Recommendations of proper restaurant etiquette as told by a restaurant server

I have been in the restaurant business for almost twenty years. Started as a hostess but quickly became a server and I soon fell for the whole machine that is a working restaurant. As I go after my life’s pursuit of filmmaking, restaurants have been my home away from home, my light in a dark tunnel, my pain in the ass and one of my best friends.

I love food. I love wine. I love family and friends. I love dining out. And I LOVE all four, at the same time.


There are rules to restaurant dining…

All those who’ve worked in a restaurant longer than say a year, but most notably servers, are really the most qualified to make such rules simply BECAUSE we are the link between the food and the customer. That is essential in any restaurant dining and therefore, I feel completely qualified to make this list of what I like to call recommendations rather than rules of how one should conduct oneself when dining in public.


1. Do not, and I repeat, DO NOT enter a restaurant fifteen minutes before they close for anything other than picking up a takeout order or an employee there. (Respect the hours of service. Are you going to eat and leave in under fifteen minutes? Then, please come another time.)

2. Okay, no question is a stupid one, but things like, “Is there chicken in the chicken Caesar?” and “Why didn’t you tell me there was all this lettuce in the salad?” are just embarrassing for everyone involved. But if you insist on asking those gems, accept a smart-ass yet comical answer in reply. You deserve one.

3. If you don’t know wine, PLEASE don’t pretend you do. Allow us to help you. That’s why we are there.

4. Accept that your memory of a dish you think you had at a restaurant might be wrong. It will just save everyone a lot of time. Ask about it once, okay. Beyond that, the restaurant will and should win that conversation.

5. Birthday candles – YES. Singing – NO. There are others in the restaurant. Have some decency.

6. Hot water is not a beverage option. It’s an annoyance. Pay for some tea or drink the complimentary water that’s available.

7. Eat where you can afford.

8. If you lounge at a table well beyond your meal, fine, but adjust your tip accordingly in the server’s favor. Why? Because you aren’t renting the table. You are there for a meal. Beyond that, is it really fair for you to stay?

9. Asking for recommendations is like asking a parent who their favorite child is – no one should have to pick. Nor does anyone want to. And in this case, all taste buds are different. If the servers favorite dish is shrimp linguine and you’re allergic to shellfish, you just wasted everyone’s time. The bottom line is you know what you like. Look at the menu and choose. Otherwise, ask your server to order whatever he/she thinks is best and let them do their thing.

10. Don’t wait forever to pay your bill. You received a service. Pay for it when the bill is given to you.

11. Use those wonderful ideas you have on how to improve a menu by opening up your own restaurant and learning for yourself how annoying and disrespectful that actually is.

12. If you are really as close to the chef as you say you are, they’ll know you are in their restaurant and so will we, so there’s no need to name drop.

13. “Have it your way” is BURGER KING’S slogan. Remember that and go there if that’s what you’re looking for.



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