50 More Things Restaurant Staffers Should Never Do

As promised, here is part II of the NYT “Stuff Restaurant Staffers Should Never Do” series. The list was written by a fellow who is opening a seafood restaurant in Bridgehampton, NY. We’ve grabbed the most debate-worthy of them for your enjoyment.

54. If there is a prix fixe, let guests know about it. Do not force anyone to ask for the “special” menu.

58. Do not bring judgment with the ketchup. Or mustard. Or hot sauce. Or whatever condiment is requested.

62. Do not fill the water glass every two minutes, or after each sip. You’ll make people nervous.

62(a). Do not let a glass sit empty for too long.

64. Specials, spoken and printed, should always have prices.

67. Never stack the plates on the table. They make a racket. Shhhhhh.

70. Never deliver a hot plate without warning the guest. And never ask a guest to pass along that hot plate.

78. Do not ask, “Are you still working on that?” Dining is not work – until questions like this are asked.

82. If you drip or spill something, clean it up, replace it, offer to pay for whatever damage you may have caused. Refrain from touching the wet spots on the guest.

85. Never bring a check until someone asks for it. Then give it to the person who asked for it.

86. If a few people signal for the check, find a neutral place on the table to leave it.

90. If someone is getting agitated or effusive on a cellphone, politely suggest he keep it down or move away from other guests.

PREVIOUSLY: 50 Things Restaurant Staffers Should Never Do

100 Things Restaurant Staffers Should Never Do (Part 2) [NYT]
100 Things Restaurant Staffers Should Never Do (Part 1) [NYT]
(Photo:Mike Fleming)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    Unlike the ones from the previous post, I actually agree with these. 67 might not apply to a restaurant that’s already noisy but that’s about it.

    • shadowkahn says:

      @Rectilinear Propagation:

      I would have added one. 101: Do not hand plates/glasses to the diner. Put them on the table.

      Maybe it’s just an upper midwest thing, but I’ve lost count of how many waiters hand me the plate. Often after admonishing me that it’s hot. It goes on the table. Right there, in front of me. Why do you think it necessary for me to bring it the final 12 inches to its resting point?

  2. MostlyHarmless says:

    Don’t do this, don’t do that… theres a saying in Gujarati that roughly translates to “Why dont you just kill me already?”. I bet my sister would say that if she saw this list.

    • ekthesy says:

      @MostlyHarmless: I’d love to have that phrase in the original Gujarati…does it translate to Roman characters at all?

      • MostlyHarmless says:

        @ekthesy: “Marij jau have”
        “Marij” – “Marridge” like “Porridge”
        “jau” – like “cow”, depending on your accent.
        “have” – like “huh-way”, except without the break. ]

        Quite literally, it translates to “I’ll just die, now”. But its sentiment is more along the lines of what I said earlier.

  3. boogermike says:

    #54 – This is great. I watch for deals and often will pick a restaurant based on a Prix Fixe deal, or other special. I recently went to a pricey restaurant in my town, mentioned to the hostess when we made the reservation that we were coming for the advertised special.

    When I got to the table, the special was not advertised anywhere. We asked the waitress, and her response “Well, it is ‘special’, so people have to ask”. This left a bad taste in my mouth (not literally, the food was wonderful).

    As a restaurant, if you are having a promotion, to get people in the door to try your restaurant, be forthright about honoring it.

    If I have to ask for the deal, it makes me feel cheap (OK, I am, but don’t force me to make it obvious in front of my date).

    • FatLynn says:

      @boogermike: Agreed. Though I think you can refer to it as the “tasting menu” or something to make it less awkward.

    • merely_a_muse says:

      @boogermike: I like when classier joints have prix fixe menus, it gives me an opportunity to try a place & see if it’s to my liking. But if its the kind of place that’s going to make me feel awkward about getting their “special menu” then I don’t usually want to go there for their regular menu

  4. jokono says:

    62a is a big “Duh!”

    85 — not sure I agree here. It should be apparent when the check is appropriate.

    Here’s a good one: Never EVER have the person bussing tables deliver my food. There are waiters and there are bussers. The busser is touching other people’s used silverware/etc. The waiter is (assumed to) have clean hands, for the purpose of serving clean food.

