64 Suggestions for Bar Customers

By: Patrick Maguire

Book Chapter: Human-to-Human Service

Posted: 03/30/2010

Sharing public space is something a lot of humans don’t do well. When you throw alcohol into the mix, a lot of people really suck at it.

 A few caveats and disclosures:

  • The list is geared towards bars in restaurants, rather than dive bars, nightclubs, sports bars or beach bars where jungle rules apply.
  • I minimized the overlap between this list and my list of 64 Suggestions for Restaurant Customers.
  • I omitted some of the obvious items that endlessly appear on every other list about bar etiquette.
  • Some obvious items made the cut because they need to be reinforced. (Will people ever get it that yammering on cell phones is obnoxious?)
  • There are 2 sides to every story and exceptions to every rule.
  • My blog and book do not defend “whining waiters” as one anonymous reader commented. I am advocating for workers who do a great job and understand all facets of customer service and hospitality.
  •  Please don’t comment that all of these suggestions could be summed up with the golden rule or other platitudes. We know that. We love lists.

 Sources and Credits:

  • Personal experience from 33+ years of drinking and dining at the bar.
  • Bartending experience (dives to fine dining) scattered over 10 years from 1982-1992.
  • Conversations with thousands of bartenders, servers, restaurant industry workers and customers.
  • Questionnaire responses from 200 former and current customer service industry workers.
  • Hundreds of comments and emails from readers of this blog and the facebook group supporting it.
  • Thank you to everyone who contributed.


