13 Polite Habits that Restaurant Staffers Secretly Dislike

Sometimes our restaurant manners can miss the mark when we're trying to do the right thing. Here's what to avoid.

1 / 13
Serious concentrated young waiter standing and taking an order from two bearded handsome men in cafe
Shutterstock / Dean Drobot

Seating yourself

When the hostess is busy, it can be tempting just to seat yourself and save her the trouble. This might seem like helping, but it might be making her job (and the servers’ jobs) more difficult. Hosts have a system for distributing tables that keep the restaurant running smoothly. If you see the host is busy when you arrive, wait a minute or two before hailing someone for attention. Find out a few other hostess pet peeves.

2 / 13
Shutterstock / Jacob Lund

Not listening to the specials

We get it—you’re at your favorite diner and you’re craving the usual. But please don’t interrupt the staff if they’re listing the specials and soups of the day. You might think you’re saving them time and effort, but interrupting—no matter the reason—isn’t polite. Learn the etiquette mistakes almost everyone makes at a steakhouse.

3 / 13
Relaxed adults people having dinner and respectful waiter
Shutterstock / Iakov Filimonov

Over-chatting with the hostess or server

Of course, we want to be friendly, but if the place is packed, consider keeping the personal questions to a minimum. A genuine smile and a good tip go a long way in making someone feel appreciated. Up next: Find the small-town hidden gem restaurant in your state.

4 / 13
Broken wine glass with bottle on wooden table
Shutterstock / Paul_K

Cleaning up after an accident

Oops! You knocked a glass of wine off the table and you want to minimize the trouble for the staff. While this is understandable, the last thing the staff wants is for you to pick up bits of glass. An apology is enough, then let them take care of it.

This is how to know if a restaurant is going to be good.

5 / 13
In the Bar Waiter Holds Credit Card Payment Machine and Beautiful Woman Pays for Her Order with Contactless Mobile Phone Payments System.

Ordering from another server

Your waiter looks swamped, so why not ask someone else for dessert or another appetizer? Because it can make things super confusing when they are trying to put together your bill. But you can politely ask another server to flag your waiter down.

6 / 13
cheesecake and coffee. Can not finish the plate
Shutterstock / 9Air

Pushing plates away when you’re finished

Again, I’ve been guilty of this. It seemed like a good signal for the plates to be cleared, but it actually makes them harder to reach and clutters up the table for your companions. Leave them be—a good waiter will watch and ask you if you’re done.

7 / 13
Couple ordering dinner in a luxury restaurant
Shutterstock / Minerva Studio

Ordering in a language you really don’t know

Your server would prefer you to order your meal as it’s listed on the menu. If you’re at a fancy Italian restaurant, they can certainly help you through the pronunciation of pasta fagioli al forno (and we can help you find the perfect recipe). However, if you see spaghetti and meatballs on the menu, don’t ask your waiter for spaghetti e polpette (the Italian translation). This will only make your order confusing.

8 / 13
Waiter pouring mineral water from the glass bottle into a glass
Shutterstock / barmalini

Not “bothering” the staff

If you want some water or coffee, or your soup is cold, definitely let your server know. Better a polite request than a growing resentment and a small tip. Most servers really want to make sure your meal is wonderful, but they can’t read our minds.

9 / 13
Young woman with a friend ordering to waiter at cafe.
Jacob Lund/Shutterstock

Not asking for everything you need

We get it, it’s awkward to let your server know more than one thing is wrong with your order—but servers would much rather fix multiple issues all at once than make multiple trips back to the table to learn that your fries were underdone AND you were missing a fork. Are you making any of these mistakes at the drive-thru window?

10 / 13
Waitress serving burgers to cheerful customers in restaurant
Shutterstock / wavebreakmedia

“Helping” with a tray

When your server comes to the table with a tray full of drinks or food, it can look like quite the balancing act. While it’s tempting to want to relieve your waitress from some of the weight, please don’t! Servers are pros at balancing even the most precarious load, and if you try and “help” by grabbing that bread basket or glass, you might throw the whole tray off kilter. You can help, though, by moving your glasses, phone or other belongings out of the way when your server puts down your plate.

11 / 13
Shutterstock / wavebreakmedia

Asking for things one at a time

If you need some ketchup for your burger, do not hesitate to ask! Same goes for more cream for your coffee, a new fork, another napkin, a refill. Sometimes you might need a lot of extras and it’s tempting to tell your server your needs one at a time. You might think your waiter might forget all the odds and ends or that they might be hard to gather into one trip, but trust us—your server would rather make one big trip that multiple trips for these odds and ends. It saves them time and gives you a dining experience with fewer interruptions.

12 / 13
Dirty dishes with cutlery on a brown wooden table
Shutterstock / Butus

Stacking used plates at the table

Full disclosure: I did this all the time. I thought I was doing servers a favor, but it turns out it’s icky and inconvenient. Leave your plates as they are—your waiter has a system for clearing the table.

13 / 13
A businessman is paying his bill by credit card at the restaurant.
Shutterstock / Totsapon Phattaratharnwan

Splitting the check at the end

Any server is more than happy to split a bill among a few friends. If you know you plan on dividing the expense, it’s best to let your server know at the beginning of the meal so they can keep track of whose dish is whose a bit easier. Yes, the check can be split at the end, but advance notice is always appreciated (and it can help speed up the process).

Cathryn Jakicic
Cathy Jakicic has written about everything from business and bacteria to beads and baking in her career —but she greatly prefers the last two. She is a baker and a crafter and loves to try new recipes for both.
Lisa Kaminski
Lisa is a former Taste of Home editor and passionate baker. During her tenure, she poured her love of all things sweet (and sometimes savory) into Bakeable, Taste of Home's baking club. Lisa also dedicated her career here to finding and testing the best ingredients, kitchen gear and home products for our Test Kitchen-Preferred program. At home, you'll find her working on embroidery and other crafts.