    • Dragonis says:

      I work at a restaurant as a busser and sometimes guests will ask that I bring them something. Only once, though, was I asked by a server to follow her to a table. At least where I work, we have to wash our hands after we visit the dish pit and before we go back out to set the tables. The only time this does not happen is on peak nights, but that is because we have two bussers in the dining room; one clears the other sets.

      • jokono says:

        @Dragonis: You know, after I posted that I re-read it. I was afraid it sounded a little condescending toward bussers. I’m glad you didn’t seem to take it that way. In reality, I realize it’s all about perception (and my own germaphobic neuroses.) It was a dumb think to say, and I’d take it back if there was a button to do so.

        Ahh, you bussers are alright! *pat on the shoulder*

    • humphrmi says:

      @jokono: I agree with you on 85 (as in, disagree with them.) It’s pretty obvious when my plate is clean, and drinks are gone, and I’m pulling out my wallet that I want the check. I shouldn’t have to chase it down.

    • Gracegottcha says:

      @jokono: Sometimes I take my boyfriend out for an expensive dinner. My idea, my treat. For some reason (it is 2009 after all) the waitperson ALWAYS brings the check to him rather than to me (which he feels obligated to pay) – and I’m the one who asked for it! They actually put it right in front of him and address him on where it should be paid. Now, I’ve had to take the extra step of quietly asking the waitperson, as we are being led to a table, to give ME the check when the time comes.

  5. j-o-h-n says:

    85 only works if they don’t just vanish for a hour after your food arrives. if you’re going to do that, just leave the bloody check with the food.

    • That's Consumer007 to you says:

      @j-o-h-n: AMEN! Although I prefer that to the opposite problem (I haven’t checked the original article to see if it made the list) of telling a guest who has been made to wait too long for the food to “Hurry Up, we need the table”.

      This bimbo waitress made the mistake of doing that to me one night and I told her just for that, and for making us wait too long, we were staying EXTRA long and taking our time and wouldn’t pay her until we were good and ready. This beeyotch then had the NERVE to summon a police officer to the table to ask me if there was a problem. I calmly said absolutely not, officer, just enjoying our meal we are paying for here.

      I then proceeded after eating as slowly as I could with friends, just to piss them off, to demand a manager on the way out, and ask them where they come off treating paying guests like that (and I was sure to do it where most of the other diners could hear me too.) When the manager proceeded to defend the waitress, I proceeded to slam them in every newspaper, website, etc. in the region and further contacted every restaurant reviewer and a talk show about it. The situation got discussed by experts, written up in the reviews, etc., without exception every expert telling folks how ridiculous the manager and owner were, and they lost a ton of business.

      Not everyone who is in the restaurant business should be, or will be eventually when they resent and mistreat their paying customer base.

      • ceriphim says:

        @Areyouagoodlittleconsumer: Holy shit dude. I’m genuinely afraid for what would happen if I ran over your dog on accident.


        • That's Consumer007 to you says:

          @ceriphim: You can say whatever you like, but being hostile, nonresponsive, inhospitable and insulting to paying guests is wrong, and then further harassing them with the police when you are in the wrong as a waitperson is MEGAwrong. What do you really expect to happen when they act like this?

          I never raised my voice to the waitress to deserve what she did, I only correctly raised it at the manager upon leaving, which I have every right to do. I gave them feedback thoroughly, and legally, and cost them business. I told the facts in all mediums and didn’t embellish. They had to know what I wrote and said and didn’t sue me or even respond to contest what I claimed. That had every opportunity to address this and change it and own it and they refused, so they had it coming – in SPADES.

          Do you have some problem with GOOD assertive consumers who respect themselves and use word of mouth? I mean really, that’s kind of the whole point of this website.

          Just for your info – I have more praises in my yelp.com review collection than complaints.

  6. Riff Raff says:

    62. Do not fill the water glass every two minutes, or after each sip. You’ll make people nervous.

    While you’re at it, don’t just give refills without asking. I hate seeing things go to waste, and I don’t drink a lot. I can’t stand waiters/waitresses who just plop a full drink in front of me when I know it’s just going to waste. Besides, then if the drink isn’t finished, I look like the bad guy.

    78. Do not ask, “Are you still working on that?” Dining is not work – until questions like this are asked.

    I hate this. When I’m done, I’ll offer my plate or move it to the side, not a second sooner.

