13 Polite Gestures Restaurant Workers Think Are Rude

Working in the restaurant industry isn’t as easy as it may seem. Serving tables is hard work, and sometimes guests inadvertently make it more difficult. Before making your next reservation, ensure you’re avoiding these not-so-polite restaurant habits. 

1: Seating Yourself

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When you walk into a restaurant and see an empty table, why not snag it and save the hostess the trouble of seating you?

While this might seem like a polite thing to do, it’s usually not. The host or hostess’s job is to seat the restaurant appropriately, accommodating server abilities, reservation requests, and other guest needs. So, let them do it!  

2: Ignoring The Specials

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When you already know what you want to order, you might think there’s no need to listen to the server read the day’s specials. Still, your server is a human being, and no one likes being talked over or ignored. Listening to them read thirty seconds of specials isn’t that hard. 

3: Ordering From Someone Else

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Sometimes servers get busy and take a few minutes to return to your table, but that’s no reason to flag down someone else to take an order. Asking another server, busser, or host to take your order makes it more difficult for everyone trying to serve you. Instead, ask if they can locate your server for you. 

4: Over-Chatting

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Good restaurant staff are typically happy to make some small talk, but don’t be the guest that takes things too far. Talking to your server for a few seconds when they greet the table is one thing, but when those seconds stretch to minutes, you’re probably taking up too much of their time. Remember, they probably have other tables and hungry guests to attend to. 

5: Cleaning Up 

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Spills happen, and when they do, the best thing you can do is let the restaurant staff know. Don’t try to clean it all up yourself or hide the evidence. Doing so could leave you sitting in an uncomfortable mess and, in some cases, create a hazard for staff and guests. 

6: Helping With the Tray

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If a server or a busser is loading or unloading a tray at your table, ignore the urge to help. Even if the tray looks heavy, trying to assist usually makes it harder for the person handling things. 

7: Plate Pushing

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When you’re done eating, it’s normal to want your plate out of the way, but pushing it to the center of the table isn’t the most polite way of handling things. It’s harder for waitstaff to clear the table when the plates are in the center. 

8: Bad Pronunciation

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Whether you’re ordering a burrito or a bouillabaisse, if you don’t know how to pronounce a menu item, don’t try. You can ask your server for the pronunciation or use the item’s description to order. Stumbling over the name or confidently mispronouncing it could confuse or even insult the restaurant staff. 

9: Not Saying Something

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If your food isn’t right, something tastes off, or there’s something else affecting your experience, let your server know right away. The restaurant staff is there to help you, and not giving them a chance to fix the wobbly table or replace your drink is ruder than you think, especially if you stiff the tip because of it. 

10: Asking One by One

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You should always feel comfortable asking your server if you need something, but try to group your requests if possible. Instead of asking for ketchup and then a drink refill and then more bread, ask for everything you need all at once. Otherwise, your server is going to spend a lot of time running back and forth from your table when they should be helping other customers. 

11: Stacking Plates 

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Stacking the empty plates at the table isn’t helpful to restaurant staff. Often, servers or bussers prefer to carry empty plates back to the table balanced on their arms or a tray. If plates are stacked, they can’t carry them that way. 

12: Helping Yourself

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Even if you can see the iced tea pitcher from where you’re sitting, don’t get up and help yourself to another glass. While you may think you’re helping staff, they’re more likely to consider your self-service rude.  

13: Waiting to Split the Check 

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If you know you’ll be splitting the bill, it’s polite to tell your server upfront. That way, they can put each person’s order on a separate check from the get-go. Telling them after you’re done with the meal means they have to try and remember who ordered what, which can be tricky. 

Don’t Worry, You’re Not the Worst 

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If you did something at a restaurant in hopes of being polite but realized it was probably rude, don’t worry too much. Restaurant staffers see the full range of public behavior; chances are, they’ve dealt with someone much ruder than you. 

The Thieves

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The rudest restaurant guests have very sticky fingers. According to a report by the New York Post, restaurant thievery is more common than you might think. Restaurant owners say everything from the cocktail glasses to the art on the walls tends to walk out with certain patrons. 

Diapers at the Table

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Family-friendly restaurant bathrooms typically contain changing tables and trash cans, but that didn’t stop one family from changing their baby’s diaper at the table. According to the server who helped them, they then stuffed the diaper into an empty bag of potato chips and left it for the staff to take care of. 

Liar, Liar 

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More than one host has caught a waiting guest sneaking peaks at the reservation list. Some of the rudest guests assume a name off the list and lie to the host, pretending they have a reservation when they don’t. 

Being a Better Guest 

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If you want to avoid being a rude restaurant guest, there are a few things you can do. Using proper restaurant etiquette is easy once you know the basics. 

Wait For Your Host

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If someone invites you to eat out, waiting for them to arrive before you sit is polite. Just let the host or hostess know you’re waiting for someone; they can seat you when the entire party arrives. 

Guests Order First 

Fancy restaurant.
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If you’re hosting people, letting your guests put their orders in first is polite. If you’re comfortable with them ordering anything on the menu, you can make subtle hints that more expensive dishes are okay by saying something like, “Wow, the steak sure looks amazing!” 

Order the Same Number of Courses 

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When you’re eating out, it’s polite to order the same number of courses as everyone else at the table. So, if your host orders a salad and an entree, you should try and do the same. This makes it easier for the server to coordinate when orders arrive and keeps others from having to awkwardly eat while you’re just sitting there. 

Be Polite to All Service Staff 

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It should go without saying that one of the easiest ways to avoid being seen as rude is to be nice. Saying please and thank you to restaurant staff goes a long way and you’d be surprised by the number of guests who don’t use these common courtesies. 

Paying the Tab 

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Bringing the bill to the table can be awkward for servers, especially if they’re not sure who to hand it to. So, if you know you’re going to get the tab, consider discreetly telling them that before you put an order in. You can even slip them your credit card in advance. 


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In the U.S., standard tipping etiquette says sit-down meals require you to give 15% to 20%. If the service is stellar, you might consider upping the tip to 25%. Tipping less than 15% is considered rude, and you shouldn’t do it unless there was a major mess-up by restaurant staff. 

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Nowadays, many customers are shown an iPad with extravagantly high tip recommendations. Pew Research Center dove into what’s changed about Americans’ views of tipping and tipping culture, and their results are revealing.

American Tipping Culture Is Changing and People Aren’t Happy About It, Research Shows

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