  1. Research the bar/restaurant before you go. Consult with several online resources to determine whether or not a place is a good fit. You’ll improve your experience by knowing what to expect and what questions to ask when you go. (Email me if you need Boston recommendations.)
  2. If all of the barstools are occupied, ask the bartender or host if there’s a waitlist for bar seats. You’ll avoid jockeying for position and the mad scrum when a seat opens up. Don’t argue with a bartender who tells you that the barstools you’re trying to claim are for someone who has been waiting longer than you. Don’t tell a bartender that the person who vacated a stool promised it to you.
  3. Never move barstools without asking. Barstool positions are often numbered for the bar staff and food runners.
  4. Acknowledge and greet the bartender, or reciprocate her welcome with a simple greeting. Don’t ignore a welcome or blurt what you need in response to a bartender’s greeting. (This is still an epidemic, and it’s rude.)
  5. Let the bartender know if you’re saving seats for friends who will be joining you for dinner.  Find out what the house rules are. The bartender will often put out placemats and water to save seats if your friends won’t be long. Don’t hoard seats in a busy bar knowing your friends will be a while.
  6. Look at the taps and bottled beers lined up behind the bar or ask for a list before asking, What kind of beer do you have? Don’t expect a bartender to recite 30 beers on draft and 40 in a bottle, especially in a crowded bar.
  7. Don’t ask a bartender you don’t know, What should I get?, or What’s good? If you’re looking for direction, communicate your preferences and be specific with your questions.
  8. Never say, Can I have a Bud, Bud?,  I don’t need sugar, I’m sweet enough, Tell me a joke, or any of the other hokey, clichéd lines that bartenders have heard more than they care to remember.  Seriously, where do these people come from???
  9. Introduce yourself and learn your bartender’s name. Discretely using a bartender’s name  makes the interaction more respectful and human. But, never shout the bartender’s name down the bar to get his attention.
  10. Seek your bartender’s opinion and guidance regarding the menu, wine and cocktails. Professional servers are proud to share their knowledge with you and show you a great time. Be open to their input.
  11. If you’re standing behind someone sitting on a barstool, don’t hang your coat, bag or anything on the stool without asking.
  12. If you’re standing in the bar area, be aware that the folks seated at the bar need space too, particularly if they are eating.  It’s annoying for a seated customer to get bumped repeatedly by people standing behind or around them.
  13. When walking through a crowded bar, don’t push your way through. You’re not playing rugby. Say Excuse me or Pardon me before you proceed. In a noisy bar, a light touch on the shoulder, along with Excuse me, or Can I sneak by, please?, works better than pushing. Conversely, if someone is trying to get by you, accommodate them. There’s no need for a curt, snarky, Sorry in response to a polite, Excuse me when someone is trying to get by.
  14. If you leave your stuff on the barstool next to you, don’t make noises and get upset about requests to move your belongings when the bar starts to fill up.
  15. If you enter a relatively empty bar, don’t sit right next to customers who might be enjoying some privacy. At least leave a few stools between you. (I’ll never understand why people crowd each other. Whether it’s the gym locker room, a sidewalk, public transportation or a bar, give each other some personal space.)
  16. If you’re sitting at a bar with an open stool on either side of you, and someone asks you to move down so they can sit together, do it without sighing or making a big deal of it. Even if you’re in the middle of dinner, it only takes a moment to slide one stool. Better yet, offer before the guest or bartender asks you to. It will put everyone at ease. And, no, neither the party you accommodated nor the bartender owes you a drink because you cooperated. You might get one, but don’t expect it or ask for one.
  17. Keep in mind that you have almost as much to do with the success of the interaction as the bartender does. Treat all members of the staff and other customers with civility, respect, and common courtesy. Great service is a participatory sport.
  18. Bars are communal tables. Don’t freak out if someone tells you your dinner looks good, asks what you’ve ordered, or attempts to make polite conversation. Some things go with the territory when you’re at the bar.
  19. Take a hint if people don’t want to talk with you or if they are involved in a private conversation. If your repeated advances are met with, I’m sorry, but I haven’t seen my friend in 2 years and we would really appreciate it if you would respect our privacy, that means they don’t want to talk to you. It doesn’t mean be persistent. Move on.
  20. When you’re standing and trying to order drinks at a packed bar, politely alert the seated guests so they can accommodate you. Hopefully they’ll yield some space, (passing drinks and money if necessary), but never push in between two seated customers and start passing drinks over and around the heads of other guests. It’s obnoxious. If you are the seated guest and someone is trying order drinks from behind you, help a brother or sister out. Don’t ignore them.
  21. Standing customers should not reach between seated guests and place empty glasses on the bar on the bar next to them. If you’re placing an empty glass and trash on the bar, excuse yourself, and be sure to push it all the way forward away from guests and within easy reaching distance of the bartender. It’s not the responsibility of folks seated at the bar to handle your garbage. Most people will help you, but it’s rude to push through, drop your glass or beer bottle near a guest’s elbow and run.
  22. If you’re going to be ordering multiple rounds in a crowded bar, tip generously on the first round. The bartender won’t forget you the next time you’re ready to order.
  23. Don’t be rude when you’re trying to get the bartender’s attention. Eye contact, a raised finger, pushing your empty glass closer to the bartender, holding up a bill while standing, Excuse me, Pardon me, and, When you have a moment please, all work well. The following are off-limits; Yelling barkeep, barmaid, cheesy nicknames (Captain, Kid, Tiger, Chief, Big guy, Champ, Sport, etc.), Hey, Gimmee, Get me, followed by anything; rattling your empty glass on the bar or snapping your fingers.  Flagging is for cabs and whistling is for dogs. Simple rules even cavemen should know…
  24. Don’t order an obscure drink that you had during Spring Break, on a cruise, in a foreign country, or on a tropical island several years ago and then ask, What kind of bartender are you?, when the bartender doesn’t know what’s in the drink. She’s probably the kind of bartender who doesn’t like you…
  25. Respect the fact that restaurants and bars can’t accommodate every single request about room temperature, music, inventory of beers and liquor, special food orders, etc. (I witnessed a customer complaining to a manager about the cold air whenever guests went out an “emergency only” exit that had a sign on it asking guests to use the main door. After bitching her entire meal, she proceeded to use the same emergency exit when she left…)
  26. Remember where you are, and don’t put the bartender or other customers in an awkward position by making unrealistic demands. For example, a Bostonian staying in a New York hotel cannot expect the bartender in the hotel bar to show a regular-season Celtics or Bruins game  during a Yankees World Series. I’m staying in the hotel doesn’t carry more weight than the majority of fans who want to watch the World Series.
  27. Never ask the dreaded, insulting questions, Is this your real job? or, What else do you do? Believe me, the job is real.
  28. Don’t stare at other customers. I was a regular at a bar where the staff dubbed a frequent customer, “The Listener” because she would stare and lean in to eavesdrop on conversations. (Bartenders, please comment on some of the great nicknames you have for guests.)
  29. Be discreet when you are talking about other bar customers. It’s rude to repeatedly look at someone, then look back at your dining companion and whisper.
  30. When it’s your turn, be ready to order and pay, especially in a busy bar.
  31. Excuse me, Please and Thank you. It’s not that hard.
  32.  Don’t block the service station where waiters and waitresses pick up their drinks. If a bartender encourages you to come to the service station to pick up a drink,  make way for servers trying to do their job.
  33. Don’t chomp on gum, snap your gum, or blow bubbles at the bar. Chewing gum is tacky and trashy.
  34. Don’t chew on toothpicks or long stir sticks or straws, letting the end dangle out of your mouth in circles. It’s gross. (I saw this at the bar in one of Boston’s best steak houses.)
  35. Don’t twirl your hair, pick your teeth, ears, face, skin or any other part of your body. Don’t be hygienically inappropriate, period.
  36. Bringing in beverages from outside of the restaurant is a no-no.  
  37. Don’t lean over and read another customer’s book, magazine or paper while they’re reading at the bar. It’s creepy.
  38. Respect local traditions, zoning & licensing laws, and house rules. Bartenders don’t make all of the laws and rules that they have to follow. Just because you allow your underage child to drink in your home, doesn’t mean a bartender will look the other way. The guy on the stool next to you might be a spotter or work for the liquor commission.
  39. Don’t bore your bartender with your life’s story and monopolize his time when he’s busy. Cut to the chase.
  40. Don’t be that loud guy. Yelling and slamming the bar like a hockey player pounding the boards after a goal, is juvenile. The rest of the bar is not amused.
  41. Don’t be that annoying woman with the shrill, high-pitched, piercing laugh. Everyone wants you to have fun, but you’re making enemies all around you.
  42. Don’t reach over the bar without permission. (Yes, there are people who still think it’s ok to eat olives out of the garnish trays.)
  43. If you’re temporarily leaving your stool for any reason, let the bartender and/or your neighbor know. Put a coaster or bar napkin over the top of your drink to save your seat. If you know your neighbor is returning, alert customers who try to take their barstool. You’d want them to save yours.
  44. Stay within your space in your barstool. Be aware and respectful of your neighbor’s space and others around you. That includes backpacks, bags and coats hanging off your stool, as well as elbows and hair tossing.
  45. Don’t ask, Why don’t we get one?, loud enough for everyone to hear when a bartender announces something is on-the-house  to someone sitting next to you. There’s a reason why they’re getting a complimentary treat and it’s none of your business.
  46. If you want the benefits of being a regular in a restaurant or bar, earn them. (This will be covered in future posts and in my book.)
  47. If you have a nice rapport with the bartender and are pleased with the service, offer him or her a taste your bottle of wine. Bartenders don’t always get to taste all of the wines on their lists, especially expensive bottles. You’ll be helping them gain more wine knowledge, and you’ll be one step closer to becoming a regular. Showing your appreciation for good service is not always about money.
  48. Don’t bully barbacks, food runners or support staff. Don’t embarrass them if they can’t get you a drink, get change from the cash register, or perform any functions beyond their scope.
  49. If you have a concern or problem, communicate it in a timely fashion to the bartender and/or a manger so they can work with you to correct it. They can’t fix what they don’t know. Don’t storm out without giving the establishment a chance to make things right.
  50.  If you witness someone being abusive or inappropriate to the staff or other customers, speak up, or at least alert staff or management. According to my research, one out of every five customers is impolite, disrespectful or downright rude. Don’t be one of them.
  51. Sharing your personal issues (especially quarrels between couples) with the rest of the bar makes everyone uncomfortable. Remember that you’re sharing space with other people. Be aware of your volume.
  52. Crying and drama: not at the bar. If a situation escalates, take it outside or take it home.
  53. Cell phones at the bar; added for emphasis only. Do I really need to elaborate?
  54. Police your own crowd if they’re being jerks. Your fellow diners, the bartender, and the entire staff will really appreciate the help.
  55. Couples: don’t suck face and maul each other at the bar. It’s tacky and awkward for everyone. You’re humiliating yourself and embarrassing your whole family.
  56. Don’t linger forever after you’ve paid your bill whenyou know people are waiting for barstools.
  57. If you’re sitting at the bar waiting for a table and your reservation will be coming up shortly, offer your bar seats to guests who are waiting to dine at the bar.
  58. If you’re heading into the dining room after drinks at the bar, pay and tip the bartender before going to dinner. When you transfer the tab, the bartender usually loses.
  59. When tipping, use 20% of the after-tax total as your baseline for good service. Round up and don’t leave change. Don’t play dumb if you’re visiting from a culture where tipping isn’t customary.
  60. If the bartender, manager or owner comps a portion of your bill or something you ordered, you should still base the tip on the full charge. The same applies when you use a coupon or gift certificate.
  61. If there’s an open kitchen, oyster shucker or special food prep (garde manger) station behind the bar, tip that person separately, above and beyond the bartender, if they provide great service and hospitality.
  62. If you’re pleased with the  service and hospitality, track down your bartender before you leave and tell him or her they did a great job. Also, be sure to tell their manager on the way out.
  63. If you’ve been shut off, save face, cut your losses, and get home safely. Don’t ask a different bartender or server for a drink. You’ll only make matters worse.
  64. Don’t hang around forever at the end of the night. At the least, pay your bill so the home team can close out their finances. As my old boss, Vinny Dimauro, owner of John B’s Café used to say back in 1983, You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.

