While you may consider a restaurant outing an occasional treat, taking your order can be far from a pleasant experience for your waiter. Servers are bombarded with a ton of tasks—from keeping your water glass full to checking in on your dinner—making it quite difficult to maintain an expected smile. Especially when customers have one-too-many requests.
We snuck behind closed kitchen doors to help you get an idea of the things servers hate. Below, you’ll find 20 menu questions that annoy your waiter. And if you want healthy recipes, supermarket shopping guides, and essential nutrition tips at your fingertips, subscribe to the new Eat This, Not That! magazine now! For a limited time, you can save 50 percent off the cover price—click here!
Can We Sub This, This, And This?
Oh, and this, too? If you’re opting three ingredients out of your dish, you can probably just stick with the create-your-own option on the menu. Or just find another item that’s more suitable to your tastes.
Is There an Upcharge For That?
While subbing the French fries that come along with your burger for a side salad is a great slim-down strategy, your waiter finds it a major nuisance—especially when you refuse to pay the difference. Different food varieties often cost extra because they require extra work. For example, throwing pre-cut fries into the fryer requires minimal effort, but mashed potatoes, on the other hand, most often call for extra time, ingredients (think butter, cream, and chives), and some arm grease.
I Don’t Like This Dish. Can You Replace It?
If a dish isn’t up to par or wasn’t cooked the way you requested, you have the right to send it back. However, if you’re already five bites into the overcooked chicken, it’s probably too late to ask for a swap.
Can I Have That To Go?
Asking your waiter to wrap up a micro-sized portion of leftover pilaf and roast chicken is outright not okay. We’re all for saving the Earth of that wasteful take-out container and your waiter of the extra work, but if you’re practicing portion control and want to take a substantial amount of your meal home, that’s surely reasonable.
Can You Bring Me Warm Water?
“I have this one customer that comes in every week that needs warm water for her child in a kid’s cup. So I mix cold tap water with boiling water from the espresso machine because there’s no lukewarm water in the restaurant,” says Allie Modugno, a waitress at Wheeler’s Restaurant
Can You Make Something Off the Menu?
“I had a customer the other day asking for something off the menu—fried chicken and mashed potatoes. While we don’t offer this dish, we made an exception for her. When I brought out the dish to her, she said that the chicken is ‘not right,’ ‘that’s not how chicken is cooked,’ and then asked for every possible sauce to mask the ‘awful taste,” Modugno recounts. If your server was kind enough to accommodate your request, the last thing they want to hear is a plethora of complaints about it.
How Long Will It Take For My Food to Be Ready?
The chef isn’t purposely delaying your dish. Chances are, you’re visiting the restaurant during peak times and the kitchen staff is swamped with take-out orders or your order was seriously involved. Asking for a well-done cheeseburger with extra bacon and subbing the steak fries for tater tots will take more time to put together than a medium-done burger with all the regular fixings stated on the menu.
Which Beers Are on Tap?
Waiters don’t like to be quizzed on the spot when you ask for the entire list of beers on tap—especially if you end up ordering a Heineken.
What’s Your Favorite Menu Item?
Just because your server is a seafood fan, doesn’t mean he’s supposed to assume you’ll love the seared scallops, too. If a waiter suggests his favorite item on the menu and the customer doesn’t find it as satisfying as described, the waiter is running the risk of another nuisance: having the dish sent back.
Can I Talk to The Chef? He Knows My Order.
Chances are, the chef doesn’t have time to step out of the kitchen to speak with you or actually remembers your order.
Can I Have Another Sauce on the Side?
Requesting another side of Sriracha mayo, buffalo ranch, and Dijon mustard with your chicken fingers is blatantly annoying when done multiple times. Just ask for all your accouterments when you submit your order.
How’s The Fish of the Day?
If it’s on the menu, the waiter is probably going to recommend it. Even if they have a better suggestion, your interest in the fish of the day will likely trigger them to suggest you order it.
Why Is The Fish of The Day So Pricey?
You’ll often see “market price” replace numerical prices on the seafood menu, so you’re obligated to ask your server about the grilled branzino’s price. However, if the price doesn’t fit your dinner budget, questioning it is definitely uncalled for. Unlike your local Whole Foods, restaurants have to charge extra for deboning and cooking the fish to your liking.
Can This Be Made Vegan?
With countless memes on vegans announcing that they’re vegan, your waiter is probably unphased by your lifestyle choice. However, your server is probably annoyed by your hyper-specific requests. No, Jen, you can’t get that matzo ball soup vegan.
Can This Be Made Gluten-Free?
It goes without saying, but we’re going to shed light on this pet-peeve anyway. Traditional gluten-based meals such as couscous and pasta usually can’t be customized for gluten-free guests unless the menu states so. Before bothering your server with your request, see if the menu states that there’s a non-gluten noodle you can swap the penne for. Menus usually disclose this.
How Spicy Is the ‘Hot’ Version?
Whether you’re a chili-loving newbie or super familiar with the Scoville scale, your tolerance levels most likely differ from your waiter’s. If you’re concerned about how spicy that entree is, you’re better off ordering the hot sauce on the side or playing it safe with the milder option.
Can You Bring Fresh Bread?
“I don’t bake it myself… Every restaurant you go to that serves bread, when you don’t finish it, they put it in a warming oven and give it to the next group.” — Reddit user ErrelevantNonsense
What’s The Most Popular Item on the Menu?
If your goal is to be polite, you probably shouldn’t put your server on the spot and ask for the “most popular” menu item. It’s not like the restaurant staff takes polls or memorizes how many times folks asked for the chicken piccata over the marsala.
Can I Get The Iced Tea Unsweetened?
Here’s another healthy request that may be a nuisance. Most joints use ready-made iced tea mixes or pre-make their beverages, so asking for your iced tea without sugar usually requires extra time and effort in the form of freshly-steeping tea and cooling it.
Can You Make the Margarita Extra Stiff?
If you want your salt-rimmed margarita extra stiff, be prepared to pay for the added shot. Whether you’re eyeing a house-made cocktail or rather stick to your go-to beer, find out The Secret To Drinking Booze Without Getting Fat.