    85. Never bring a check until someone asks for it. Then give it to the person who asked for it.

    Yes, it’s not OK to just throw the check on the table. In fact, it’s stupid. The waiter/waitress could potentially miss out on extra revenue. If I see a check brought without my approval, it makes me feel like a burden rather than a paying customer. It’s fine to ask if everyone is finished, then bring the check, however.

    • t0ph says:

      @Riff-Raff: No, if you don’t want more water, politely let us know before I go to refill it. I have far too many customers who do want their water refilled without asking and not enough time. You are the eco-friendly minority, which I can appreciate, but am not going to cater to.

    • partofme says:

      @Riff-Raff: 78 is partially due to the people. Positioning of silverware on the plate used to be indicative of whether the guest was finished eating. As fewer and fewer people do this correctly, we get harassed more and more by this annoying question.

      • lihtox says:

        @partofme: I don’t see anything wrong with asking “Are you finished?” or “Would you like me to take your plate?” It’s specifically referring to eating as “work” that’s most annoying.

    • dru_zod says:

      @Riff-Raff: Completely agree with your comments on #62. I cannot count the number of times that a server has brought me another drink when I have just barely finished a quarter of the one I already have. Unless I’m really thirsty, I hardly ever need a refill, but I usually end up with another full glass anyway.

    • Timbojones says:


      Disagree partially on #85. I do agree that servers shouldn’t bring the check early, but I shouldn’t have to ask explicitly for it either. Actually I would much rather get the check early, forcing them to reprint it if I order something else, than have to wait for the check when I’m ready.

      Best compromise: the server should ask something like “Would you like anything else?” when the table is being cleared. Usually I’ll answer “Just the check” but I shouldn’t have to. When I say no, that’s an implicit indication that I want the check, give it to me asap.

      • t0ph says:

        @Timbojones: I agree. I am a waiter, and I must say that the whole job consists of this: Anticipating the needs of the guests. A server should basiclly have the check printed and ready when they ask if there is anything else needed.

  7. nucwin83 says:

    63. Never blame the chef or the busboy or the hostess or the weather for anything that goes wrong. Just make it right.

    This. If I order a steak medium rare and it comes out cold or there is no hint of color in the middle… I don’t care whose fault it was, but that isn’t what I ordered and I’d like it fixed. Please just fix it, preferably before the people I am dining with finish their meals.

  8. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    “Do not ask if a guest is finished the very second the guest is finished. Let guests digest, savor, reflect.”

    I’ll restate my post on the first 50: Sometimes I want a 2-3 hour meal. It’s how it should be. Don’t ask me if I’m done with my meal right after the last bite or especially when there are a few bites left. No I am not done, I am reflecting on the meal I just had – and reflecting on how good a service I received. Interrupt that, and the service becomes “poor”.

    • RecordStoreToughGuy_RidesTheWarpOfSpaceIntoTheWombOfNight says:

      @Loias: This on doesn’t bother me as much, but only because for health reasons I’ve started looking at food only as fuel. I don’t want to sit and reflect on what I finished eating solely to provide energy, nutrients, and for the purpose of scrubbing cholesterol out of my circulatory system, and depending on what I had, it was likely something I’m not fond of, but better for me, so I’m not that interested in savoring it. Just get it out of my way and bring me my check so I can move on.

      Good lord, I’m cranky this morning. >_<

  9. vladthepaler says:

    In general this list is better than the first half. But these lists seem to be awfully anti-personality. If I’m eating out I want to be served by a person not a robot.

    I’d add:

    101. If you have a personality, show it. If you don’t have a personality, find a different line of work.

    102. When a guest temporarily leaves the table, do not neaten his/her place: don’t move utensils around, don’t refold napkins, etc.

    103. Don’t hover.

  10. Skeptic says:

    “85. Never bring a check until someone asks for it. Then give it to the person who asked for it.”

    Oh, really disagree with this one. I shouldn’t have to beg for the check any more than I should have to ask to have my water glass filled. Perhaps this rule works well at destination restaurants for fine dining but in most instances I really hate having to track down a waiter for the check. It is one of my pet peeves.

    • SkokieGuy says:

      @Skeptic: I’m with you, I hate having to chase down a waiter and ask for a check. It makes me feel like I have to beg them to pay. Don’t make me work hard to give you my money.

