The unwritten rules everyone should follow at a restaurant - according to the experts

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We all enjoy a meal out - but a fair few of us often forget that there are people working incredibly hard to make our evening as pleasant and enjoyable as possible. Here are just a few of the unwritten rules restaurant servers wish patrons would abide by.

Natalie Knowles writes:


First of all, it’s gross. Why would you sit yourself down in someone else’s mess?

Second of all, if it’s not clean, we aren’t ready for you at that table yet. Now someone has to awkwardly bus the table and wipe it down while your impatient ass just sits there being all in-the-way.

Third, all restaurants have certain steps of service that generally go something like this.

1. Greet customer as they enter

2. Show them to their table and hand out menus

3. Possibly bring silverware

4. Server greets the table, spiel, specials…

5. Take drink order

6. Drinks out within 2 minutes

Etc, etc. You have now created a situation in which the restaurant staff is several steps behind before we even greet you. It messes people up as we have to maintain a high degree of organization in our brains in order to stay on top of our sections.

In addition, If there is a host, you just bypassed the host who’s job it is to let the server know that they have a new table. Now it’s possible you won’t even have a server and you will be ignored until someone realizes you’re there.

People need to seriously stop doing this. It’s rude and it’s basically announcing to everyone in the restaurant that you have no patience and you’ll probably be annoying for the rest of your visit, too.

Former waitress Sofia Korkala writes:

Getting Creative

The menu is not a canvas for your wildest imagination, unfortunately.

I have come across customers who ask what ingredients do we have, and start building their own portion based on them.

I know the struggle of being a hard customer and not being able to take whatever from the menu due to dangerous allergies, but don’t be picky in vain. The staff is usually crowded with special orders anyway.


Say, you don’t like bell pepper.

You tell in advance to the restaurant that you are extremely allergic to it.

Believe me, this happens.

This results the kitchen to prepare your dish in the only right possible way: with a sterile kitchen.

Sterile knives.

Sterile ingredients.

Completely separately done from the dishes and equipment that have or have been used to prepare bell pepper.

Now, imagine the staff faces when they bring your dish to the table, proud of having made it without the contamination risk, telling you that they have prepare it for you with clean equipment.

“Oh, haha, thanks, but I’m not that allergic, I just don’t like it!”

The amount of work the that happens in the kitchen is hardly ever seen in the dining room. Respect the staff by not adding up to that amount of work if it’s not necessary.

Don’t show up five minutes before closing

Imagine that you have had a long day at work, customers yelling at you for things that are not under your influence, coworkers seeming to be in a bad mood, and you haven’t even had time to take a break.

But the time is already showing five minutes to closing, and everything is almost cleaned up in advance. You should be able to get home to your loved ones in time.

You got that wrong!

A family of five runs in, demanding to still have service as it is only 10:57, orders a variety of different dishes, with changing this ingredient from there and that one from here, and they would like to pay separately by cash and card.

If Google says that the restaurant closes at 11, the right time to order is not three minutes before closing.

The staff are not people willing to work every single day overtime like they had no life of their owns.

They are people with loved ones and hobbies as well.

And don’t ever snap your fingers at a server, bartender, anyone.


And finally, Maxwell Arnold, a former sous chef, restaurant manager, waiter, and busboy had this to say:

The relationship between a server and a customer can feel like an adverse one at times. Quite often, this is because the two parties simply misunderstand each other. I benefit from the experience of both working as a server, and being someone who dines out on the regular - so I understand what the dynamic is like from both sides.

For customers who get the most out of the dining experience, they understand the many nuances of the restaurant business, to include several unwritten rules that they have to go along with whether they like it or not. These are five unwritten rules that I find are rarely followed by customers. For those who dine out, I suggest reading these rules to understand how things work in the restaurant world. Sticking to these rules, you’ll stand to have a much more enjoyable dining experience, as opposed to just going off of what you think is right.

This restaurant is not your house

You’re a paying customer. We get that, and we respect that. But do not forget that you are a guest. In addition, you are not the only guest. There are other people here too. So when you request that we turn down the music, turn up the lights, or adjust the heat/air conditioning, you should know that we may not be able to make this accommodation, even if you ask nicely. If you go on to demand such accommodations, you’re not only disrespecting us (because you’re essentially treating the restaurant like your house, and us like servants who run it for you), you’re also disrespecting the other guests (because they may not desire the same accommodations that you desire). This is not your house, and this is a space that you’re sharing with other people - and if you’re the only one asking for something to be changed, we’re unlikely to do it if it will affect other guests.

Food takes longer to come out when we’re busy

When a restaurant is busy, it’s usually no secret. It’s loud, it’s full, staff are running around, the whole deal. You can also anticipate when a restaurant will be busy, like on Friday and Saturday nights. If you choose to dine at such times as these, you can expect your food to take longer to come out. Why? More people, more orders, more work for the kitchen to do. So if you’ve just placed your order now, it could take 20, 30, 40 minutes, or even longer than that. If that’s too long for you, none of us have any sympathy for your complaints. You knew it was busy, so you knew it would take long. You chose to dine at this time, so you knew what you were getting into. We don’t care that you’re hungry. Everybody is hungry. That’s why they’re here! What do you think we’re going to do? Bring your food out first before someone else’s, just because you’re complaining? Dream on.

Do not order anything that isn’t on the menu

It’s been my observation that a shockingly high percentage of restaurant patrons are either functionally illiterate, or are just extremely picky eaters. I say this because I’ve run into so many situations where customers want to make up their own dish that isn’t on the menu (i.e. ordering fish and chips at an Italian restaurant). Perhaps it’s because they don’t know how to read, and therefore can’t understand anything the menu says. Perhaps it’s because they’ve never been to a restaurant before and aren’t comfortable ordering anything they don’t already know. Perhaps it’s because they want to watch the world burn and cause the maximum amount of carnage. I don’t know.

What I do know is that our menu items are specifically formulated based on cost, taste, tradition, and what our customers generally like to have. If I put in an order for a veal marsala, the chef knows exactly what to make. If I have to walk him through your whole set of instructions, that slows everything down - and it defeats the whole purpose of having a menu. That menu is there for a reason. Read it. Furthermore, it defeats the whole purpose of a restaurant. This is not a private chef service. Minor adjustments to menu items are okay, custom orders are not.

If something is wrong, say something!

You’re not here to have a “just okay” meal, or even a bad or terrible meal. We couldn’t survive as a business if we routinely turned out inferior food. It’s not our objective to underwhelm you. If there’s something wrong with the food, please say something. You’re not going to offend me. I didn’t make the food. It’s not my place to take it the wrong way. If the pasta has too much sauce, we’ll fix it. If the fish has no taste, we’ll do something about it. If the steak is undercooked, we’ll have it cooked to your liking. If you endure your way through the food and eat it all, then we can’t do anything about it. We especially can’t do anything about it if you leave the restaurant and write a negative review expecting that to change anything. It doesn’t make sense for us to give you anything less than our best - and as such, it doesn’t make sense for you to expect anything less than that either.

Do not address us as “waiter”/“waitress”, or snap your fingers at us

This is basic human respect. I will openly ignore such requests for my attention, and you’ll be waiting a while for me to come back.

This article originally appeared on Quora.

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