Here’s some cold hard truth: Your waiter is judging you. And it’s not because you scanned our restaurant’s list of preachy, precious dishes made with esoteric (but local!) ingredients and then asked what celeriac or chimicurri are. Waiters don’t care about that. Answering questions like that is their job. No, it’s not about what you know, it’s about how you act, and your waiter is surveying you to determine whether you’re a badly behaved diner. How do they know? Presenting the 10 most obvious signs.
10. You ask for drinks without ice.
Unless you have an awful toothache or other predisposition against cold beverages, a waiter will take this as you being cheap, trying to get more bang for your beverage-buck by leaving the ice out. Oh, you want your cocktail without ice, or with “just a tiny bit of ice?” That’s cool, the barkeep will be happy to pour the same six-count of vodka he’d normally pour, top it off with tonic and a lime, and watch you enjoy a tepid, weak-tasting drink. Whatever you like, but gross.
9. You say you know the chef.
If you know the chef, odds are, s/he knows you’re coming, because you texted before you came and s/he told us to expect you, where to seat you, and to notify the kitchen immediately upon your arrival so s/he could come say hi. If you’re trying to be cute and make a surprise, you should know that restaurants do not do well with surprises.
8. You want your steak well done.
If the idea of eating meat makes you so uncomfortable that you can’t bear to slurp its delicious, bloody, animal juices, get something that is best eaten cooked through… Like chicken or eggplant or pasta. It’s the restaurant’s job to serve you food that you’ll enjoy, and we’re not going to tell you you can’t sear all of the animal spirit and life blood from a 30-day dry-aged, heritage beef steak. But here’s where your waiter draws the line: If you MUST have your steak well done, it’s going to take extra time to cook it all the way through, so please be patient, and don’t take your mounting hunger out on us.
6. You’re on your cell phone during dinner, leaving your date to ponder the salt or worse, look at their own cell phone.
Yes, we get it, sometimes you have to look at your phone during dinner. If your wife’s about to have a baby, say, or you’re waiting on a call from the president, perhaps, we can get on board. Otherwise, stow your device on silent and avoid the flash of fury in our eyes. Added bonus: Living in the moment will likely improve your overall experience of the meal.
5. You ask the kitchen to drastically change a dish or, worse, make up your own dishes using ingredients from the menu.
Basically, what a waiter hears when you do this is this: “I think I know the menu better than the chef.” Or worse: “I don’t trust the chef.” Yes, this is the service industry, and yes, the restaurant exists mainly to give pleasure to guests, but (and it’s a big but), that doesn’t mean you can rewrite the menu. Attempting to do so brands you as needy and arrogant, and you probably won’t get what you want, so spare yourself the shame and don’t ask.
4. You’re a gluten-free, dairy-free vegetarian who doesn’t eat soy and is allergic to nuts.
You’re welcome to enjoy an undressed salad with oil and vinegar or perhaps some grilled vegetables that our chef will prepare just for you. Not good enough? They make special gluten-free, non-soy, vegan places for your kind, and you’re not at one of them. So don’t expect a chef to accommodate your outrageous diet, and don’t expect us not to give you the stink-eye when we have to explain your dietary restrictions to the kitchen.
3. You’re sucking face at the table.
Everyone knows dinner is, in many cases, just expensive foreplay, but please, don’t be literal about it. Your waiter is happy to do her part to make your evening lovely, but keep your fondling to footsies, max–not a single person in the restaurant wants to see more.
2. Your child is screaming or running around the restaurant or playing peek-a-boo under the table, and you’re allowing it.
If your child is not sitting at the table where they belong, your waiter is writing you off as a piss-poor parent or a pushover. And if that’s not enough to deter you, the safety hazard should: What if your kid runs into a server carrying scalding tea or soup? Hire a babysitter if you can’t control junior. And if it’s after 9 p.m. and your child is under the age of eight, that kid should be in bed.
1. You fail to use basic toddler-manners in proper context, like the words “Please,” “Thank you,” and “Excuse me.”
Interrupting or cutting people off when they’re speaking to you is rude. Basic human respect and manners are expected of you, particularly at the dinner table.
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