Bad tips aside, you're being rude to your waiter. 15 unconscious foibles to avoid.
Should it be a requirement to have worked in the service industry to enjoy a restaurant? Maybe.
If you've never spent hours on your feet clearing tables, folding napkins, plating and replating food, calculating tax and tip, or worse, dealing with less-than-grateful guests, you may not realize the horrendously rude habits and behaviors you've grown accustomed to that make your server's job unbearably difficult.
Never held a front-of-house or back-of-house job? Servers, chefs and restaurant professionals will bring you up to speed on all the things you shouldn't do when you dine out.
Playing musical chairs
Darron Cardosa, who goes by the name The Bitchy Waiter, said it's super rude when diners start a meal at one table but move when a more option opens up. "This can throw off the seating rotation, confuse the food runner and require servers to switch tables or adjust information in the computer," Cardosa told Mic via email.
Forgetting your server is human
In attempts to be quick and efficient, restaurant customers are known to forget their manners and just blurt out an order like "Diet Coke," rather than greeting a server or forming a full sentence. "This is just flat-out rude, and if they don't realize it, they're an idiot," Cardosa said.
Assuming your server hates their job
"While a customer might think they are making simple conversation, asking a server 'So, what else do you do?" can be an insult," Cardosa said. "It implies that being a server is not enough."
Gesturing with utensils
You may be prone to talking with your hands, but put down the fork before engaging in conversation with your server. Chef Mark Hennessey of New York's Le Marais restaurant said he's seen food fly everywhere — other guests' hair, for example — due to customers speaking with their utensils in hand.
Using your phone while ordering
If you need to look at every menu item on Yelp or check email during your lunch break, at least have the respect to make eye contact with your server and request additional time before ordering. You might also — gasp! — take a device break. Cardosa said using your phone while ordering gives the impression you think you're more important than the server, who is just trying to do their job.
Sitting down five minutes before closing — or staying seated long after you're done with your meal
It's not okay to ignore the fact you're the last customer left in the restaurant; the entire staff now has to stay at work until you finally take that last sip of coffee, Cardosa said. Even if you sat down long before closing time, take some context clues and leave once the night is over.
"Staying in the restaurant well past closing time — after the bill has been paid and every other customer has left — is incredibly inconsiderate," Cardosa said. "Any server would freely admit to hating that kind of customer."
Being out of sync with your group
If you're part of a large group, order together — even if you all arrive at different times. "Ordering at different times can completely throw off the kitchen and the server's routine," Cardosa said. In other words, get your group hang under control.
Sitting at a dirty table
"The reason that table is dirty is because whoever is serving it does not have time to clean it up right now, and therefore [doesn't] have time to take another table," Cardosa said. If you seat yourself regardless of the table's state, you might be waiting a while before someone comes to take care of you.
Ordering water for the table
In some restaurants, water isn't served unless a guest requests it. Don't assume that because you're thirsty, everyone in your party also wants a glass of water. "When one person assumes that all nine of his friends want water, it takes time and resources that may be unnecessary," Cardosa said. "Let everyone ask for their own water so we can use our time wisely."
Snapping or clicking to get your server's attention
"I am not a dog," former server Hollie S. told Mic in an interview about her experiences with rude guests. Don't raise your hand like you're in school. Don't snap. Absolutely. Do. Not. Whistle. Try and make eye contact with your server if you need their attention.
Neglecting the fact Venmo exists
"If you are a grown adult, please don't act surprised [that it takes a while] when you ask us to split the check 16 ways on credit cards," Hollie said. "I can't make the computer system any newer or any faster." If you want your server to like you more, take out cash in anticipation of a group dinner or just Venmo someone to reimburse the charge on a single card.
Stacking your plates
"I promise that it's way harder if you hand [a stack of plates] to us," Hollie said. "And we are more likely to slip if we are off balance. Trust me, we know you are being nice, but just let it be." Also, if you care about your server's clearing regimen, don't leave personal garbage like tissues, gum and expired coupons on the table — just find your own trash can.
Touching your server
It may sound obvious, but here's a quick reminder: Your server is a human doing a job, not a dining accessory you can reach out and touch. "My tattoos are not an invitation to touch me, even if you are trying to compliment me ... please don't," Hollie said. Actually, just refrain from making comments on your server's appearance, which is totally inappropriate.
Expecting a waiter to also serve as a babysitter
"Please don't let your children pour out salt or sugar, smear condiments on the table or throw all of their food on the ground," Hollie said. "I will be there at 12:30 a.m. on my hands and knees vacuuming that off the floor under the booth." And keep an eye on your kids, she added. Standing on the table and running around the restaurant may look cute, but it's both a liability and a hazard for your server.
Leaving a less-than-generous tip
"Remember that we are only human," Hollie said. "Sometimes we have an off day. Sometimes the kitchen is backed up, sometimes things are just out of our control. We make $2.13 an hour, which gets taxed, and we [also] tip out. If you leave me less than 10%, I won't make any money."