In my last post, I revealed some of the best things about being a waitress, which is a kick-ass job most of the time. But there’s no doubt about it: Sometimes, serving is the WORST. Rude or high-maintenance tables can turn the joy of serving into a professional nightmare. In fact, you might be committing restaurant transgressions that are causing your server to curse your name and—don’t you doubt it—take her sweet time getting your order to the kitchen. So I’m here to help! The following is my personal list of the most annoying things customers do in restaurants. In a city where dining out is an integral part of daily life, every customer should learn how to act like an upstanding food citizen.
1. Initiating the conversation with your server with “We’re ready to order.” There are few things worse than going up to a table to greet them with a nice “How are you folks doing today?” and being met with “We’re ready to order.” Uh, yeah, dude. You and everybody else in my section.
Also, I’m wonderful. Thank you for asking.
I’m, like, an insanely good waitress. I know how to do my job. And I am acutely aware that the stressed out, bug-eyed, Yelp-review reading party of four that just sat in my section is not only ready to order, they have been ready to order since they walked in the building. So I’m going to reveal a startling secret that many customers don’t seem to know. Lean in close. Your server has other tables. Can it be? you ask. Yes, it’s true! Other tables and other customers. So when I’m ready to get your friggin’ order, I’ll ask you for it. Until then, take a breath and pretend like you’re enjoying a lovely meal in a restaurant.
2. Using my name, repeatedly, in a creepy way. I forgot how much I hated this until it happened to me again the other day. Don’t get me wrong. I love getting to know my customers, and it’s even nice when someone asks my name because they actually see me as a human being and they want to get to know me. But there’s a certain breed of 45- to 65-year-old men with overpowering cologne and wives that are desperately trying to cling to their fading youth that have a propensity for asking me what my name is early in the meal—and then using it, over and over again, during our interactions as if we’ve achieved some sort of deep and immediate intimacy that has nothing to do with the harsh realities of the situation, which are: a.) You were born long enough ago to believe that you are inherently superior to me because you have a penis and I have a vagina, and b) I’m literally being paid to be nice to you, old man. So don’t. Just…don’t.
3. Overdramatizing fake food allergies. Do you want to know how I can tell someone has a fake food allergy? Because they’re being a total neurotic spaz case. Anyone with a real allergy or intolerance understands that they have an unfortunate genetic quirk that not everyone else has, and they generally understand that eating in a restaurant is akin to taking their own life (or at least the rest of the day’s bowel movements) into their own hands. People with real allergies travel prepared, with Lactaid packets and EpiPens at the ready. And they accept that cooks, due to the fact that they are cooking for an entire restaurant of people, cannot pause to wipe the entire kitchen down with sanitizer to remove every molecule of [insert allergen here] before they prepare one special dish for one very special person.
People with fake allergies, on the other hand, keep me at the table for an inordinate amount of time making me recite ingredient lists while they loudly complain about the lack of gluten-free options on our menu. And then when they discover the dish they wanted to order is made with a gravy thickened with a roux, they shrug and say, “Well, I guess I can cheat this once.” If you are “cheating,” you don’t have an allergy. You’re just annoying.
4. Making difficult or unnecessary requests. The whole point of eating in a restaurant is to have someone else cook for you, right? So let them cook for you. If you are particular about your food, how it is assembled, and which ingredients are used, cook at home. Another restaurant secret: Cooks are trained either at culinary institutes or by people who attended culinary institutes, so they know a thing or two about, ya know, cooking.
Particularly irritating, yet all-too-common, customer requests: Asking for sauces and gravies on the side lest too much fat (also known as flavor) touch their meal; requesting that foods usually cooked in butter (again, flavor) be cooked in oil; trying to assemble a bunch of random sides or ingredients into a dish that follows whatever vegan/gluten-free/paleo diet trend is currently dogma; using the words “dry” or “burned” to describe how you’d like something cooked; and my personal favorite, which seems to be all the rage right now, asking for a dish “deconstructed” so that all of the meal’s components are hanging out next to each other but not overlapping on the plate, a modification that is displeasing to both the eye and the palate.
5. Asking for your server’s advice and then ordering the most boring item on the menu. This behavior is mind-boggling. If you are a boring person, and have no appreciation for slow-roasted meats or tangy aiolis or unique flavor combinations, and all you really want is two scrambled eggs and toast, then don’t you dare ask me about our specials. Don’t even think about making me spend two minutes talking to you about my favorite items on the menu, the exciting items that are difficult to make at home, which is the whole point of eating out anyway, in my opinion, and don’t act like you care about my answer. Just accept that you are boring—and that your parents didn’t raise you right because who can’t make two eggs and toast at home??—and order accordingly.
And if you make me talk about our specials and then request that your eggs be scrambled dry and your toast be burned so that all flavor is completely removed from your meal, I only have this to say: wwwhhhhhhahhaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaatheffffffffffffffuuuurrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrcckkklkadjdajdlk.
6. Having an emotional meltdown if there is a hair in your food. Listen. Hair in food happens. It happens because the science of robotics has not advanced enough to have androids prepare your food for you. This means that human beings are cooking your food. Human beings have hair, and while all precautions are taken to prevent their hair from getting into your food, mistakes happen. So you have two choices. You can call your server over and let him know in a calm, collected manner that you found a hair in your food, and any server worth his salt will immediately take the plate into the kitchen, spend a moment teasing of the hairiest cook working that day, and demand a swift remake. Result? You get a nice, new, hair-free meal that your server should give you on the house. Bonus!
Or you can kind of rock back and forth in your seat muttering “I just can’t eat anymore” and let one hair ruin your meal. Or you can make a scene. Or you can even go full Christian-Bale-on-the-set-of-Terminator and totally freak out. And when Robot Cooks are finally invented, you can lobby to round up all the human cooks in Portland and push them into the ocean on an ice flow to guarantee a hair will never again touch your precious restaurant meal!
7. Waving across the restaurant for the check while still chewing. This is just—ugh. Really people. What is wrong with you. Gauche. If you don’t have time to swallow your food before experiencing some sort of epileptic fit/demonic possession while frantically waving me down for your check—which, BTW, I have no way of intuiting you might want because you still have food in your pie hole—don’t go out to eat.
This is not a comprehensive list by any means. There are other annoying restaurant behaviors, but these are the ones that personally drive me bonkers. If you serve or have served in a restaurant, let me know what really made you crazy!