Thursday, January 31, 2013

Introduction to Restaurants

As a seasoned server and bartender who just made a giant, running leap out of the hospitality industry, it has come to my attention that there are many, many restaurant patrons out there who have seemingly never dined in an actual restaurant before. Now, I am not talking about a coffee shop, or McDonalds, I am talking about an actual, sit-down, dine-in, restaurant. Living in Canada, one would think "Surely everybody in this country has eaten in a restaurant at least once?” but, working as a server you realize that many people may never have been exposed to the inside of an actual restaurant before, and are not quite sure how to behave. Well, read on my friends; I intend to share some of the valuable insights I have gained over the years that will surely help you avoid offending your server, annoying other patrons, as well as embarrassing yourself, whoever you’re with, and acting like a huge douche.


Upon arrival at the restaurant you will likely see a sign that states “Please Wait to Be Seated”. This sign is usually located just inside the entrance and is placed there as a message to customers. Do not enter the restaurant, walk past the sign, seat yourself in the darkest corner of the restaurant, and then become enraged after 15 minutes when nobody has come to your table to serve you.


Shortly after that you will be seated at a table, and a person will approach you. If you are deep in a conversation with your friend that you came with, do not continue your conversation while this “person” stands at your table looking directly at you. This individual is called your server and they are there to bring you food and drinks. It is important that you acknowledge them in order to get food and beverages while at the restaurant. If you are familiar with this server concept, it is also important that you do not rudely shoo them away from your table with a gesture or a wave when they approach you because “you are not ready”. You will likely not see them again for a very long time.

Surrounding Adjustments

If you have a friend arriving after you have been seated, but there is not enough room at the table, do not decide to stand up and start moving the restaurant’s furniture and chairs around to accommodate your party. The same goes for adjusting the curtains, changing the television channels, adjusting the thermostat, and opening/closing the windows.


You will be presented with something called a menu, which is kind of like a list of all of the food and drinks that the restaurant serves and their prices. The restaurant only serves food that is on the menu. Do not ask the restaurant to cook you something that is not on the menu. Your server will not tell you this, but they would likely want to suggest to you that you could either cook that item yourself at home or go to another restaurant that actually does serve that dish. What will actually happen is that they will pretend to check with the kitchen, point out the guy that doesn’t want anything that the restaurant serves to the chef, and all nod in agreement that you are a pain in the ass and should probably just go somewhere else.

Out of Stock Products

If you order something that you would like and the restaurant does not carry that product, do not suggest that they should give you something for free. If you order something and the restaurant has run out of it, do not suggest that they give you something for free. Giving out free food and beverages is not how restaurants stay in business, and the restaurant does not owe you something if they are unable to cater to every whim you might have while under their roof. Also, asking for free stuff makes you look like a huge cheapo and will make your server uncomfortable when they have to reject you and tell you that you will be paying for what you’ve ordered.


If you are allergic to everything: Do not eat a restaurant. If you think you are allergic to gluten, you should research what foods do and do not have gluten. Do not sit drinking a wheat beer, inquiring what gluten free menu items are available because of your serious allergy. Your server will think you are a simpleton for consuming gluten while insisting you are allergic to it and not knowing the details of your own supposed health condition.

The Kiss of Death

Do not order hot water with lemon. You will be hated immediately.


If you have your children or somebody else’s children with you at the restaurant, you must care for them the entire time that you are at the restaurant. Do not ask your server to hold your baby while you eat your meal, or to take your five year old to go pee. Also, children are not permitted to scream, play tag or run laps around the restaurant as this will irritate the people without children, who have been to a restaurant before, and are just trying to have a nice peaceful meal. Often, children will be given crayons with a children’s menu. These crayons are for the child to draw on the children’s menu provided. They are not for use on the regular menu, tablecloth, or walls, and are also not for your child to eat, stick up their nose, or use as a projectile. If you are an adult, and you are not very hungry, do not ask if you can order off of the children’s menu. The children’s menu is actually designed for restaurant patrons that are children and usually has some sort of age restriction that adults do not meet such as “12 and under”.

Patios Can Be Tricky

Some restaurants have an outdoor seating area called a patio. Restaurant patrons will frequent these areas during the warmer seasons such as summer. Shade umbrellas are often provided with many of the tables. Beware! Patio etiquette can be very, very complicated, much more so than inside the restaurant. Patios are accessed through the entrance of the restaurant and the “Please wait to be seated sign” previously mentioned would also apply to that area. Do not walk past the sign, through the restaurant, and seat yourself on the patio. Do not access the patio by jumping the fence or sneaking through the back door and seating yourself either

Flies on the Patio

Because the patio is located outside, there may be insects such as flies, or the occasional wasp. Do not complain to your server about the insects and ask them if they can “do something” about them. Although the insects are technically on the restaurant property, the employees are actually fairly powerless against nature and likely will not be able to stop various insects from flying around outside. Do not ask for a free beer if one of the above insects flies into the last ounce of your Rickard’s White.


