Study after study places restaurant work at the top of the list of most stressful jobs, and as anyone who has toiled in the acid mines of food service can tell you, they're spot-on. Diners might think it's as simple as taking notes and carrying a few plates. For those who call it their livelihood, however, it's a challenging and demanding line of work punctuated by horrible experiences that usually come in the form of rude customers. Are you sitting down? Because here's the honest truth:
Most of us are jerks when we eat out.
Perhaps it's something to do with feeling powerless in our own lives and professions, or maybe it's just as simple as shifting social dynamics, but ask any waiter you know if they've got negative stories and they'll tell you the same: too many.
It needn't be this way, and there are numerous ways diners can ensure a positive experience for themselves and the server who has been on their feet and being yelled at for the past six hours.
Seems like it would be a no-brainer, but diners often forget. For example, if a waiter asks how everyone is doing and the first words out of your mouth are a curt "iced tea," you've already set a negative tone. A smile don't cost a thing, baby, nor does a simple "We're fine, thanks." In case you were wondering, the level of service you'll get absolutely suffers when you treat servers like they're less than human. So be polite.
Weirdly enough, it isn't like the servers set menu prices, and the little numbers on the menu account for a number of things—ingredient cost, overhead, payroll, maintenance, etc.—none of which have to do with your server. Announcing that you think something is too expensive is silly and pointless. They can't help you. Also, there's something new out there called "the internet" that allows you to peruse a menu without even putting your shoes on. Imagine that. Regardless, it's a well-established fact that eating out is more expensive than preparing food at home, and if you're looking for cheapness, a sit-down spot should not be on your list.
If You’re Gonna Send Something Back, Send it the Hell Back Already
Your servers absolutely want you to enjoy your experience; there's just more money in it for them like that. So if you take a bite of something and discover you dislike it or it was cooked wrong, they're going to do everything in their power to make it right. They understand you're paying to eat. They'll help. However, if you eat an entire meal you don't like and then expect it to be free, you're probably a jerk. A service was offered and delivered—you've consumed the food. Fulfill your end of the verbal contract or stop eating out.
Don’t Bring Glitter
This may sound like a strange one, but according to our sources, people who host parties at restaurants often bring, and subsequently leave behind, mountains of glitter. This is not only a hassle for cleanup crews, it's sort of dangerous and could potentially get in others' food. In fact, just don't buy glitter ever.
For the Love of God, TIP!
So you've read cute stories online about people who gave their server a hard time while dangling a tip like a carrot on a stick, and now you wanna try? You're a jerk. Terrible service exists, but we still live in a world that allows for jobs that rely on tips (if you ever want to go down the sadness rabbit hole, look up tipping's horribly racist origins). So, short of them being complete monsters, try to imagine a long, awful day full of rudeness that ends with a trifling amount of money. People deserve to make a living, live in houses, go to the doctor and so forth, and this includes waiters. Oh, and that one tale about people who put out five singles and then add or subtract to them during their meal is one of the most ludicrous and mean things one could possibly do. So don't. Not ever.
Don’t Split the Bill Weird
The current era of restaurant point of sale systems is glorious and full of ways to split checks in a way that didn't always exist. Still, if you're the type of diner who insists that you won't pay a red cent more than you ate when out with a group of friends, you either need to make better friends with whom you don't mind splitting things, or you need to hear the following: It's OK to spend a couple cents, even a couple bucks more, when you're out to eat with people. Obviously this doesn't account for the person who just had a side salad, and we've all been there when a huge table wants to split the bill and you barely ate anything, but any server can tell you of the tables they've had who make a big stink over who is or isn't going to pay that extra three cents.
Enough with the Jokes
That thing where a server tries to take your empty plate and you say something like "I hated it!" or "I'm still working on it"? Enough. Seriously, enough. It's awful. They all hate it, promise. Leave the comedy to the professionals. We actually aren't even sure where these jokes originated, but their death is long overdue.
Accept There Are Some Things You Can’t Control
Think about your own job here and ask yourself: Have you been able to access and pull off your A-game at all times, through all shifts and during crises? Of course not. One thing that's important to remember is that lots of servers have to work two or more jobs to get by. Plenty of restaurants don't offer health or dental insurance either, and in most cases, your server or busser is getting by on tips without the promise of an hourly wage. Sometimes they're tired, sometimes they're in the weeds, sometimes they've served table after table of bad tippers, angry patrons and snobby "foodies" who think their YouTube habits make them some kind of amateur Anthony Bourdain. Bourdain was an apt example, too, as a one-time chef turned celebrity traveler who appreciated a good hot dog or that gross-looking street food just as much as he did upscale $40-per-plate nonsense. Think of the golden rule, think of the adage of walking a mile in another's shoes—think of how your waitstaff are human beings, and then do your best to be one yourself.