      If it’s a higher end establishment, “May I bring you anthing else” is an easy way of giving the diner the option of saying, “No thank you – just the check” without the server presenting the check before being requested.

    • RecordStoreToughGuy_RidesTheWarpOfSpaceIntoTheWombOfNight says:

      @Skeptic: I expect to be brought the check without asking. How am I to know the server is waiting for me to ask for it? If it gets to the point where I have to ask for the check, and it is not made clear that this is what they are waiting for, I will not be happy once I do ask for it, and will likely fault the server (incorrectly in this case), and not some asinine policy that I am unaware of. This will, of course, result in a lower tip for the waiter.


  11. thewildboo says:

    Did the same person write this? These (those reported here at least) are all good, solid points of ettiquitte. Completely unlike the first half.

  12. Colonel Jack O'Neill says:

    82. Refrain from touching the wet spots on the guest.

    If a cute ass waitress spilled something on me, she can touch my wet spots.

    On major important thing they forget.
    Wash you hands after you use the bathroom.

  13. bbagdan says:

    What is the protocol for when you bleed on a table? Once I sliced my thumb pretty bad on a wine foil, and didn’t notice I was bleeding until I saw blood dripping on a guest’s menu!

    • bbagdan says:


      What I did was apologize, remove the menu, walk away and have the manager move them to a new table while I bandaged my gushing digit and the busperson reset the bloodied table. It still seemed pretty gross though, as the blood drops fell on the menu in such volume and from such height as to splash and be audible. I can’t remember if the injury boosted my tip out of pity.

      • Snarkophagus says:

        @bbagdan: From my point of view you handled it exactly right. I wouldn’t want to eat at a place setting that might double for a butcher shop, and I wouldn’t want to sit and stare at blood for any length of time either.

        If I’d been your guest, you’d have gotten extra points from me for getting someone else to handle me while you dealt with your digit.

  14. GMFish says:

    I had a lot of bad things to say about the last list, but this one is pretty good. The only difference of opinion I have is on this one:

    85. Never bring a check until someone asks for it

    There is nothing I hate more than waiting for no reason. As far as I’m concerned (and I realize I’m in the minority) the check should be brought with the food. That’s how I always ask for it. The waitstaff can always say, “Here’s your bill, if you need anything else, such as a dessert, let me know.” But when I’m done eating I want to leave, not sit around and wait for someone to write up my bill.

    Providing efficient service in no way makes me feel rushed. However, making me wait really makes me annoyed.

  15. stephennmcdonald says:

    As I was a vocal opponent of much of the last list, it’s only fair that I jump in and say this list is spot on. Well done!

  16. Flyersfan says:

    My biggest pet peeve is asking if I need change. Of course I need change. Printing my own money isn’t as effective if I don’t get change.

    The other thing that I didn’t see explicitly on the list is this: If you screw up, apologize, fix it and move on. Don’t come back constantly asking if everything is ok. I’m not going to give you a bigger tip by begging to offer me the service I should have had in the first place.

    If the mistake is that grievous, offer us something to help make it right.

    • Rectilinear Propagation says:

      @Flyersfan: The change thing is in the article: 88. Do not ask if a guest needs change. Just bring the change.

      Worse than asking if you need change is when they just keep it. That’s a good way to guarantee that someone either won’t come back or will pay with exact change next time.

  17. SatisfriedCrustomer says:

    //[give the check] to the person who asked for it.”//

    EXCEPTION – if there is a man and woman eating together, the check should be placed neutrally on the table. The person who asked for the check might just be the person who could see the server. Don’t assume that if the man asks, the man is paying.

  18. Scoobatz says:

    I hate it when I tell the waiter I need 2 more minutes to look at the menu, but I don’t see them again for another 10. Nothing’s worse than tracking down a different waiter to find yours.

    Also, make sure there is silverware on the table before I sit down. It’s frustrating when there’s food in front of you with no way to eat it.

  19. edosan says:

    These are all good tips for when New York Times staffers have to re-enter the workplace as their industry dies.

  20. qwerty001984 says:

    What asshole is writing these rules???
    Seriously some of the demands are very, very pathetic.

