I am a server’s daughter and have worked as a server myself. Also, I very often am the customer who is being served. This is encourages me to write on “customers from hell” as well as “servers from hell.”

Bad customers

Those who do not order clearly in a somewhat organized manner; e.g. those who order an entrée and five minutes later decide to add on an appetizer. Also, sometimes you may want an appetizer served WITH the entrée – that is OK, but be clear about it. You want to eat your food at some point, right? The more organized you are the better to serve you, my dear.

Do not argue about policy. If you read ‘no substitutions the server cannot do anything about that, so please do not insist otherwise.

If you have special dietary needs you can ask for information but the server does not need your medical history. Also, be reasonable. If you cannot eat gluten, it is very possible to ask for rice or potatoes instead of pasta BUT read the menu. If you do not see those two items in other dishes the restaurant may not have them. Do not be unrealistic. Also, most restaurants have menus on line, meaning you can check before going to eat.

If you have a special request that might not be doable ask the server to wait and hear the plan B. Always have a plan B. You might ask if the appetizer can be made as an entrée, you will be ready if the answer from the kitchen is negative. This saves your time, the server’s time and the server’s feet.

Do not be cheap i.e. the menu describes what is coming on your order, gravy, etc. If you want to add another item not stated, it will cost. It is what it is and you get what you pay for. Also, if you can afford to eat out, you can afford to tip. Do not be stingy.

Do not be mean and sarcastic about wrong items or food not cooked as ordered. The server does not cook the food. You are a mature, civilized adult, right? So behave accordingly. Describe the problem in a low voice and ask for it to be fixed. The server will probably be very helpful. You catch more flies with honey, right?

Never touch the server. This is rude and invades personal space, unless you are performing an emergency treatment, e.g. CPR. Flirting is another issue. Really not OK. You could really get a server in trouble. Management can be very strict about server/customer communication. No personal questions, please.

Do not give attitude if the server asks if you want to take something home, even if it looks really messy. Sometimes people do take food to their dogs/cats. My dog, The Amazing Lyssy, does not care if a leftover looks messy. She is fine with it.

Bad servers

Never touch a customer – same rules, unless you are performing the Heimlich maneuver.

Your personal life is just that. No TMI. I once had a server tell me, (who I did not know at all ) at a supposedly ‘upscale’ restaurant, “my son died last week”. No joke. What was I supposed to do with that information? Yes, it did spoil the meal.

Watch your language. I asked a server about my appetizer coming, she replied “oh, s***t, I forgot to put it in. Not OK. Remember even if it is a diner, you are in a work setting. (This really happened).

In dealing with food, never lose track of sanitary behavior. Do not rub your hair, eyes, mouth, any body parts. Yes, saw this happen too.

Apologize for mistakes. No, you do not have to grovel but sarcastic or short answers will never help the situation.

Be careful how mistakes are handled, try not to say “you” to the customer. If a dish takes a long time to prepare and the customer is grouchy, do NOT say “you should have ordered an easier dish”. Say, this dish does take a while, sorry, I will see how it is coming along.

Please ask if the customer wants to take uneaten food home. This happened to me and a friend. The friend was talking, yes, she had zoned out, was not paying attention, but she had perfectly nice looking tea sandwiches on her plate. The server threw them out without asking – very poor, even mean on the server’s part.

Do not bolt and run if a customer is making a special request. There is no reason to run to the kitchen in mid- order. Let the person finish the request.

Yes, a customer flirting with a server can be flattering but it is still wrong; wrong place, wrong time. You may have to involve the manager if this gets too inappropriate. Remember, no server has to answer personal questions as they should not be asked.

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