13 Things That Definitely Annoy Your Waiter

Updated: Nov. 28, 2023

Be honest: Have you made any of these restaurant faux pas?

Mid section of waitress taking order at restaurantShutterstock / wavebreakmedia
Shutterstock / wavebreakmedia

We all like to consider ourselves considerate customers when it comes to dining out, but a shocking number of people are pretty rude to their server. If you’ve ever worked at a restaurant, you know what we’re talking about: guests who snap their fingers, complain about kitchen mistakes, and then leave buck or two for a tip.

Going out to eat is supposed to be fun, and it’s important to be respectful of employees (and other patrons!) in the restaurant. Here are a few things that truly annoy servers. How many are you guilty of doing?

1. You Play Musical Chairs

Ever wonder how servers usually know where to place the food when it comes out? They punch in the orders based on the seat you’re in—but they probably don’t match the plate to your face. If your whole family swaps seats after each course, it’s very difficult for servers to know where to put things on the table. If you must change positions before the food comes out, be sure to politely explain where each dish belongs without getting upset that your server cannot read your mind.

2. You Blame Them for Things Beyond Their Control

Servers connect you to the kitchen, but they aren’t in charge of everything that actually goes on back there. It’s not their fault if the restaurant carries only Pepsi products, the bathroom is at the top of the stairs, the burger is overcooked, or the dining room is a little chilly. It’s OK to ask them to return something to the kitchen, but don’t get upset with the waitstaff for it—they didn’t cook your food.

3. You Shred, Crumple and Hide Straw Wrappers

If your waiter or waitress doesn’t remove the paper wrapping from your straw, do you crumple it up and hide it behind the condiments? Are you the type of person who turns the contents of the napkin holder into an origami masterpiece? Do you rip your napkin to shreds while you wait for your food? All these things are incredibly annoying to the waitstaff, as often it’s their job to clean off your table after you leave. Be respectful of everyone who will come to the restaurant after you, and don’t make a mess of the paper at your table.

4. You Don’t Care about Their Names

You know the drill—the server comes to your table, welcomes you to the restaurant and introduces himself before asking what he can get started for you. Have you ever interrupted him to demand your food or drinks right away?

It should come as no surprise that servers see this as disrespectful. They are working hard to serve you, and they don’t feel valued when you cut them off so you can order your Diet Coke. It probably takes about five seconds for a server to introduce himself, but if you can’t wait that long, you’re probably best visiting a fast-food joint or staying home.

5. You Call Them like Animals

Many servers agree that their ultimate pet peeve is being snapped at or beckoned to a table, as if the customer were calling a dog. Waiters and waitresses are trained to visit your table often so you never have to call them over. Before you shout a name (assuming you allowed her to introduce herself) or snap your fingers, wait a couple minutes to see if she shows up. If you still need something and you’re getting impatient, make eye contact and offer a small wave.

6. You Pull Them Away from Other Tables

While snapping fingers is plain rude, pulling your waitress’ apron strings while she’s talking to another table is unfair to other customers in the restaurant (and borderline harassment). When your server is assisting another table, she’s off limits to you. If you really need to get her attention, please wait until she’s done assisting other diners, then follow the directions in No. 5.

7. You Sit with Your Chair Pushed All the Way Back

Restaurants can get pretty crowded, especially around rush hour. If you are seated in a narrow room or along a hallway and notice your server squeezing behind your chair to get to other tables, be respectful and scoot your chair in so he can pass. If you are dining with children, seat them at the tightest part of the table so the adults have more space to sit. It will make dining easier for everyone, and your chances of being spilled on go way down.

8. You Don’t Have Your Order Ready

It’s perfectly acceptable if you need a little extra time to look over the menu, especially if you haven’t been to a particular restaurant before. However, if your server has come back two or three times but you’re still too busy talking to even glance at the menu, you’re probably getting on her nerves. (Think: While you’re talking, your food could be cooking!) Make it a point to decide what you’ll order before you launch into a long conversation. It’ll save everybody time and trouble.

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9. You’re on Your Phone at the Table

Few things are more annoying than a customer who tries to order while they’re on the phone with someone else—or, worse yet, gets annoyed that a server is at the table while they’re on the phone. If you’re going out to eat, put your phone away. You can always step outside to take a call if it’s crucial, but don’t pick it up at the table. That is inconsiderate of both your server and the people you’re dining with.

10. You Try to Stack the Plates for Them

While this is an unmistakably nice gesture, it isn’t as helpful as you might think. Servers have a special way of stacking the dishes so they can carry everything back to the kitchen without any spills or struggles. Save them time by leaving your plates at your spot and allowing them to take everyone’s dishes individually. After all, that’s part of their job!

11. You Make Too Many “Special Requests”

Making one or two modifications to a menu item is perfectly OK, especially if you have an allergy or aversion to a certain food. What’s not OK is asking your waiter to remember an entire list of things you want removed or added to a particular dish. As a general rule, if you have to make more than two special requests for a meal, you should probably order something else.

12. You Stuff Things in Glasses

When it comes to cleaning the table, it’s pretty gross to have to fish a dirty napkin from a filled cup. Make things easier for your server and leave dirty napkins on the table, where they can be picked up quickly and easily. This goes for sugar packets or straw wrappers, too.

13. You Let Your Kids Leave the Table Unattended

Taking your kids out to eat can be fun, but allowing youngsters to get up and roam the restaurant on their own is a recipe for disaster. Make sure to accompany young children when they leave the table to make sure they’re not getting lost or disturbing other guests. Also, servers who are carrying food can have trouble seeing small kids. You wouldn’t want your toddler to end up tripping a waiter and getting covered in spaghetti!

14. You Try to Change Your Order after It Arrives

As a customer at a restaurant, it is your responsibility to read the menu for any meal you’re ordering. If you are allergic to pickles and order a burger with one on top, it’s rude to wait until the burger comes out of the kitchen to request another one. If you’d read the menu beforehand, you could have ordered the meal sans pickle and saved both the chef and waiter a lot of trouble.

15. You’re a Cheap Tipper

The biggest pet peeve of servers across the U.S. is people who don’t tip 15 to 20 percent. If you’re dining at a casual, inexpensive joint, 10 percent might be adequate, but servers expecting to pay their rent and make a living aren’t too pleased when they try their best and only get a couple dollars in return. (And it should go without saying, don’t leave your phone number in place of a tip and expect to get a call back!) Yes, at most sit-down restaurants, 15 percent is the bare minimum you should tip. No, servers aren’t excited to receive the bare minimum.

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Now that you’ve got the intel, we know you’ll be extra careful next time you dine out. And we promise your server will definitely appreciate it—and treat you better, too!