DOs and DON’Ts: How to Behave in a Restaurant

by Kristen Kerstner
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How to Behave in a Restaurant - Fresh Print Magazine

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If you’ve never worked in a restaurant, or in any kind of customer service job, it’s possible that you just don’t know how things work. There are certain things that you should absolutely do when you go out and others that you should absolutely, under no circumstances,ever do in a restaurant or any public space for that matter. Of course, this list assumes you are receiving good service, but here are some tips on proper restaurant etiquette.

DO tip your server. This one’s obvious, but it had to be said. He or she is being paid less to serve you because it is assumed you will tip. All servers give a portion of their tips from each table to the support staff, and when you don’t tip, they actually end up paying other people for the privilege of serving you. If you can’t afford to tip, you can’t afford to go out.

DON’T complain about your table. Not everyone can have a booth, or a seat by the window, or whatever else you’re looking for. If you have a request, make it at the hostess stand, but if they can’t accommodate you, move on. Every restaurant has one or two awkward tables, and these are the only instances when your request to switch tables will not make you seem like a difficult human being. Definitely DON’T walk around and try to choose your own table; it’s condescending and rude. There is a floor plan, and other reservations to consider, and hopefully the company you are with is interesting enough to distract you from the position of your table relative to every other table in the restaurant.

DON’T show up with eight or more people on a Saturday night without a reservation and get mad at the hostess because she gave you an hour wait time. Asking for an update on the wait is absolutely okay, but don’t spend the hour sending different people from your group to the hostess to ask her about the wait and to tell her how hungry you are. If there was a table available, you would already be sitting at it. On that note…

DO aim a little higher when you’re making reservations for large groups. If you think there is any chance more people may show up, make the reservation for that number. It is way easier to pull tables and place settings away than it is to find room and chairs for the three or more extra people you decided to bring along last minute.

DON’T sit side by side when you’re sitting at a table for two on a banquette, especially if there are people sitting next to you. The tables are not meant to be sat at like that, and the person next to you really doesn’t appreciate you taking up the precious limited space between your tables so you can be cute with your significant other.

DO tell your server about your allergies. No one needs you going into anaphylactic shock because you didn’t fully read the description and your server didn’t know you were allergic to mushrooms or what have you. Servers are menu experts. Let them be your food sherpa.

DO tell you’re server, the host, and whoever you make your reservation with if you are planning a surprise dinner. DO allow time for your guests to arrive, and DO let everyone know who the surprisee will ask for when he or she arrives. The restaurant actually wants everything to go off without a hitch, but they need to know what you’re planning so they can help you out.

DO call if you’re running late for your reservation. Your table will be given away if they don’t know you’re still coming. If you can’t make it for whatever reason DO call. It may not affect you, but it affects everyone else in the restaurant including all the people in the restaurant waiting for tables.

DON’T wave and/or snap at your server. They are your server, but not your personal minion, and they are coming. Definitely DON’T wave to your server to place your order if you aren’t actually sure what you want yet.

DON’T bring your children. I’m mostly kidding about this one, but remember that restaurants are not your child’s personal play place, and servers are not responsible for taking care of your children during the time you are there. Please keep them in their seats. Unsurprisingly, most tables don’t have enough space around them to accommodate your stroller. Don’t be surprised if you are asked to put your child in a highchair, or if you can’t sit at your favourite table after insisting on keeping your stroller with you.

The bottom line is, when you go to a restaurant, try to remember that you are dealing with human beings. Yes, you are paying for a service, but no one deserves to be treated like a lesser being just because you are on your down time. Getting bad service is one thing, but just being ignorant is something entirely different.

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