who had a bad day and didn’t realize he was taking it out on someone else. She’s a normal gal who had specific expectations she didn’t realize or know how to articulate. I find the escalation mentality to be counter-productive. Sure, I could be a bitch back to a bitch, but how does that help anyone?

    Most of the list is common courtesy. It is unfortunate that sometimes it FEELS like the 20% is the 100%. That’s when it’s time for a break. 😉 Kudos to servers who serve with a smile. And kudos to customers who smile back. But double kudos to the server who keeps smiling, even if the customer does not, because smiling is a part of the job.

  101. Tom says:

    Please, for the sake of other diners, limit or eliminate your use of cologne and/or perfume. One’s sense of taste is directly tied one’s ability to smell (try to taste while holding your nose), and fragrances can completely ruin an otherwise delicious meal.

  102. Kevin says:

    And, to nobody’s surprise, Bruce Buschel is a -former- restaurant owner.


  103. ChefMac says:

    What about us in the kitchen. I’m a chef and trust me the rude, indignant, self-important demands do not end at the table; they find their way into the kitchen. By-the-way, we’re the ones who have to stop in our tracks and change everything to accommodate the group of overbearing house wives who believe they all have gluten allergies. I empathize with my serving staff; I truly do. I see and hear my servers becoming agitated and angry by being treated like servants, children and lower-caste. Here is my problem; I have to fire those servers who can’t handle it. If you come back freaking out, bitching, whining and generally throwing MY service into disarray on a consistent bases you’re gone. I need servers who can address the situation, calmly speak to me, and help me push through. For those “guests” that are truly abusive: they are asked to leave by me in front of the rest of the dinning room. For those who are just obnoxious and rude and demanding: they are a challenge. Part of the joy for me is working with a well-oiled team who can overcome challenges.

  104. Miche says:

    If a customer is being obnoxious, I virtually ignore him (or her) and try to make a connection with someone else at the table. Most often the dolt’s company is relieved to someone polite to talk to, too. Almost without fail, said doofus realizes he’s losing the game in front of the people he came with, and changes his tune.

    I am simply doing my job and acting as naturally as possible, while secretly enjoy the flailing I get to witness when the big ego realizes he’s just embarrassed himself on his night out. Ha.

  105. Brittany says:

    I have another don’t: Please no cellphone usage while the server is trying to give you your undivided attention to take your order. No server needs to hear your personal conversations or business. I find that obnoxious. If the phone call is important, please allow the server to come back to you after you ended the call.

  106. Mike says:

    This list shouldn’t be needed. Thank you for calling out the narcissists and unkind. I’ll never understand some people.

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