Waitstaff Rules

The small business blog You’re The Boss on the New York Times’ site recently hosted a twopart post featuring 100 restaurant staffer “dos and don’ts” written by the owner of a restaurant about to open.  I agree with many of the items on the list, and recognize that most of them are not followed in nice restaurants, much less middle-of-the road eateries.  The customer is rarely ‘right’ anymore.

A bunch of my favorites:

8. Do not interrupt a conversation. For any reason. Especially not to recite specials. Wait for the right moment.

12. Do not touch the rim of a water glass. Or any other glass.

21. Never serve anything that looks creepy or runny or wrong.

32. Never touch a customer. No excuses. Do not do it. Do not brush them, move them, wipe them or dust them.

56. Do not ignore a table because it is not your table. Stop, look, listen, lend a hand. (Whether tips are pooled or not.)

66. Do not return to the guest anything that falls on the floor — be it napkin, spoon, menu or soy sauce.

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

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

What do you like/dislike from the lists?  Is the author asking too much?

H/t to TV Tango for the art.

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11 Responses

  1. Hammam

    I agree with everything on the list. I would also like to add that I can’t stand it when they ask me “Can I help you?” at the counter as soon as I walk in or when I’m clearly looking over the menu on the wall of fastfood joints. I like to take my time and don’t want to feel rushed.

  2. food techie

    2. “Do not make a singleton feel bad. Do not say, “Are you waiting for someone?” Ask for a reservation. Ask if he or she would like to sit at the bar.” – Who cares if I’m dining alone??!

    34. “Do not have a personal conversation with another server within earshot of customers.” – This is very VERY annoying.

    62. “Do not fill the water glass every two minutes, or after each sip. You’ll make people nervous.” – This one happens unnoticed but still it’s a good one.

    97. “If a guest goes gaga over a particular dish, get the recipe for him or her.” – Is this necessary?? Or even permissible??

    It is a very insightful list, and it should be good training material for a restaurant’s service staff. I bet they are A LOT of people in the F&B line who overlook many of the things in this list.

  3. Haylee

    I’d say the author is pretty spot on with that article, there is nothing worse than being rushed out of a restaurant because the waiter wants to “get off work”..
    Thanks for sharing!

  4. Laura

    I work in a restaurant and I can attest to the fact that someone will always complain about something. Customers are just looking for a reason not to leave a decent tip. If one person considers their refills too frequent, another will consider it too infrequent, etc.. This will never end. (and I love my job) Just use common sense. There should be a list of rules for patrons.

  5. Nick

    Agree with Laura… waiting tables is an incredibly hard job.

    Give your server some slack here people. I went out to eat over the weekend and counted the number of things my server did that was on this list (I read it last week): 11 things. You know what though? I still enjoyed my meal just fine and I thought the service was okay.

    This list encourages complaining patrons in my opinion.

  6. KevinB

    Ask the chef for the recipe in the heat of a busy service? Is this guy freakin’ kidding? I would have been attacked with a cleaver if I tried that. The entire kitchen staff are concentrating on getting meals prepared properly, timed properly, garnished properly, and picked up promptly, and I’m suppose to ask for the recipe? I’d suggest, politely, that she write and request it, but the chef does not keep a list of recipes available for distribution.

    This guy was a restaurant owner? I find that very hard to believe; sounds more like a spoiled brat customer masquerading as one.

  7. Zac

    A few gripes, as a waiter and someone who’s also been in management. A lot of these seem like they’re only rules for the highest end places. For instance:

    7. Do not announce your name. No jokes, no flirting, no cuteness.
    Since when? Most customers at an upscale, casual place adore when you engage them with all kinds of jokes, flirtations, and “cuteness.” If you don’t, you end up lacking personality.

    43. Never mention what your favorite dessert is. It’s irrelevant.
    I assume he means “without first being asked.” It’s irrelevant? This writer’s tone is so condescending. Since when is the waiter’s opinion of the food irrelevant? People ask what to order all the time.

    85. Never bring a check until someone asks for it. Then give it to the person who asked for it.
    This is debatable. Often when asked if I can bring them anything else, a table will respond simply “no thanks.” They didn’t ask for the check, but they are implying they want the check at some point in the next 10 minutes. I’d say 20% of the time people don’t specifically ask for the check; it’s implied in some way.

    97. If a guest goes gaga over a particular dish, get the recipe for him or her.
    I second KevinB’s comment. Is this guy crazy? What chef in the world would allow this?

    Generally speaking, however, there are a lot of good rules in there. Some need an asterisk next to them saying “when applicable,” because depending on how a restaurant is laid out, or the size of a table, it’s not always possible to follow all sequences of service without bending the rules a little bit.

  8. laura

    I agree that most of this list is over the top… but I really hate being asked “Are you still working on that?” I am a slow eater and this makes me feel like I’m being rushed to finish my meal.

  9. Kat

    Wow, the comment about providing the recipe is totally insane. If they love the food, they’ll come back, or possibly inquire about the recipe. That doesn’t mean they want to make it at home, nor has the chef/restaurant agreed that the recipe is part of the diner’s purchase of a meal.

  10. St Petersburg accident lawyer

    My daughter is a waitress so I’ve become a lot more considerate as a customer. I’ve noticed other server’s behavior as a result of this and a lot of them just aren’t patient enough. Maybe they are used to working lunch rushes or they think people are in a rush. I like how Red Lobster servers ask if you are in a rush or taking a leisurely lunch when you sit down.

  11. Sarah

    I like the ‘don’t interrupt’ rule. Practically every restaurant I go out to violates this rule. I’ll be in the middle of a conversation, and the waiter will interrupt mid-stream just to ask how the food is. So annoying.


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