43 Responses to “64 Suggestions for Bar Customers”

  1. Lou Warren says:

    Very complete! My only addition, which may only be a regional thing on the Cape is, please don’t tell me “I’ll do a …..”, no, you will have, drink, enjoy or whatever…you won’t do a anything. English is a good language, please use it.

  2. MaryKathryn says:

    Great suggestions. I have noticed that people really appreciate when the person sitting helps pass drinks/money. I am always very aware of this. The line “you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here” is also in the song “Closing Time” by Semisonic I believe.

  3. Ariane says:

    I have always tried to do #58 and cash out at the bar for that very reason. It did backfire one time when dinner got comped and we had already paid our bar tab….

    But yeah, most of my crowd already does most of these properly! Pretty awesome!

  4. Hank says:

    Patrick, very complete. One thing I’ve noticed is how many of your 64 points are violated when a customer arrives intoxicated. I see it occasionally at O’Lacy’s Irish Pub in Batavia, NY. Maybe some customers should assess their consumption, status and state-of-mind before driving and entering a place where fun-loving civility reigns.

    Dr. Hank

  5. Paul Paz says:

    We being in the “service” industry… there’s an awful lot of “don’ts” put upon customers in this list. It would be interesting to capture the response of customers if presented with this list before ordering food, beverage, or service from staff.

