10 Things You’re Doing That Are Annoying Your Waiter

You know which wine to order, what table has the best Instagram lighting and why you should stay away from the dollar oysters. But before you pronounce yourself an eating-out pro, you might want to brush up on the things that drive waiters bonkers. We asked two servers at top NYC restaurants about the things they’d love their guests to stop doing. Are you guilty of any of these? (Whoops, we are.)

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1. Stacking Up Empty Plates

You think you’re making your server’s job more efficient by helping him clear the table. But he’s got dish stacking down to a science, and by attempting a leaning tower of soup bowls, you might inadvertently cause a spill on his way back to the kitchen.

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2. Complaining About Cold Food (after Waiting 15 Minutes To Eat)

Your app came out piping hot, but after Instagramming it, raving to your friends about how delicious it looks and then carrying on a conversation for ten minutes, it’s now lukewarm. This isn’t your waiter’s fault, so please don’t send your food back unless it actually came out of the kitchen cold.

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3. Sending Food Back If Your Guest Goes To The Bathroom

We know you’re just looking out for your friend when her penne comes out while she’s powdering her nose. But if you send the dish back to the kitchen to sit under a heat lamp, you’re backing up the flow of the whole kitchen. It’ll still be tasty if it sits for two minutes, we promise.

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4. Expecting A Birthday Dessert Without Ordering It

It never hurts to mention a birthday when you make a reservation, but don’t automatically expect a piece of cake with a candle unless you’ve specifically requested it. Your server isn’t a mind reader, and she might assume you’re having dessert elsewhere if you don’t speak up.

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5. Or Asking For Free Stuff On Any Special Occasion

Congrats on your fifth wedding anniversary—but chances are you’re not the only one in the restaurant celebrating something special. Don’t expect your server to pop the Champagne unless you’ve cleared it in advance. (And don’t expect it to be taken off the bill, either.)

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6. Having A Full-blown Conversation With Them… In The Middle Of Rush Hour

Guys, your waitress wants you to have the best experience, so they love that you feel comfortable enough to tell them all about your day while snacking on your calamari. But keep in mind that yours is not the only table they have to tend to and that your extra-long chitchat slows them down. Sometimes they just want to give you great service and keep it moving.

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7. Continuing A Conversation Outside The Restaurant

Maybe your waitress was super-duper chatty—she weighed-in on your boyfriend problems, she totally agrees that your co-worker is toxic, and hell, she even gave you a drink on the house for all your troubles. However, unless she’s made it clear that she’d be interested in hearing more about your personal life, please don’t attempt to continue the conversation should you run into her on the subway or anywhere outside the restaurant. She could just be super friendly or really, really good at her job.

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8. Not Tipping Well (especially After Being Inconveniently Picky)

Can we all agree that tipping your server is just good manners? But it’s one thing to be a bad tipper and it’s another thing to be a bad tipper whose pickiness means extra work for your waitress. If you’re going to be all Gordon Ramsay about your risotto—asking for it to be made and remade exactly to your liking—then please leave a fitting tip for your poor waitress who had to go back and forth to the kitchen with your precise orders.

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9. Ranting About Wait Times When You Didn’t Make A Reservation…

…especially during peak hours/days.

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10. Getting Annoyed About Wearing A Mask Indoors

Umm…vaccines may have rolled out and restrictions may have lifted, but there are some deviant variants roaming around, so if you choose to dine in a restaurant that requires patrons to wear masks inside, please do so and don’t get mad at your waitress when she tries to enforce the policy. We’re still in a pandemic people!

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Freelance Editor

From 2015-2020 Lindsay Champion held the role of Food and Wellness Director. She continues to write for PureWow as a Freelance Editor.

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Resident Hufflepuff, Beyonce historian, self-proclaimed tea sommelier

Steph is a native of Zimbabwe who is both enamored and genuinely baffled by the concept of silent letters. From 2020 to 2022, she served as Associate Editor at PureWow covering...