10 Worst Customer Behaviors That Restaurant Servers Can't Stand
A restaurant server's job is, simply put, to help inform you of menu options at their restaurant, to take your order, and to help conduct your food to you, along with the help of runners and other staff. Your server's job description does not include being your comedic audience, being your personal meal consultant, serving as the complaint department, or being treated as an object of romantic interest, all customer behaviors that most servers strongly dislike
Yet far too often servers have to deal with these boorish behaviors and so many more. We surveyed dozens of current and former restaurant workers and scoured social media sites to come up with ten of the worst customer behaviors that servers find the most exasperating. Sure, they'll keep on smiling and doing their best work, but just know that if you engage in one or more of these behaviors while you're dining at a restaurant, you're probably being judged pretty harshly by the staff.
Impossible meal changes
Each and every diner has their own preferences and dietary needs, and restaurants are usually able to accommodate substitution request and changes—within reason. But there's a difference between requesting a burger without tomatoes and asking for a meal without an ingredient that is central to the dish.
We asked former and current servers to share the customer behaviors that drive them crazy, and one respondent mentioned instances where people asked to change the unchangeable, such as "asking for pepper sauce without pepper or slow-cooked BBQ ribs without BBQ sauce."
"They know exactly what goes on products but they choose to ignore it," another respondent commented. "Places need to remove most customizations as they're in most cases not on the menu and shouldn't be ordered."
Yes, servers are responsible for making sure their diners are taken care of, but there's a way for customers to get what they need from their servers without needlessly increasing their workload.
In a post that broke down some of the most "irritating" things that customers do, a Reddit user with experience in the restaurant industry made sure to mention instances where diners ask for things one by one each time a server stops at their table. This forces servers to make more trips to the table than needed, an issue that customers can prevent by asking for everything all at once so a server can fulfill all the requests in one trip.
"That's when you start taking a long time, so next time you come back they have time to think about EVERYTHING they need and list it out," the Reddit user wrote.
The Redditor behind the post was far from the only person who felt that way.
"People who send you for one thing, you drop it off, and they send [you] for another single item. Lather, rinse, repeat until you do terrible things to them with a soup spoon," another user commented.
"Oh, yes, I'm ready to order!"
One thing that every server has dealt with a thousand times and that's a frustration every time is when diners say they are all ready to order, only to proceed to ask lots of questions and clearly have no idea what they'll be getting. One former server responded to our poll with: "They say are ready but actually [just] started reading the menu!"
The whistle or the snap
If you want your server's attention, eye contact and a little wave are all that's needed. They will immediately understand that you'd like them to come on over. If you want a server's attention and their enmity, then by all means snap or whistle or call out, but if you want to maintain an air of respect and conviviality, just don't. As one server said on Reddit to the agreement of so many others: "Do not snap at me. Do not whistle at me. Do NOT holler at me when I'm at another table."
Most servers are more than happy to have kids come to dinner with mom and dad, assuming mom and/or dad (or the adult guardian on hand) don't stop parenting once the family sits down to dinner. One server sharing on Reddit said in part: "Look, I LOVE kids … but if you permit your children to act like little monsters and completely ignore me when I ask that you have them sit down? GTFO. I am NOT a free babysitter."
Also, don't let your kids destroy the table. One server couldn't stand the kids that came in and drank the half-and-half with the parents present. " We have a little bowl with the half and half creamer, and this was before the fancy kinds, just plain old half and half. The kids would sit there and drink like they were doing shots. Barf! Sometimes they'd even have the nerve to ask for more. Just order your kid a milk," she said.
Chatting away on the phone
Multiple respondents to our poll shared how much servers hate when customers are chatting away on their cellphones when the server just wants to take the order and do their job. Not only is this behavior universally rude on its own, but what's worse, many servers reported customers acting as though they had been rudely interrupted just because the server had the gall to approach and try to take an order. "Let's go a step further with this," comments one person. "People talking on cell phones with Bluetooth earbuds in stores and you think they're talking to you!
Hitting on a restaurant worker is creepy and unfair, but it happens all the time. This is a person whose job it is to approach and engage with you multiple times throughout the course of a meal, and by engaging in unwanted advances, a customer makes the employee feel uncomfortable or even unsafe, yet the server can't just rebuff them and walk away as they could in a non-work setting. One server related how she hated "men hitting on me, even asking for my number. It's a restaurant, not a bar and I'm working. Always feels like if I didn't humor them enough I get a [bad] tip."
"You do the math!"
It's perfectly alright to divide up checks between two, three, or even more credit or debit cards, but that's only assuming the customers are asking the server to divide the check evenly. Asking a server to determine who owes what is just not okay. One server commenting on Quora said she hated when customers would try "to get the waitress to count how much each of you have to pay. That is your job."
Once you and your party are done with your meal and the bill is paid, it's pretty much time for you to leave. It's okay to sit for a few more minutes and chat, but only for a bit. Hanging out longer, which many restaurant workers call "camping," is just not okay. A server sharing on Reddit said in part: "This is NOT okay. Not only are you interfering with my work (because I NEED to turn tables quickly to make money) but you're also being insanely rude to people waiting at the door." This goes double for people who linger far after closing time.
It may seem hard to believe, but it seems that many restaurant customers basically don't know how tipping works, per many servers sharing on Reddit. One experienced waitress said: "Five dollars is NOT the default tip amount! I've had three tables in a row leave me 5.00 on 55.00 checks, and this latest table leave me 5.00 on an 85.00 check!" The comment drew an outpouring of shared experiences from other servers.
A previous version of this article was originally published in Dec. 2022. It has been updated with new information.