  6. Doug says:

    John B’s! That takes me back. There are a few songs that come on the radio even now that take me right back to singing into my beer bottle along with that awesome jukebox. Sloop John B., of course, is one of them.

  7. keira says:

    Hey, I think you were interested in hearing some nicknames…
    I’m a bartender at an upscale restaurant in Boston and we have some ridiculous characters that come in and make my job more interesting, at best.
    We have a woman that frequents our bar that we have nicknamed “America’s Guest.” Why? Because she will only order a soda water and wait for someone to buy her a cocktail or food. She will take up prime real estate in this manner for a solid 4 hours.
    She actually came in one time on a date (if u cold call it that) and the guy was just as cheap as she was. Drank a soda water too…they split a pizza, sat there for 4 hours, and when it came time to pay…AG forgot her wallet! Her date called her our on it, saying “yeah, I’m SURE you ‘forgot’ it.” Then she tries to get me to defend her by asking, “Don’t you sometimes leave your wallet in your other purse when you switch them?”
    C’mon, America’s Guest…you are not fooling anybody.

  8. Doug says:

    #24 reminds me of my days as a bartender at a country club. It was an old-school club, and we were very definitely set up to offer only old-school type of drinks. There were days when I could just about make it through a shift without any mixers at all, save for a whiff or two of the vermouth bottle. But when we hosted a wedding or special event, we got all sorts of requests for the blended, the arcane and the exotic. People just did not want to take no for an answer, especially as the evening wore on, as if I was going to finally pull that blender out of my back pocket that I had been hiding or make a run to the liquor store for that bottle of pomegranate schnapps that would make their dreams come true.

  9. Great list, a couple more suggestions. (from past experience LOL)
    If the food sucks for whatever reason, don’t take it out on the bartender (he or she didn’t cook it)

    Interrogating the bartender about what every single ingredient is in an a dish is just plain rude (again they didn’t cook it) they will probably have a pretty good idea, but the odds if they know whether the fresh sage is picked that day or a couple of days ago is fairly slim or if the peanuts in the peanut satay were from China or India or were they harvested in the US(I wish I was kidding about that those)

    Leaving a open laptop on the bar and making the bartender try to work around it on a busy night is inconsiderate.

  10. Evan says:

    Agree with Paz. “service” industry. This isn’t an exclusive gathering at your own house. Your “customers” or as the tone of this article suggests, your “people lucky enough to be served drinks by you” are paying to have a nice evening out with friends, They aren’t paying for the privilege of adhering to your rules of etiquette.

  11. Hey Evan- I hear you. That’s why one of the caveats is:

    •My blog and book do not defend “whining waiters” as one anonymous reader commented. I am advocating for workers who do a great job and understand all facets of customer service and hospitality.

    Several of these suggestions are items that only impact interactions between bar customers. That’s the reason I categorized this post under the Human-to-Human chapter of my book. Of course we wouldn’t expect restaurants to post this list. The mission is to raise awareness and create a dialogue. Hopefully we will change some behavior along the way. Based on the stories I’ve received from readers, we have already had an impact. Thank you for participating in the dialogue. It’s all about customer service and serving each other respectfully.

  12. michelle says:

    Really enjoyed reading your list. I believe if all customers were made aware of these suggestions it would make it so much more pleasant for everyone.

    #28-the story about “The Listener” gave me a good laugh.

    I agree with #15. I think people need to respect other peoples’ private space. I can’t stand it when I’m sitting at an empty bar and someone has to sit on the stool right next to me. Another place is at the gym, when I’m the only one working out on one of the many treadmills, and someone has to use the treadmill right next to me. This really annoys me and makes me feel very uncomfortable.

  13. Xiao Gou says:

    Those of us who interact with others with some sort of grace and respect already follow most of your listed rules of behavior.

    Sadly, no list of rules nor suggestions will change the behavior of those who’ve not been raised to appreciate the rules of common decency. There are also those who’ve been raised right and yet somehow develop completely anti-social behaviors, usually due to some sort of feeling of entitlement because they’re better off financially or socially than others. Some see the error in their ways eventually, but not many.

    None of the folks who really need the education are going to bother giving a list of rules like this a second thought. But I think you know that already, Patrick. Why not take to heart the words of advice attributed equally to Grace Kelly and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis: “Never complain; never explain.”

    The true service professional can suffer the dolts, egotists and boors without complaining one bit. He or she delights in the company of happy customers and makes it their business to shield the happy customers, and, if possible, themselves, from those individuals who’re determined to be unhappy regardless of their circumstances.

  14. Eric Wheeling says:

    Great list. A nickname from our place here in NC (in response to #28). “The Stalker” is one of our regulars who sits wherever he wants and requests, firmly, one particular female server always wait on him. Once he told her, “Thanks you for letting me stalk you.” CREEPY! She feels like she has to serve him because he’s never been outwardly rude and management doesn’t have her back. What an uncomfortable situation!

  15. Fenwick says:

    This is certainly a complete list and covers some great suggestions.