    62. Do not fill the water glass every two minutes, or after each sip. You’ll make people nervous.
    67. Never stack the plates on the table. They make a racket. Shhhhhh.
    85. Never bring a check until someone asks for it. Then give it to the person who asked for it.

  21. Anachronism says:

    85. Never bring a check until someone asks for it. Then give it to the person who asked for it.

    Hmm. Everything else on this list I agree with, or at least I think it is perfectly, absolutely reasonable for somebody to train their staff to follow these rules.

    This is the only one on the list that I think is MUCH more subjective to the restaurant in question and the meal in question.

    I was a waiter and bartender for several years at varying levels of restaurants, from buffet places, sit down local pizza joints, applebees/red lobster type chains, up to semi-formal places, and here is my perspective.

    1. For lunch meals in a restaurant catering to business folks, I appreciate it when the check is dropped about 1-2 minutes after the main course is delivered, when the wait staff is checking to make sure the food is correct. Several restaurants I worked at practiced this, and being a guest it was always a relief to me knowing that I would not be late back to work waiting on some jackass to print my bill. If I want something else, I can always ask them to add it, and expect to get the check promptly once more.

    2. I realize this is a problem with poor wait staff to begin with, but many many times I have had acceptable, good, even great service, up until the point where I am ready to leave, and my waiter is nowhere to be found. I would much, much rather have my bill dropped with dessert to address at my convenience rather than be ready to conclude my time at the restaurant just to be put in the situation of wanting to GIVE MY MONEY TO SOMEBODY AND HAVE NOBODOY TO GIVE IT TO. At this point, I start deducting about 1% of the tipped amount for every minute I wait for my check past the point where I’m reminded of how much this whole deal exasperates me. Even worse is the other side, when the wait staff dissapears after dropping your check, and you are waiting 15 minutes for somebody to run your card. grrr.

  22. invormation says:

    One thing I would LOVE that I’ve had a problem with at nearly every level of restaurant – please don’t clean the table next to me while I’m eating. I don’t care if you’re clearing it, but when you spray a cleaner that smells like Pine Sol, it doesn’t really react well with whatever I’m eating.

    Other than that, this list is a little much for me. I remember being an underpaid, overworked employee and this list is SO much to expect from someone. As a customer, sure, you’re paying, but you’re not paying THAT much where you should expect a waiter to bend to your every whim. Especially when it’s the end of the night, it’s busy, and they’re exhausted. Would you want to be in his or her’s shoes?

  23. RalphyNader says:

    This guy is a tool. “Don’t fill up my water too much/too little, don’t make noise with the plates and take it upon yourself to demand that your source of income (tips from guests) take their obnoxious phone calls out side”….sure bud.

  24. michigan2cv says:

    Recently had a waitress go home mid-meal because her shift was over. No notice, no replacement…and from me, no tip.

    • dru_zod says:

      @michigan2cv: Reminds me of something that happened a couple of years ago. A bunch of family members went out to celebrate my grandmother’s birthday and there was a shift change just a few minutes after the waitress brought our food. Once our waitress left, we saw another one take over her section…but she never checked on our table. There was another waitress in the next section who came within 5 feet of our table…she also never checked on us. We never got refills for our drinks, never got the condiments and such that we needed, and had to get up and literally chase down one waitress to get some to-go boxes for leftovers.

      Turns out each of the two waitresses thought our table was in the other one’s section. So I would add to this list: know which tables you are supposed to be waiting on!

  25. AshleyKeen says:

    100. Guests, like servers, come in all packages. Show a “good table” your appreciation with a free glass of port, a plate of biscotti or something else management approves.

    – Road to an awesome tip! It doesn’t even have to come with freebies. I always overtip a waiter/waitress that leaves a positive comment about our table for the duration of the meal – it can be as simple as, “Man, I’ve had a rough day so far… you guys have awesome manners.” Likewise I leave a huge tip for a waiter/waitress that has had to deal with a loud, large, rambunctious party. And on Sunday afternoons, as a rule, because this Christian is SUPER frustrated by people that think that just because you left church and ticked your spiritual check box, you can stiff the waiter that’s paitiently waiting your table and dealing with the fickleness of your snotty nosed toddler whose tired of being poked and prodded and wearing tights and mary janes. If you can’t afford to leave them a decent tip, turn your SUV right back around and eat a family meal at home!

