I’ve been waiting tables off and on for about 10 years, and I spent my first year in Brooklyn waiting tables at a diner in Park Slope. It was a fantastic cultural introduction to New York. When a lady ordered an egg cream, I had to go ask the other waitress what the hell an egg cream was. People would order “cawfee in a containa,” which mean they wanted their coffee in a paper to go cup. (I resisted my urge to point out that coffee was a liquid, so it was always served in a container). For the most part, I had fun working at the diner; the old ladies who’d tell me about “shoot em up” movies they’d seen recently far outnumbered the coked up postal workers who’d make the same bad joke about a soup sandwich daily. But my Fun-O-Meter dropped down to zero when people yelled at their kids in front of me or demanded items they’d eaten at other diners. Stuart wrote a post a while back about proper restaurant behavior, and I wanted to add a few pieces of advice to diners.
Don’t Put Me in the Middle of Fights Over the Bill
There are customers who get mad when I set the bill slightly closer to their friend, and then their friend snatches up the bill. Or Customer #1 will grab the bill out of my hand, leaving their Customer #2 to tell me that it was their turn to pay, and Customer #1 paid last time. Here’s the thing: I don’t care who pays the bill. It’s none of my business. I just care that someone pays the bill (and tips me), so I don’t have to chase you down the street. To avoid this, I just throw the check onto the table and run away. So, if you’re dining out with a friend who always pays, ask me for the check when your friend is in the bathroom. I’ll be more than happy to let you take care of the bill then, just please don’t suck me into your drama.
Read the Menu
This seems obvious, but so many people won’t even crack it open. Then they’d ask for my “personal recommendation,” as if I knew some secret entree that wasn’t listed on the menu. Your server has no problem helping you decide between two options, or elaborating on the description of an item for clarification. But taste and food preferences are incredibly subjective; your and your server’s palates could be violently different. For example: I don’t eat meat and I hate strawberries. Anything I’d personally recommend is going to be from a very limited spectrum of the menu. Also, you should read the menu so you avoid ordering a peanut butter banana milkshake in a restaurant that doesn’t even have milkshakes.
If You Say You’re Ready to Order, Please be Ready to Order
If you’re still thinking when I ask if you’re ready to order, tell me that you need a few minutes. Because in all honestly, when you make me listen to your inner monologue about ordering blueberry or chocolate chip pancakes, I’m thinking about the tables I could be bussing, coffee I could be refilling, etc. I try my best to give each table the time and attention they deserve, even when I’m crazy busy. But I have a lot tasks and people to balance, and watching you waffle between a burger and a pork sandwich is not a good use of either of our times.
Don’t Leave Gross Garbage on the Table
I’m totally cool with cleaning up your dishes, crumbs, napkins, spills, etc. But I don’t need to touch your snot ridden Kleenexes or pry your chewed gum off of a soda glass. Restaurants have bathrooms with garbage cans. Please use them.