    Many of the bad behaviors you refer to are perpetuated by fellow patrons and servers, who allow others to get away with being rude or obnoxious and not correcting their unacceptable behavior.

    While I understand some professionals might choose to suffer the dolts,egotists and boors without complaining, by doing this they are essentially accepting and reinforcing that this type of behavior as ok. As each subsequent rude act continues to be reinforced in this way, these individuals become even bigger jackasses than they already are. Before long they are affecting more and more fellow human beings with a negative experience. They are even modeling bad behavior for their children. It’s a domino affect that has allowed much of the rude and entitled behavior to flourish in our society.

    Having been a true service professional for over 30 years myself, I find that if you correct these people in a polite and courteous way, many of them will begin to see the error of their ways and appreciate you for calling them out. In fact in many cases, people will apologize because they were not even aware how their own behavior was negatively affecting others.

    If everybody continuously corrected someones boorish behavior, eventually it would sink in and these people would have to grow up.

    I think this is a big part of what this blog is all about. It takes a sea of pro-active people who will not accept the jackasses to bring about a “sea change” for the better.

  16. amc says:

    These are all very good… So important when sharing public space and people on the whole are not very good at it. Just yesterday while sitting in not-so-crowded airport waiting for my flight, I encountered 2 of “THEM.” Traveling by myself, I didn’t feel like sitting down with all of the people I would be spending the next few hours with on the plane, so I found a quiet area near my gate to sit down while waiting to board. I found a nice row of 20 empty seats to settle in for the next 25-30 minutes. Apparently, a couple (of d-bags) liked my idea, and joined me. They sat RIGHT NEXT to me. Why? There were at least an additional 18 seats that were unoccupied just ONE seat over. I couldn’t believe that they sat in the seat directly next to me. Needless to say, I got up and found myself a new spot.

  17. Maria says:

    Regarding #59, do you mean that the tip should be calculated on the total including tax? I generally tip at least 20% of the pre-tax total. Is that incorrect? If so, what is the reason for tipping based on the after-tax amount?

  18. Hello Maria- Thank you for commenting. I was suggesting my preference of using 20% of the total including tax. As a former bartender, I tend to give servers and bartenders the benefit of the doubt when it comes to tipping. A few extra bucks from people who realize that there a lot of people out there who stiff servers, really adds up.

    We could go back and forth all day about pre-tax vs. post-tax, but it’s really splitting hairs when you do the math. -PM

    amc- Thank you for sharing your airport story. Some days I think it’s only me…

  19. JT Brandt says:

    I think it would have been neat to seen these suggestions ranked roughly or categorized in order of how important they are to you. Maybe some you’d consider light suggestions (learning the bartender’s name), others would be of medium importance, while others are totally vital (no reaching over the bar).

    One question for you: not sure I understand what’s tacky/trashy about chewing gum.

    I wouldn’t do it at a bar because the taste wouldn’t go well with alcohol, or with food, and I can see why blowing bubbles and snapping loudly would be obnoxious. But just chewing gum, the regular way, is looked down upon?

  20. April says:

    YAY! As a bartender, I encounter ridiculous things on pretty much every shift I work. I could go on for hours, but the important ones should be reinforced…

    Tipping – Please remember that most of us make less than $5 an hour to work in this industry. No one (staff, other customers, whatever) cares much about your personal feelings on whether or not you should have to tip. If you do not want to tip, make your own dinner and open your own wine.

    Regulars – These privileges absolutely must be earned! Tipping well is usually a requirement of this, but mostly being some one to remember (i.e., being polite and patient) is where it is. Just frequenting the establishment is not enough; we must get to know you and like to be around you.

    The fruit tray thing KILLS me! This is not a buffet, your hands are dirty, do not touch!

    We have “Porn Guy” that will sit at the bar with his laptop and watch dirty videos. No joke! We have “Christopher Lloyd”, who looks like the star and will play old, slow music that I think must be from the 1920’s. When the (rock) band starts playing, he flips them off and all of the customers dancing to their music. And, of course, plenty of stalkers do exist!

    I like what you are doing here – we can use all the help we can get working in this industry!

  21. Tania says:

    Great list. I always wonder when I’m at a busy bar if cash vs. card matters much. I try to carry cash, but feel like if you’re there for the night, you might as well start a tab. I’ve long wondered how much of a pain that is for bartenders though, especially on a busy night. Thoughts?

  22. Jennifer says:

    LOVE IT!! I’ve been bartending for almost 10 years and I have encountered every single one of those problems! I will now name off a few of my favorite memorable customers.

    Pooper – This man would sit at the bar by himself and talk only to himself and when he needed a beer. After two beers, he would go into the bathroom (single stall) not shut the door, and take a crap for about twenty minutes. On average, around five customers would walk in on him and walk away gagging.

    God’s Gift – This one kid would always come in and hit on every single woman at the bar. He had only one line ‘hey beautiful’ and one night it was very dead in the bar and he used it on one girl seven times because he forgot she was the only woman in the bar.

