How to be the best customer when eating out

A few tips that will make your server’s shift a little more bearable

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Everyone has hard days, so if your server seems tired, stressed or even slightly unfriendly, try to be thoughtful and remember that this could be the last 20 minutes of the worst eight hour shift of their life. 

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As a server, there are few things more frustrating than getting a table that acts like they have never eaten at a restaurant before in their life. Customers like these can be difficult, time consuming and rude without even realizing it because they don’t understand the norms of the restaurant. The next time you eat out, follow these tips and hopefully you can make your server’s dinner rush a little less hellish. 

Call ahead

This is key if you are coming with a large group of people — six or more — and are going to a restaurant that does not take reservations. There’s always a chance that the restaurant will be too full for a large group. Even if the restaurant will eventually be able to seat you, it’s ridiculous to expect that a table for 10 will be ready the moment you get there. Calling ahead is a good way to get more information and give the restaurant staff a much-needed warning. 

If you have any questions about the restaurant — parking, dietary restrictions, hours — it is always best to call ahead and ask. It can be really distracting to have to explain complicated parking instructions to a customer while I am in the middle of serving, so I think it is always best to ask that kind of question over the phone, rather than bothering a server.

Listen 

I cannot tell you how many customers start telling me their drink order as soon as I put their waters down without giving me a chance to say a word. Let your server greet you and tell you anything else they need to. You never know if the special is going to be your favorite food, or if the restaurant just ran out of the drink you were about to order. Also, it’s rude to interrupt — servers are people too.  

Read

The answers to so many of your questions are in the menu, I promise. It will save everyone involved time if you take a few minutes to read the menu thoroughly instead of bombarding your server with 20 questions before you order. 

Often, menus will also have valuable information about other aspects of eating at that particular restaurant. They may explain how the restaurant deals with allergies and dietary restrictions, whether or not they will split checks and when gratuity is included in your bill. 

Be aware of your personal space

When you eat at a restaurant servers and bussers are constantly rushing around you, usually carrying full drinks or heavy plates of hot food. Even the most coordinated of us have trouble with this at times, and it only becomes more difficult when a customer’s purse is in the aisle or someone has failed to push in their chair.  

Remember how the system works 

Your server is responsible for taking your order and bringing you your food — that’s pretty much it. We don’t cook the food, determine the prices, decide where the air conditioning vents are placed or how vegan friendly the menu is. Before complaining to your server, try to remember the things that are very clearly out of our control. We want you to have the best experience possible and will do everything in our power to ensure that you do, it’s just that not everything is within our power. 

Assume the best intentions

Everyone has hard days, so if your server seems tired, stressed or even slightly unfriendly remember that this could be the last 20 minutes of the worst eight hour shift of their life. Try your best to be understanding and empathetic, and remember that at the end of the day, it’s just brunch. 

Say thank you

It’s so simple! Genuinely thanking your server is so easy and so appreciated. 

Know the hours 

While most restaurants will technically serve people right until they close, it makes closing up the restaurant a lot harder for the staff. We can’t start sweeping or cleaning anything until you leave, which means that we have to stay later than we were scheduled. Do everyone involved a favor and Google the hours before you leave. 

Tip

Everyone has their own philosophy on tipping, but my honest opinion is that anything less than 15 percent is never appropriate. Remember that servers make as little as less than $3 an hour, so our paychecks are almost entirely tips. 

Marlena Becker is a Food Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at life@cavalierdaily.com

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