As someone who lives for bread baskets, big salads, and food I didn't have to make myself, I absolutely love going out to eat. While I try not to go too often (you know, money) I have become a dining expert, in a way. When it comes to the art of dividing a bill or getting a server's attention, I'm your gal. And yet, even I occasionally don't realize when I'm being rude in a restaurant.
It's totally unintentional, of course, but pretty much everyone forgets their manners in one way or another when dining out in public. That's all thanks to the (seemingly endless) list of ways it's possible to annoy those around you, inconvenience your server, or make the host want to pull his hair out. There is, after all, a lot of noise, tons of expectations, and even more people to take into consideration.
While it's not necessary to police your every move for fear of being "that" person, it is a good idea to keep in mind what's considered rude. As etiquette expert Samantha von Sperling says, "Your manners have a direct impact on the experience of those around you. We all want to have a lovely experience when we’re out." So it's important to keep others in mind when sitting down to eat. Read on for things you should never do if you want to be the politest one around.
1. Gesturing Wildly To Get Your Server's Attention
It's never fun to wait around for your server, especially if it's been a hot minute since you finished eating. But however bored you get, resist the urge to gesture for their attention. "They are people too and are worthy of your words," says Jacquie Lewis, owner of an event planning company in California, in an email to Bustle. Instead, make eye contact or ask the host for help.
2. Requesting A Million Food Modifications
While it's OK to ask for the dressing on the side, you don't want the chef to recreate a meal just for you. "If you have an allergy and need to remove an ingredient that's understandable," says Allison Page, co-founder of the hospitality app SevenRooms. "However, when you order X and try to turn it into Y by substituting every ingredient in the dish, you're insulting the chef that spent weeks conceptualizing and bringing it to life." Not cool.
3. Camping Out At Your Table For Hours
I get that it's nice to camp out in a booth with your friends, but do keep the other guests in mind. "Don't pay the bill and then linger for an hour," Page says. "Time is money and your lingering is costing the restaurant money and making it a bad experience for the guests who are waiting." It is OK, however, to hang out for a bit if the place is empty. Order another app and relax.
4. Getting Way Too Caught Up In Your (Loud) Convo
Of course you can laugh it up with your date and have a jolly old (semi-loud) time. Don't, however, be that person in the corner drowning out everyone else's conversation, von Sperling tells me. Keep your voice to a dull roar — especially if you're talking about something private or inappropriate. If you can't, go ahead and move the party to a louder bar.
5. Leaving Your Stuff On The Table
When you get to your seat, don't put your bag/umbrella/backpack/whatever on the table. As NYC-based modern etiquette coach Maggie Oldham tells me, it's considered rude. (And it's also kinda dirty.)
6. Touching Up Your Makeup
OK, so you just had some super messy pizza and are dying to check your face for signs of grease and smeared lipstick. While totally understandable, don't do it at the table. As Oldham tells me, any personal maintenance or grooming (using hand sanitizer, blowing your nose, playing with your hair, and/or fixing makeup) should be saved for the bathroom.
7. Taking Calls Or Checking For Texts
I know how hard it is to ignore your phone for an hour (yes, even when you're out with all your friends). But as far as manners go, it's so so important to save texting and phone calls for later. As Gazelle.com gadget expert Amy Rice tells me, keeping your phone off the table is the best (and most polite) idea.
8. Not Showing Up For Your Reservation
If you make a reservation, do the restaurant a favor and actually show up. "There's only so many times a day restaurant can book their tables, and by reserving and not showing up, restaurants lose the opportunity to reserve it for another diner," Page says. If you really can't make it, be sure to cancel ASAP to help save them some dough.
9. Complaining About A Problem For Everyone To Hear
Let's say your food was undercooked or your server only came to the table once. If you're feeling upset, don't say so at the table. "There's no need to air your dirty laundry for everyone to hear," Lewis says. Go to the host and address it quietly and with charm, she tells me. It'll get you so much further and it'll save everyone else the stress of overhearing a problem.
10. Stacking Plates When You're Finished
If you've ever worked in a restaurant, or do so currently, it can be a force of habit to stack your dirty dishes. (The same way it's impossible for retailer workers to avoid folding clothes when shopping.) And yet, as life coach Danny Zoucha tells me, it's not actually all that helpful. Most servers and bussers have a way certain way of clearing the table. So let them do it.
11. Arguing For Forever Over The Bill
If there's anything more annoying than figuring out how to split a bill seven ways, please let me know. Not only is it confusing AF, but it's also a huge time suck — and one that can be super irritating for those waiting to eat. That's why, as Lewis says, it's important to decide beforehand how you guys will want to pay.
12. Not Indicating That You're Finished Eating
In perfect etiquette land, it's a good idea to indicate you're finished eating by putting your knife and fork together in the center of your plate. As Zoucha tells me, the pointy ends should be aimed towards the top of your plate. Not everyone know's it, but this will let your server know that you're ready for the check.
13. Hanging Out When They're Clearly Closing
If the staff turns on the vacuums and starts cleaning, that's your cue to go. But don't let it get to this point, if you can help it. "The restaurant will never kick you out or tell you to leave, so be a good samaritan and recognize when you are overstaying your welcome," Page says.
If you can keep these tips in mind, you'll be the politest restaurant goer the world ever did see.
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