    One Upper – Didn’t matter what you were talking about, who you were talking about, why you were talking about what you did, the One Upper ALWAYS had a better story than you. You could tell her that your grandmother was killed by a pack of hungry hippos on a scavenger hunt and she would try to one up you. She wouldn’t even be part of the conversation, and she would just randomly yell her story at you from across the bar.

    Patrick keep up the good work, some people just need to understand that if they want good service at a restaurant/bar, they need to give patronship!!

  23. Here’s another one after last night:

    – Don’t grab a wine list, cocktail list or menu off the bar that could belong to the person next to you without asking. So rude.

  24. chris says:

    Enjoyed reading the list; however, as a customer rather than a server/staff, I have to ask. Shouldn’t you be happy that you have customers who are willing to spend their hard earned cash at your establishment rather than judging them on seemingly petty behaviors?

    As for the tipping the bartender, I will tip for a good cocktail. I have trouble tipping 20% on a 8 dollar beer that took 30 seconds to get me. Am I supposed to feel bad that you don’t get paid minimum wage because I don’t. You took the job and knew what it entailed. There are lots of people who work for less than minimum wage and don’t get tips.

  25. Susan says:

    Love this list! Forwarded to me, a bartender for 30+ years, by my son – also a bartender.
    I would add: Don’t call for a drink by yelling “Sweetie” or any other endearment. I introduce myself for a reason. Use my name. I will re-introduce myself if you forget – third time – your not getting quick service.
    And for Chris and tipping 20% on a beer, feeling snarky, eh? Well, we will see how fast that $8 beer shows up in front of you! LOL! Seriously, I serve everyone as quickly as possible, with a smile, no matter what the order and hope for a decent tip. Yes, I know I am only getting $5 an hour and you don’t care. I’m still serving you. So lighten up.

  26. Green says:


    As long as you start a tab and pay at the end, it’s not usually an issue to use your card. It’s the people that order 1 drink and want to close out and then order another 5 minutes later and want to close out again, etc. that are an issue for us. We do, of course, prefer cash though due to gratuity declaring (depending on the location).

    It may sound like we’re being petty but, we deal with these behaviors over and over and over again on a nightly basis. Would you like it if I walked into your office, told your secretary to fuck off, put my feet on your desk and made a long distance call on your phone? I don’t think you would and, sadly, that’s not an outlandish analogy to some of the behavior we have to put up with. The bar is my office and a little common courtesy and etiquette goes a long way just as I’m sure it does in your work place.

    I’m sorry if you are averse to tipping for a single beer…that’s your prerogative. You need to understand, though, going in that you’re not going to ingratiate yourself with your bartender and you will wait longer for everything you order, you won’t get any breaks, deals or freebies and you may earn enough ire to get cut off lots faster. Is it that hard to part with $1 for that beer to reward the effort? If so, I would question whether or not you should be at the bar…that’s what liquor stores are for.

  27. Chris says:

    In response to Green,

    I’m not averse to tipping. But I think that the tip should be earned. It should not have to be in place to compensate for owners not paying a decent wage. It should be earned with quality, prompt service. Many jobs pay less than minimum wage, not just the restaurant industry, and in many of these industries tipping is not customary to compensate for the lack of minimum wage.

    Those in the industry say things like it’s only a dollar on a beer, or a few percentage points between a 10-15% tip and a 15-20% tip. The problem is this continues to promote the get something for nothing philosophy this country is headed towards. If service excels, tip well. If you half-ass it or give bare bones service (i.e Carryout), why should we tip at all? Part of eating at a restaurant and paying the cost of the food there is that you are paying to sit down, order food and have it brought to you. You are paying for the table to be bussed. That is all part of the cost you are paying up front.

  28. Leah says:

    In response to Chris-
    Regarding on what a customer is paying for up front, you may be mistaken in what you think you are paying for up front. Servers essentially function as private contractors, and many of the services you mentioned, such as food being brought, table being being bussed, are performed by staff members that function as sub-contractors that in a majority of establishments, hence a substantial portion of their wages are paid by the SERVER, through tipouts, not the customer sitting at a table. What you are paying for up front in menu cost, is actually more related to the restaurant itself; decor, cost of food from the distributor, cost of food delivery to the restaurant, utility bills, cost of property rental, trademark name or franchise name, etc. You are not really paying for any services, per se, in up front cost, that is what the tip is for. So, if you don’t tip, you are getting these services for free, and actually costing a server money to wait on you, since she/he is the one who has to pay a set percentage in tipouts to the bartender, the food runner, the busser, and in some places, the hostess as well, regardless of what or if a customer tips. I agree with you on your statement that “if service excels, tip well”, but if service is poor, the tip should reflect that as well. You are still receiving a service, even if it sucks. Unless the server blatantly is rude and disrespectful, calls you names or ridicules you to your face, there is no reason to not tip at all. Sometimes if a customer gets poor service or cold food, it is not necessarily the fault of a server. For example, a server that has just been sat with a large party and another table or two, is not going to be able to be able to provide exceptional service, if on top of all that, another table decides to seat themselves in her section. It is not physically possible, even for the best servers. Sometimes the kitchen screws up your steak, while it is the responsibility of the server to check each plate before it hits the table to make sure it’s correct, they are not going to stick their fingers in someone’s food to make sure it’s to a guest desired temperature. But if you are unhappy with your food, the server is the one providing the service to correct it, that is what you paying for. Many servers paychecks come with VOID stamped on the check amount, so the money you pay the restaurant isn’t going into a servers pocket, their tips are. I’m not sure what other jobs you are referring to that pay less than minimum wage, other than the restaurant industry. I was under the impression that all employers were legally obligated to pay the federally mandated minimum wage requirements, unless the employees worked in a position where a majority of the pay was garnered through tipping. Most servers want to provide excellent service and provide their guests with a good experience, that’s how they pay their rent. Restaurants don’t pay servers, their guests do, by paying their server to provide a service. There have many instances where I have had to declare more in tips than I actually leave with, because of what I am required to tipout to support staff. That’s just how it works, and if a busser does a super job, I then give them a little extra beyond the bare minimum, to reflect the level of service they provided for me.

