Dining out is one of life’s best simple pleasures. Food always tastes better when you don’t have to cook it yourself, and that’s even more true when you don’t have to worry about a big pile of dishes or even clear the table. Unfortunately, though, many people take dining out as an opportunity to act like jerks to servers, chefs, and fellow diners.
Sometimes, you don’t even know that you’re acting like a jerk to the people who are serving you food in a restaurant, but that’s no excuse to go on making their lives difficult. Even if you’re a frequent OpenTable flyer and spend more money on fine dining than mortgage payments, you could still be acting like an asshole while you’re dining out. Here’s five ways to avoid that.
A restaurant reservation isn’t a suggested time for you to show up. Making a reservation means that the restaurant is holding a table specifically for you, and if you’re half an hour late, you’re screwing up the rhythm of the restaurant, and keeping paying customers from eating their dinner. This is especially true if the restaurant is busy or booked up. If a volcano or other act of God prevents you from making it to your dinner reservation on time, call the restaurant as soon as you know that you’re going to be late so that the staff can prepare.
In a busy restaurant, servers are (literally) spinning a hundred plates at once. Demanding that your cocktail or appetizer be made more quickly has a zero percent chance of actually getting it to your table any faster, and only lets your server know that you’re going to be a pain in the ass. The same goes for substitutions and special requests. Chefs are generally happy to accomodate, but if you don’t like half of the ingredients in a dish, you should probably consider ordering something else.
You may have seen the chef of the restaurant that you’re dining at a few times at the bar, but the likelihood that he remembers you is pretty low. Even if you do actually know the chef personally, it’s a dick move to tell your server that you’re friends with their boss. If the chef wants to come interact with you, she’ll come out from the kitchen, and probably send you out some free stuff and it will all be great. Otherwise, keep your mouth shut, and tell your “chef friend” how great dinner was the next time you see them.
Kids will be kids, but there’s nothing worse than eating dinner next to, or worse, serving a table with an unruly or screaming child. A normal level of noise and play is totally accepted, and most servers will cut the “crusts” off your child’s cheeseburger with a smile. There is nothing acceptable about kids running around a restaurant or throwing landscaping rocks at each other on the patio. If you’re sipping a glass of wine while your kids destroy a restaurant, everyone around you is thinking terrible thoughts about you, including your server.
In a perfect world, servers would be paid a living wage and tips would just be a nice little perk. In reality, servers rely on tips to pay their bills and feed their kids, and diners should absolutely remember that when it’s time to pay the check. 20% is a standard minimum tip, but if your server went above and beyond, or you made a lot of special requests, you should absolutely tip more. If you don’t tip at all, even if your service wasn’t great, you should probably just stick to dining at home.
Amy McCarthy is Paste’s Assistant Food Editor. She really thinks that you should tip more. Find her on Twitter @aemccarthy.