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Style & Living Food and Drinks

The 9 Most Annoying Things You Can Do in a Restaurant to Piss Off Your Server

Servers constantly put up with a lot of bad behavior — but this is what really pushes them over the edge.

By Sara Gauchat

Ever wondered if your server was secretly hating you because you requested your dressing on the side or you asked to hear that last special one more time? Good news — you’re totally in the clear. Unless you also find yourself committing any of these nine restaurant customer sins that can obliterate the patience of even the most saintly servers…

1. Refuse Basic Social Interaction

Ah, small talk…it’s what makes the world go round. But some people seem to forget that unspoken rule of civility when they pick up a restaurant menu. “You could walk up and say, ‘Hi, my name’s Jenni, welcome to so-and-so. Have you ever been here before?’ And they’re like, ‘Water.’ They treat the server like a servant,” says Jenni, a former server from Austin.

2. Insist on Choosing the Table

When the host is seating you, it’s safe to assume that there’s some method to their madness. But there are always some customers who insist that they absolutely must sit in their favorite booth in the corner, seating chart be damned! They don’t care that the section is closed because there’s no server working it. “So you’re pulling a server to go across the restaurant or outside when the patio’s not open, and it can be really challenging to balance that when they have a full section of their own and now have to travel to you,” explains former Austin-based server Krystal.

3. Grab Drinks Off the Tray

If you don’t show the proper awe for a server deftly weaving through tables holding a big tray precariously packed with drinks, you really don’t deserve to consume beverages outside the home. Of course, that’s lost on the people who somehow think it’s a good idea to grab their drinks off the server’s tray with their own untrained hands. “That is the worst, because it’s a skill to have a full tray of drinks, and the way that I distribute them, I’m carefully judging the balancing of the tray as I’m giving them out,” Krystal says. “So if people just start grabbing from the tray, you’re bound to drop it.”

4. Send Food Back Half-Eaten

“People eat half their plate and then they say, ‘This is bad,’ and they want to send it back. Sometimes they want to get something new, and sometimes they just want their money back, depending on their mood at that time — but half the food is gone,” explains Kayla, a former server from Austin. “That’s a little ridiculous.” Just a little?

5. Let Kids Run Rampant

Children should absolutely enjoy the restaurant experience — from the constant comfort of their chair/booster seat/high chair/other appropriate place of restraint. “When they bring in their naughty kids who are screaming and running around, and you’re trying to do your job, it makes it almost impossible,” Kayla says. “If you say something, that’s going to hurt your tip, so you pretty much just have to deal with it.”

And for the love of all that is holy and edible, try to understand that where you eat your burgers is not a changing table. “Somebody put their kid on the table they were still eating off of and changed their child’s s***ty diaper — instead of going down the hallway to the bathroom that was literally 10 feet from them,” Jenni recalls not-so-fondly. “Afterwards, we had to take that table and deep-sanitize it.”

6. Make Tabletop Confetti

Some diners enjoy throwing themselves a personal ticker-tape parade — and then leaving the mess to perhaps cement their legacy of greatness. “A lot of people really enjoy tearing up paper (like straw wrappers and napkins) into tiny, little pieces and leaving it all over the table,” Kayla reveals. “I don’t know if that’s a nervous habit, but it’s really annoying to have to go and clean up afterwards. And it’s mainly adults, which is weird.” And don’t even get a server started on all the sugar-packet carnage…

7. Camp Out at the Table

Ready to lean back and just let your meal digest over some lengthy conversation? Take it elsewhere, people. “When campers don’t close out their check after they’re done eating and they just hang out so you can’t grab the check off the table, you also just have to hang out — sometimes past your shift, which is frustrating,” says Kayla. “Or the table’s just sitting there with the same people so you can’t have a new table for more tips.”

Obviously, campers are especially grating at closing time. “A general awareness of your surroundings is a good thing,” Krystal points out. “Knowing the time the restaurant closes, actually paying attention to that and seeing, ‘Oh, we’re the only table still left here and there are three servers standing around looking at us because they get to leave whenever they get to wipe my table. Okay, so it’s time to go.’” You don’t have to go home, campers, but you can’t stay here.

8. Split the Check a Million Ways

“When you come in with a party of 12 and you all want individual checks, and then you complain about it taking a while, well, it takes a long time to split up your six martinis and the appetizer five different ways,” Kayla says. “Sometimes the computer systems don’t split things for you, so then you have to get your calculator and figure all that out for them — and then you have to have like 15 pens and 15 books and you have to separate them all and keep all the credit cards right.” So how about a little patience while you wait for your 1/8th of the artichoke dip cost to be calculated?

9. Hit on the Wait Staff

Reaching into servers’ apron pockets. Making comments about “bouncing” t-shirts. Straight-up grabbing asses. The levels to which some customers (mostly men) amp up the creep factor around servers (mostly women) is pretty astonishing—and rather bewildering, when you ponder what their desired endgame may be. “I’ve never seen this work out for men,” states Krystal. “I was in the restaurant industry for a long time, and I never saw anybody get married to a customer that they waited on, they’ve never hooked up with them, it just doesn’t happen. It’s not cute.”

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