After a few years working as a server, sometimes part-time, sometimes full-time, always questioning my sanity, I think it is time to let you all in on a few trade secrets. Servers really hate when you do these things:
Hide your credit inside the checkbook.
We don’t have x-ray vision, and it is impossible to know if there is a card in there or not. On a busy day, your server will only have time to glance over, and will assume you haven’t looked at your check yet if there is nothing poking out of or sitting on top of it.
Okay, sure, it’s convenient for you. But really, how hard is it to figure out what your lunch cost and put in that much money, or to split the check evenly between a few cards? Does that dollar difference between your meal and your friend’s really matter that much? And anyways, you probably eat with these people every week. Why not go in rounds—you know, I’ll pay this week, you pay next week? It will probably work out.
Be impatient when you ask to split the check six ways.
So no one has cash and you have to split the check. It happens. No worries. But realize it takes a lot of time to run 6 cards through the credit card machine. No magic wands here. Sorry.
Hold the check hostage when it is brought to your table.
You want to sit a while. That’s okay! (Unless it’s busy and there’s a long wait for tables, in which case it’s not really okay. But we’ll say it is.) Just pay for your food so we can close your table and forget about you. There’s no implicit contract saying that once you pay you must leave immediately, so calm down and hand over the checkbook.
Stand right in the line of traffic while waiting for your table.
Everyone will dislike you for doing this. When things get busy, we are running, and getting in the way is hazardous for all parties. Fifteen minute wait? Go away, sit in a corner, or stand off to the side. Be anywhere but that spot. Please.
Ask for extra dressing. Wait for your server to bring it. Ask for more bread. Wait until they return. Ask for another beer. Repeat ad infinitum.
Oh, your table is low on bread, beer, and dressing? Why not save us three trips back and forth and ask for it all at once? Waiting until your server brings one thing to ask for the next is one of the most inconvenient things you can do.
There is no excuse for tipping less than 15 percent. I tip 15 for bad service. Good service gets 18 at least, but anyone who realizes that minimum wage is $4/hour and isn’t a miser generally tips at least 20. Regulars who never tip over 15 might be the worst; clearly you like the place. For an extremely comprehensive guide to tipping, check this out: http://www.tobyisrael.me/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/TABLE-final-3.png.
Say you are ready to order, then take 5 minutes to make up your mind.
Every minute spent at your table is a minute a server can’t be doing any of the 50 other things they need to do, like running food, bussing a table, making drinks, or going to the bathroom. Have pity, and don’t ask to place your order until you are actually ready.
Complain when you receive the food you ordered.
We want you to be happy and enjoy your food. However, that statement has limitations. If a mistake has legitimately been made, by all means say something. But if you’re unhappy that the garlic potato soup you ordered has too much garlic in it, or that the salad you asked for is too salad-y, sleep in the bed you made.
Wait to complain until it’s too late to do anything.
If you are unhappy and there is a way to fix it, don’t say everything is fine when your server checks in on you (unless you are actually fine with it). Once you finish eating, your complaints no longer count.
Complain, and then insist on doing nothing about it.
Don’t complain unless you want something changed. Letting your server know the burger is under-cooked, “just to tell them,” is utterly pointless. Don’t take advantage of the free-dessert-to-unhappy-customers-policy, either.
Be the last people sitting when it’s closing time.
At this point, you are the only thing stopping your servers from breaking down, sweeping up, and going home. Don’t be those a**holes. When you realize the restaurant is suddenly empty and the servers are sneaking glances at you every minute or so, it’s time to leave.
Play music loudly on your phone, sit with your chair way out blocking the path, or otherwise disrupt the meals of other diners.
A restaurant is not your private dining room. Please remember to be a respectful human being while there.
Invent your own menu options to order.
Most restaurants will be flexible around modifications and substitutions. Within limits. Yes there is a chicken sandwich, pesto, and asiago chese on the menu. No, it does not say “build your own sandwich” anywhere. All of you no cheese, no gluten faddists are also getting old. The researchers who discovered non-celiac gluten intolerance now think it may not be a real thing (http://www.alternet.org/food/new-study-claims-gluten-intolerance-may-not-exist-separate-celiac-disease), so why not enjoy the bread?
As always, I present these comments to you with love and appreciation for all those kind, considerate, easy-going diners that find their way to my tables as well. And ultimately, if you must do any of these things, it’s okay. Just realize that they are inconvenient, time-consuming or disruptive and remember to say thank you!
Did I miss anything? Feel free share your addition in the comments!