  26. SteveZim1017 says:

    60. Bring all the appetizers at the same time, or do not bring the appetizers. Same with entrees and desserts.

    “I’m sorry sir, we weren’t able to bring everyone’s entree out at the same time so none of you will be having dinner tonite. here’s your check.

  27. harrier666 says:

    If I am paying for a meal at a nice place, and ask for something slightly different (such as no onions, as onions will darn near kill me) it shouldn’t be an ordeal. I don’t order without onions to torture the waitstaff. I recently ordered something at an upscale place and asked for no onions. The plate came out covered in onions. I sent it back. Got it again covered. Finally, the waiter said, “We can’t make it without onions”. They weren’t cooked in to the item, just sprinkled on top. Ridiculous. When I asked him for a suggestion on something with no onions, he told me, “everything here has onions.” “Even the desert?” I asked, being somewhat facetious. “Yes!”

    Not only no tip, but like some others have said, I wrote to the paper, and posted bad reviews on every site I could find. McDonald’s can make a hamburger no onions, I think fancy restaurant pants can manage to do the same.

  28. SaraFimm says:

    I used to eat steak well done and after being to several steak restaurants with my husband, have come to love medium rare because of the release of flavor that you don’t get with well done.

    I had a waitress come to our table and tell us that she was going to go on break and wanted to make sure we would be fine for 20 minutes while she was away. She offered to refill drinks and get us anything we needed (including the check because we were almost finished) while she was gone. We got drink refills and when she came back we ordered dessert and she got a generous tip for telling us and making sure we would be fine while she was gone. This was a $9.99 type restaurant so you know the other waiters wouldn’t cover her tables.

    Also, in these $9.99 places, they pack you in like sardines so I can understand your waiter asking you to pass a plate. When there is no space between you and the person at the table behind you at a seats six table the waiter definitely can’t reach the person furthest in. It’s the fault of the owner/management that the waiter can’t place the food in front of you.

  29. LadySiren is murdering her kids with HFCS and processed cheese says:

    I’m sort of non-plussed by #72 (“Do not serve salad on a freezing cold plate; it usually advertises the fact that it has not been freshly prepared.”), as one of the restaurants I worked while in college made a point of having us make each salad by hand and served on, you guessed it – freezing cold plates. The plates were kept in a chiller next to our salad station and I never had a guest complaint about it.

    Just my opinion, but I’d rather the freezing cold plate that keeps my salad crispy than a warm plate with lettuce leaves wilting all over the place.

  30. Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

    “58. Do not bring judgment with the ketchup. Or mustard. Or hot sauce. Or whatever condiment is requested.”

    If you attempt to get ketchup on your hotdog or bratwurst in Chicago, you DESERVE judgment with your ketchup. I always serve up my husband’s bratwursts with a heaping side of judgment. It only took me six years to break him of eating them with ketchup.

  31. kexline says:

    62a is by far the quickest way to get my tip-o-meter clicking. I despise eating without anything to drink. After a few bites, I just have to stop, so that my food gets cold and I get out of sync with everyone else at the table.

    Other things …
    – #77 is “don’t disappear.” I think there should be a #77a: “… and don’t smell like cigarette smoke when you reappear.”

    – Where is “don’t act like you’re wearing blinders”?

  32. michigan2cv says:


  33. teke367 says:

    #55, while I understand the concern with this one, it’s a horrible idea to allow a server to mention too much about possible allergies. If you have peanut allergies, sure it would be good for a server to mention that a particular chicken dish has actual peanuts. However, it’s dangerous in a sense that something without peanuts may still contain peanut products. If you have recipies available, allow them to show them to the guest, but never let a server, or anybody who isn’t qualified, to suggest a dish is safe for somebody with severe allergies.

    If somebody’s stomach gets upset due to dairy products, thats one thing, but most food allergies are far more serious than being allergic to dogs and cats, etc.

  34. bhelverson says:

    As a point of reference, radio stations pay large music licensing fees and their broadcasts are intended for noncommercial use. If you are caught using a radio station for background music in your restaurant or store, you could be facing a big bill from ASCAP or BMI. This is rarely enforced but it has happened. Muzak and other background music services either pay these fees or avoid them by producing their own music.