  29. Jack says:

    Love the website. You did an amazing job covering bar behavior.The one thing that I did not see was the Inevitable, “Hey,buddy,how about hooking me up with a nice shot?” Every bottle behind the bar has a speed pour, and we have security cameras on us at all times. Me getting you drunker for less money doesn’t bode well for job securiy.

  30. Chris says:


    You must be in the restaurant industry to believe that servers are independent contractors. Waiters/waitresses are employed by restaurants. They are paid less than minimum wage with the understanding that they may receive tips to compensate. Some states require that servers make minimum wage when tips are factored in. However, to say the customer is responsible to compensate the server for them doing their job is ludicrous. If you talk to the owners of restaurants (I know a few owners/managers) they have told me that the price of food on the menu is designed to incorporate all costs (including server wages) leaving 1/3 profit typically except for big ticket items.
    Tips were a way to reward exemplary service. They have become a way to suppliment the income of servers who are paid less than minimum wage. While it is unfortunate that you make less than minimum wage, you can’t expect the customer to obviate the restaurant’s responsibility by tipping you. When I receive exemplary service, I tip in an exemplary fashion. However, if the service is poor or the food is screwed up, I will and have often tipped with a penny. Why? Because I want the server to realize I didn’t forget the tip but that I was unsatisfied. Whether mistakes are the kitchen’s fault or elsewhere the server acts as the liason between the front of the house and the back of the house and therefore, their tip is reflective of any problems with either.
    As for jobs that pay less than minimum wage, salaried positions are often this way. Medical residents often work 80-100 hours a week for 45,000 a year, which works out to around 9 dollars an hour as a M.D. I have friends who have salaried positions for 25-35,000 a year but put in 80-100 hours a week as well.

  31. Leah says:

    You are correct, I am in the restaurant industry, currently in management, but during the past 15 years in the industry, I have done everything from bussing to general management. I was referring to hourly positions, which are vastly different than salaried positions, & not governed by federal minimum wage mandates. $9 an hour is above federal minimum wage by the way. I am curious though; how you tip if you receive average service, nothing was bad or unsatisfactory, but service was not above and beyond the call of duty?

  32. Chris says:

    Leah- Depends on where its at. If I get average service at a TGIF/Bennigan’s/Max and Erma kind of place on a burger or sandwich, I’ll leave a dollar for a 10-12 dollar meal. When I say average service I’m implying little interaction with me, limited knowledge of the menu, failure to check on the quality of the meal or any needs during meal service, and/or failure to be prompt when handling the check. If I’m at a nice restaurant (35 dollars/plate and up) and I get average service, 5% usually. I refuse to compensate for average service, I don’t believe that’s the customers responsibility. Going to restaurant in my book (which I know you disagree) implies that I am paying for the food, the ambience, and basic (i.e average service) including having a server take my order, bring me my food, and have the table bussed and my check brought to me.

    I do have to say, I’ve had wonderful service more often than not and tip in the 30% range quite often when I get it.

  33. Bruce says:

    You are correct, I am in the restaurant industry, currently in management, but during the past 15 years in the industry, I have done everything from bussing to general management. I was referring to hourly positions, which are vastly different than salaried positions, & not governed by federal minimum wage mandates. $9 an hour is above federal minimum wage by the way. I am curious though; how you tip if you receive average service, nothing was bad or unsatisfactory, but service was not above and beyond the call of duty?

  34. Don’t be that annoying solo guy at the bar that everyone hates. You know the one I’m talking about; Loud, buzzed, trying to be everyone’s friend, telling the bartender bad jokes, intruding on everyone’s conversations, making unwelcome advances, etc. If people aren’t reciprocating, shut the fuck up, or better yet, leave.

  35. Todd says:

    Hi Patrick,

    Great work! After 20 years in the industry at varying levels I am now a liquor rep so I see this stuff in 10-20 bars a day. It amazes me how common courtesy is continually eroding in our society.

    Anyway, I had another possible for your list: Profanity.