It may also start to rain at some point on a patio because of its outdoor location. Do not ask your server to “do something” about the rain either, as they are fairly powerless over that force of nature as well. If it begins to rain, but you are seated under an umbrella, do not tell your server that you do not want to move inside because of the rain. Do not suggest that because you are seated under an umbrella and staying dry, that they should continue to come outside and get soaking wet in the pissing rain to serve you. Your server will likely not see the "fun" side of you dining in the rain.


Do not bring your dog to the restaurant, even if there is a patio. The restaurants will allow the insects on the patio, but they will not allow your beloved dog due to sanitation and health code violations. If you have tied your dog just out side the patio area, do not ask your server if they would mind bringing your dog a bowl of water. As much as I like dogs, I don't bring them to restaurants. Not cool.

Request an Ugly Server

Do not be rude to your server because he/she is attractive and you are with your significant other. Attractive servers are accustomed to this phenomenon and will likely think that you are petty and mean, along with your partner who already knew you were insecure and jealous anyway.

Suggesting Smiles

Do not tell your server to smile.

Free Stuff

Do not ask your server to bring you a glass of ice water with lemon or an extra basket of bread that you have absolutely no intention of ever even touching. Your server may resent the fact that you are wasting their time, asking them to bring you complimentary items that you do not even want, and then causing them to have to clear said items, and bring them back to throw in the garbage after you leave.

Messy Friend

If you are eating with a friend, and he gets a huge string of cheese hanging from his beard, or some mustard streaked across his cheek, or a big black thing in his teeth, do not pretend that it is not there and let him chit chat and smile at you and everyone around him completely oblivious. Eventually he will look in a mirror, discover his new addition, wonder why you didn’t tell him, and ultimately think that you are a huge douche.

Two Bite Check

Once your food has arrived, your server will come by to make sure that it is cooked properly and tastes good. Do not tell your server that your meal is delicious, eat until you are full, lick the plate clean and then tell the server that you didn’t actually enjoy it, you were just really hungry. Your server will immediately recognize this as a pathetic attempt at getting a free meal and know that you are a cheap, shameless scammer.

Fishy Fish

Do not order a seafood item such as fish, shrimp, crab, squid, or mussels and then complain that it tastes fishy. Fish tastes fishy and this is not an opportunity for a complimentary meal.


At some point during your meal you may finish your drink and want another one. Do not interrupt your server while she is taking an order at another table to order your drink. Do not put your used glass on the empty table beside you so that your server is sure to notice it. Do not bang on your empty glass with one of your utensils. Do not shout across the restaurant that you want another Heineken, or yell “Hey!” or snap your fingers, or hold your empty glass up in the air over your head. Simply wait for your sever to come back into your vicinity and request that she bring you an another beverage.


Do not tear your beer coaster into 500,000,000 pieces.

Chit Chat

Do not engage you server in long conversations about your personal situation outside of the restaurant, knowing that other patrons are staring at them longingly, waiting for service, while you rant on for 15 minutes about your workout routine/children/dogs/job/relationship. Your server will humor you for a short time because they basically have no choice, but they will have other customers annoyed with them and ultimately hate you for wasting their time with your boring story. Do not engage a server in a conversation when they are walking by with two arms full of 7 plates each and one balancing on their head. They are busy and it is not a good time to chat.

Throwing Stuff

After you have eaten your meal, your server will come by to clear your plates. Servers appear to be able to carry many different things in their hands at once and this is a very delicate balancing act. Do not roll your napkin up in a ball and fire it onto the plate as your server is trying to walk away in an attempt to further clear your table. Also, do not pick up additional cutlery of the table and throw them onto the plate either, as this will interfere with the balancing act previously mentioned.

Doggy Bags

Do not ask if you can take home the rest of your soup.

Guess what, it's my birthday!

Do not lie and say that it is your birthday in an attempt to get a free dessert. Restaurant employees can smell a birthday liar a mile away and you will not be fooling anyone.

Double Seatings

Some restaurants will have two seatings in a night. When you book a table in such a restaurant, you will be told that another table will be coming and what time they will be arriving. Like you, they have also booked a dinner reservation at the restaurant. You will likely be reminded of the time limit when you arrive. Do not pretend that nobody has ever mentioned this to you before when it is time for you to go. Do not ignore the time limit and order a full bottle of wine 12 minutes before the next seating, causing stress for the restaurant employees and the customers that are hungry and waiting for the table they booked. Do not accuse the server of “kicking you out” and not leave a tip when they inevitably present you with a bill and remind you for the fortieth time that your time is up. You, your server, the people who are waiting, and everyone else in the restaurant is well aware of the reservation policy and everyone will think you are a huge douche.

Separate Bills

Do not come to a restaurant with 75 of your friends and then mention at the very end that you would all like separate bills.

Thanks Isn't Cash

When paying your bill, after receiving good service, do not leave a 5% tip and then profusely thank your server for the excellent job they did. They will likely resent your compliment after they discover that you have then insulted them with your cheap tip.