14 Rude Things People Do At Restaurants

These etiquette faux pas are decidedly worse than putting your elbows on the table.

Growing up, going out to eat was a treat reserved for special occasions. Because our family’s restaurant ventures were so few and far between, there was an extra emphasis on proper etiquette when we did dine out. We weren’t to make a mess, and we were trusted to converse with our server. There would be no whispering “Sprite” to our parents when we were asked what we wanted to drink. I never felt more sophisticated than while requesting the kid’s Alfredo at my annual Macaroni Grille birthday dinner.

When it was time to get my first job, I was thrilled to join the ranks of high school-age servers at a family-owned pizza joint in our neighborhood. I enjoyed the job so much that I extended my employment through college while home for summer breaks. The only negative of the job? Ill-mannered customers. I was shocked to discover that not everyone treated dining out with the same reverence I did, and in fact, some people were downright rude. Here, we’ve rounded up 14 discourteous things people often do when dining out.

Rude Things People Do At Restaurants

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Undertipping A Server

The cardinal sin of dining out, undertipping is not only rude, but it can be detrimental to your server’s ability to make a living. Servers are often paid as little as $2 per hour and are expected to make up the rest of their wage in tips. In most cases, you should tip at least 20% of the total cost of your meal. It’s also polite to think about your tip relative to the work your server put in to take care of your party. I’ll never forget the time I served a table of 14 screaming 5-year-olds and four adults only to receive a $10 tip for nearly two hours of wrangling kids and refilling to-go cups. Sure, it was 18% of their bill, but it wasn’t indicative of the service they received.

Ignoring A Server

We get it, you came to dinner to socialize. But there’s nothing worse than diners that are so oblivious that the server has to yell just to take drink orders. When a server approaches your table, pause your conversation. The same applies for when they’re explaining specials or giving recommendations. “I feel like this happens more often in a large groups when people are distracted, but for the love of all that's holy, please be considerate and listen!” says Senior Homes Editor Betsy Cribb.

Letting Their Kids Run Amok

Your server is not a babysitter. Don’t treat them as such. Everyone has sympathy for a rogue tantrum, but if your kids are standing on their chairs, mixing table condiments into a disgusting slurry, or wandering around the dining room, it may be time to grab a doggy bag and head home.

Flagging Down A Server By Snapping Or Clapping

Talk about condescending. If you need your server, a simple hand in the air or “excuse me” as they pass by should do the trick. Other no-nos in this category include shaking your glass to indicate you need a refill and attempting to get your server’s attention while they’re speaking with another customer.

Leaving A Mess

You don’t have to bus your own table (stacking plates can actually make your server’s job more difficult!), but you should make sure your table doesn’t look like it’s been ravaged by a pack of hungry wolves when you leave.

Hanging Around Long After Their Bill is Paid

This transgression is rude on two fronts. First, servers are assigned just one section of tables that they take care of throughout their shift. If you monopolize even one table, you’re causing your server to miss out on countless tips. And second, your overextended reunion is likely holding up the line for other hungry patrons waiting to be seated.   

Coming In Right Before Closing Time

There’s nothing more irksome to a restaurant employee than completing all of their end-of-shift duties only to have a huge party barrel through the door five minutes before closing. If you’re running behind and can’t make it to dinner at least 30 minutes before closing time, be considerate and take your order to go instead .   

Being Glued To Their Phones

Pretend you’re at church, or a movie theater, or even a grocery store checkout line, and put your phones away! If you’re dining alone and need a companion, consider a book.

Helping Themselves

Under no circumstances should you ever get up from your seat to do something that it’s your server’s job to do. Even if the water pitcher is sitting right there. The same goes for ordering from another server. Not only is it bothersome to that server who has plenty of tables of their own to juggle, it can cause your server to be unjustly reprimanded by a manager.  

Being Too Loud

One of Deputy Editor Lisa Cericola’s biggest pet peeves is customers who lose control of their volume. One glass of wine at dinner is great, but if you have a handful of cocktails and other diners begin flashing you dirty looks, it may be time to call an Uber.

Saying Just About Anything To A Server

The occasional dad joke is fine. (“Yes, I can tell you hated your meal by how exceptionally licked-clean your plate is.”) But when you start confusing your server for your therapist, or worse yet, begin commenting on their appearance or inquiring about their personal life, you’ve gone too far.

Pestering Hosts About Wait Times

Once you’ve put your name on a list and have received an approximate wait time, don’t keep checking in. Says Assistant Food Editor Alana Al-Hatlani, “Be patient. That won't make things go faster. Pointing out the empty tables in the room isn't kind either. They save them for reservations, which you probably should have made.”

Holding A Table When Their Entire Party Hasn’t Arrived

You’re not excused from using proper restaurant etiquette just because you’re at a more casual eatery. Order-at-the-counter restaurants come with their own set of rules. Digital Editor Jenna Sims warns that it’s rude to sit down at a table when your whole table hasn’t arrived or you haven't received your food. Be considerate of other diners who already have their food and need a place to sit down more urgently than you do.

Attempting To Order Off-Menu

It’s fine to ask for one or two substitutions to a dish, especially if you have a food allergy, but don’t treat a restaurant like your home kitchen. “Don't try to order something that is not on the menu,” says Assistant Food Editor Alana Al-Hatlani. “Just because there's a pasta with cream sauce and also a chicken entree on the menu, doesn't mean the kitchen can make you a chicken Alfredo pasta.”

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