The things you do that secretly annoy restaurant servers and how to stop

Insider information from wait staff across Canada — now you know.

Insider information from wait staff across Canada — now you know

(Credit: iStock/Getty Images)

Being a waiter is one of the most demanding jobs out there (sorry Moms). I've done it. You've probably done it — according to Statistics Canada, 1.3 million Canadians worked in the food service industry in 2017. So why is there still such a disconnect between what is and isn't acceptable behaviour in a restaurant? When you follow these simple restaurant rules and make friends with your server, I promise you will receive a better dining experience.

What do I know, you ask? Well not much — so I called upon some of my server friends to vent (anonymously) about what irks them the most about their clientele. And I'm sharing my findings here in hopes of making the food world a better place. Of course, these tips will vary based on where you are… (you can't compare a dive bar and fine dining) but I do believe the overall ideas can be translated to any establishment.

Innocent interrogation

"Never say this to your server: "So what are your plans after this job?" We know you are only trying to start casual conversation, but to assume that our job is temporary and that we're hoping for "something better" to come along, is rude. Sure, a lot of servers are only there to pay their way through school, but I've worked with plenty more who are actually pursuing a career in the restaurant industry. I've also known servers who are executive TV producers but take a side job bartending because they can't sit still in between contracts. Even Ms. Norbury from Mean Girls bartends a couple nights a week down at P.J. Calamities. It's not that weird."

- Signed, Fully Fulfilled in Toronto

Payment wars

"When everyone at the table wants to pay for the bill, it's a good problem to have. What a big bunch of generous people! Sadly, it can turn ugly very quickly. I've had credit cards ripped from my hands… I've nearly been tackled to the ground over a debit receipt. This isn't a football game, it's brunch. A waiter's general rule of thumb is, whoever asks first, pays first. End of story. So if your aunt, mother or co-worker weasels their way into getting the bill first, bow out respectfully. Don't waste your waiters time by fighting over it. Wave your white flag and vow to pay next time. Pro tip: call ahead with your credit card number. It's a fool proof plan that works every time."

- Signed, Safety First in Vancouver

Clean up, but not too much…

"Imagine this… you're dining at home with your baby and he's flinging spaghetti and meatballs through the air like fireworks on Canada Day. Once you've got your adorable Instagram photo, you're going to clean up the mess, aren't you? Of course you are. It's your home. Please have the same respect for our restaurant. While it is your servers job to help keep your environment as clean as possible, it's not fair to walk away from a catastrophic mess, like it doesn't exist. If your baby has created a landfill of chewed up food around his high chair, do a first pass clean up. Truth be told, if we saw you cleaning up, we'd probably run over and ask you to stop, and finish it for you. (Confusing, right?) But it's the thought that counts."

- Signed, Tidy in Toronto

Help me help you

"You've come to my restaurant for food, and I want you to eat. So help me help you. If I walk up to your table holding 2-4 plates of hot food, my hands are inevitably full. This means I don't have an extra limb to push your phone, or your drink to the side for you, to make room for your delicious meal that I want you to enjoy. So please do it for me. It's incredible how common it is for people to not realize that they need to make a clear space for their plates. Be a little more aware of your surroundings and start making room at the table when you see the server approaching with your meals."

- Signed, Self-Aware in Montreal

What's in a seat?

"So you walk into a restaurant and see the perfect table, so you beeline for it without speaking to anyone. Is the table dirty from the last person who sat there? Who cares! You got first dibs, right? Wrong. Restaurants hire a door team for a reason, and they have an organized system in place. Asking for a specific table isn't illegal, and if it is available, the host will likely give it to you. But please respect the fact that where you are sat isn't just left to chance. There a number of variables that come into play when a host is selecting a table for you; they might want to give you a server who isn't too busy, maybe they just sat that front section twice, and can't do it again, or there might be a reservation on the way and that's why they're holding that magical table by the window. Always ask! They're on your side and will help you out if they can."

- Signed, Accommodating in Toronto

Try before you buy

"If you're feeling experimental and want to try a new beer or wine with dinner, ask your waiter for a sample first. While you're at it, try 2 or 3 samples! 99% of restaurants allow this, and it's a great way to make sure you get the drink you enjoy. It's a win-win! Here's the thing… if you order a drink that you don't like and send it back, the restaurant sees this as a mistake, and blame often falls on me, the server. Someone has to pay for that beer. In most cases the restaurant will cover the cost, but there are establishments out there that won't, and will take that cost out of the servers pocket."

- Signed, Selection Suggestion in Vancouver

A meal to remember

"Most of the time, your server can remember who ordered what — but on a busy night, when you have 20-30 people you're accountable for, it's not going to happen. Please try to remember what you ordered! You wouldn't believe how many times I stand at a table with hot plates burning my arms, asking who ordered the burger and the entire table just stares at me blankly."

- Signed, Confused in Toronto

Separation anxiety

"Large parties usually want separate bills and that's completely fine! If your server says that they can't do separate bills, they're lying. Call him out! It's totally possible, they're probably just trying to avoid the headache, because it can get very complicated. Here's how you can help us… don't move seats. Servers will often assign a number to the seat your sitting in, and this is how they'll keep everyone's bills organized. The second you move from seat 7 to seat 4 and order an appetizer before moving to seat 6 and never return to seat 7… it gets messy, you know?"

- Signed, Organized in Ottawa