    With your caveats in place, in many areas of the country restaurants with full bars are restaurants during the day and bars at night. In my state, minors are allowed to be in the restaurant side of a bar until 9:00 pm. Now I am no f’in saint, but with that said if I am out for a business lunch or having dinner with my 10 year old I expect to NOT hear patrons (or staff for that matter) dropping F-bombs during the day.

    Don’t get me wrong…if I am the only one in a bar, I think it is fine to be a little blue if the situation warrants, but if bar patrons are enjoying a drink before dinner hour is over in what would be considered a family friendly environment they should watch their language. Bottom line–If the sun is up, don’t say “fuck”

  36. Patrick, excellent list. One would think that most of the items listed would be a no brainer.


  37. Mike R says:

    We’re not trying to be pretentious or take an attitude as Evan wrote “people lucky enough to be served drinks by you”. There are bartenders and servers like that and we don’t want them working with us. The point of the list is to make the experience better for all the guests. Is there a suggestion there that any of you find fault with? It seems very straight forward and reasonable to me. I’ve been told that one of the reasons our regulars keep coming to see us is that we discourage rude or boorish behavior.

  38. katie k says:

    I totally agree. But as you say, customers are responsible for the service almost as much as the server is, so to acknowledge that 50%+ that the server is responsible for, here is a short list from the customer’s side:

    1. Don’t serve prettier/thinner/whateverer girls faster/better/whateverer than you serve me. It’s obvious. Maybe you don’t consciously know that you’re doing it, but we do. Trust me, they’re not gonna leave a happy ending as a tip. Probably.

    2. When I’m waiting politely, making eye contact and holding a finger up to signal you, don’t pass me over again and again to help the loud, obnoxious customers. I get that you want to shut them up, but it makes me feel like I have to be loud and obnoxious to get your attention, and I really don’t want to.

    3. Don’t act like I’m inconveniencing you if I ask you a question. I promise, answering one question politely isn’t going to open the floodgates, letting loose a torrent of questions culminating in me asking you to describe every drink you know how to make.

    4. Don’t sweep my tip off the bar like it’s trash. I understand it’s busy, and I certainly don’t expect you to worship me for leaving you $2 on a $7 drink, but it would be great if you could manage a “thanks” or at least pick it up like it’s money and not a used napkin.

    5. Most importantly, give me a chance to be an asshole before you start treating me like an asshole. There are some super rude people out there, and I’m sorry your job brings you into direct contact with them again and again, but they’re a minority. I totally won’t be one of them.

    As with your list, please take it in the spirit intended – for those few who need it on behalf of the many wonderful servers and customers out there. 🙂

  39. Joe says:

    Not sure about #7. So many restaurant bars specialize in cocktails, beer, or wine these days, it seems reasonable to ask a bartender for recommendations. Of course, if the bar is very busy, I would hold off any requests that weren’t extremely specific (i.e. “What’s your best IPA” not “tell me the differences between your four IPAs.”)

    A bartender’s job at a restaurant like that should include sharing knowledge about drinks, the same way a waiter would be able to speak about the food. And of course, everyone should tip a bartender who helps them pick a drink very generously – they contribute so much to a great night!

  40. Gil says:

    Thank you for publishing this. I do my absolute best to observe the basic rules and decorum of every establishment I frequent, but it’s those “little things” that sometimes get overlooked. the small things make a remarkable difference between a fun night out and a disaster.

    It all comes down to basic civility, courtesy and common sense. Unfortunately, some people, no matter how old they are will ever have these qualities so vital to function in a harmonious and civilized setting.

    Re #20..If I have to reach between two people seated at the bar and they have to hand the money to the bartender and me my drink, I’ll buy them a round. No ifs ands or buts.

    Same with #43..If I ask someone to watch my seat while I go to the restroom, I’ll buy them a drink.

    I used to work as a bar back..and one thing that I hated were people I don’t know touching and grabbing me in order to get my attention. If I know you and you tap me on my shoulder, that’s different. In reality, it is NOT a good practice to touch a bartender, server or any employee, ever unless you are a regular and they are comfortable with you.

    Most people are out to have a good time and know the rules of the road. Unfortunatley, it’s those few who don’t that make it unpleasant for everyone involved.

    Also remember what goes around, comes around.

  41. Gil says:

    @ Chris (24)..

    little “petty” behaviors can escalate into huge problems if not corrected. If people at certain establishments are allowed to get away with annoying behavior on a continual basis, this WILL have an impact on business in the long term. Few people I know want to spend time in an unpleasant place around obnoxious people.

    Don’t want to tip? Then buy your own beer and stay home.

    You are the type of customer that this blog addresses. Those that simply “don’t get it” and never will.

  42. Bill says:

    #31. It stands as a list, all on its own; and, it universally fits into all industries.

  43. It sure was nice when you talked about the “Listener” and how it is a person that usually stares at people and listen in to their conversations. Even I would not want that, and I am generally tolerating of people. But anyway, I will be sure to keep this in mind since I will be visiting a sports bar soon. Though I do not think there will be a person like this there considering we are all there to watch sports.

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