The restaurant and service industry as a whole is a tough one to be a part of. Dealing with furious, needy customers who do not know how to behave is something workers and staff have to encounter on a regular basis. But, there are many specific behaviors and customer interactions that absolutely top the list for being the worst of all.
Waiters, hostesses, cooks, and chefs all know the struggle of cleaning up after a disgusting mess of a table or having to try to accommodate large parties who show up at the last minute and want to be seated immediately. Sure, it’s business, and “the customer is always right,” is usually how it goes, but at some point is there a line to be drawn?
Using feedback from numerous professionals in the biz and a mixture of responses on an Eat This, Not That! (ETNT) Facebook poll, we put together the eight most obnoxious things people can do at restaurants…and trust us…you don’t want to be these people, it’s a really bad look.
Karl Wilder, chef and previous owner of Nawlinz in New York City, shares how it can be extremely obnoxious when customers finish their whole meal and make up some type of excuse or reason to receive the food free of charge. “We had a group of 6 order a lot of food, gumbo, po boys, our famous alcoholic ice creams. Plates came back clean,” they go on to explain, “the ringleader a young woman told me she was a super yelper and if I comped the meal she would give me a great review. It took 4 credit cards and a lot of change for these scammers to come up with the full payment.”
If you’re going to enjoy and devour numerous dishes and luxurious cocktails at a restaurant, it’s best you know you can truly pay the final bill at the end of it all (note: This could have a few celebratory exceptions, such as birthdays, anniversaries, etc.).
Whether or not you agree with the cost of your dish or dining experience as a whole, it’s nearly a guarantee that the person serving you for the evening has no say in how much customers are charged. After working as a hostess, server, and manager within the service and restaurant industry for almost 10 years, Savannah Sisko says it’s irritating when customers come into a restaurant or establishment and end up “complaining about prices to servers as if they had any [say] in the matter.” General managers and business owners are in complete control here—remember that your restaurant server is usually just there to do their job, make some money, and go home.
“Restaurants are usually designed to create a comfortable and relaxing environment where people can enjoy their meals and conversations,” explains Catherine Snowden, long-time professional chef and CEO/editor-in-chief of Fascinating Sky. “Loud and disruptive behavior can be distracting…ruining the ambiance of the restaurant and resulting in discomfort to other diners who are trying to enjoy their meals” Plus, Snowden adds, “it may even require the restaurant to ask the customer to leave, which can be an uncomfortable situation for everyone involved.”
Rowdy and unwanted behaviors—such as talking on the phone for the whole restaurant to hear, letting kids of the party run freely, yelling or screaming, slamming dishware on tables, insulting workers of the establishment, and so many more, per an ETNT Facebook poll—can interrupt other customers’ dining experience, as well as restaurant workers doing the best they can in their place of work.
Wanting your food to taste good and come out the way you know you like is never going to be a crime. However, that being said, when you go out to eat you should expect that you’re not the cook in the kitchen and restaurants curate their menus according to their own standards; Asking for too many changes or specifications can and will become obnoxious to most workers.
As a former server at Longhorn Steakhouse for four years, Diana Downs has had her fair share of outrageous requests and meal customizations that, rightfully so, got on her nerves. “A customer came in with a group of friends and specifically asked for an empty glass so she can show me exactly how much ice she wants on the glass, where I need to stop the sweet tea, and where I need to add the lemonade so I can make her the perfect Arnold Palmer drink that she wanted.”
In another encounter, Downs said, ” A customer ordered a salad and proceeded to tell me that I need to make sure that there were no pieces from the bottom part of the romaine head.” And this was just the tip of the iceberg of stories from her server days that blew her mind.
Did she accommodate these patrons? Yes, but not without a laugh of embarrassment and a subtle eye roll behind closed doors.
Most restaurants don’t require patrons to make reservations in order to dine in, but walking into a place with a large group of people and expecting to be served without a wait is highly unlikely and a very annoying thing to do. “This has happened to me on multiple occasions,” says ex-restaurant worker Kami Turky. “Not only does this cause delays in serving other customers, it also puts the staff in an awkward situation since they have no choice but to accommodate this group.”
In the past, Turky explains, last-minute large parties have caused food to run out more slowly, staff to be put under tremendous pressure, as well as a much louder and chaotic dining experience for the smaller groups of diners inside the restaurant.
For those who don’t know, it’s common restaurant etiquette (and for some establishments, a requirement) that parties containing six to eight people or more are considered large and should call or make a table reservation in advance. Especially if you’re looking to dine at a popular restaurant during peak hours, such as the breakfast or dinner rush, wait times will usually be extra long for a bigger group of people.
No one really wants to kill the party or ruin anyone’s fun, but there are often disruptive and disrespectful behaviors that come with getting too drunk at a restaurant/bar that are completely unacceptable. Brittany Mendez, a former bartender at Twin Peaks for seven years, always understood it was her place to know when a customer had had too much to drink and follow all the protocols in cutting them off—but when it wasn’t an easy task, it was extremely frustrating on her end.
“It’s unfortunate that when you cut people off, however, they show their ugliest side. I’ve had customers berate me or the other bartender for cutting them off simply because they were too drunk and it’s not safe.” Mendez describes these experiences as, “grown adults basically throwing temper tantrums by yelling at servers, harassing some of the servers, and throwing down their beer glass on the bar top and spilling it everywhere. It is the most obnoxious thing and it happens all too often.
Restaurants and most dining establishments must follow basic safety and sanitary rules and regulations to be in business. This does not include allowing customers to enter the restaurant kitchen whatsoever, but while it may happen on occasion, it’s not okay.
Larissa Teufel, ex-cook of Capella Casino, says that her staff was immediately put in danger when a patron took arguable matters into their own hands. “One of our customers caused a fight and walked all the way to the kitchen, grabbed our butcher knife, and tried to stab our worker.”
On a lighter note—even if it comes with good intentions or a friendly smile—the kitchen staff and their cooking space are not where customers are meant to socialize. “I was a chef for 15 years, when I was in my early twenties I worked at this little Italian restaurant in las cruces NM,” explains Elijah Maidez, “We used to have a customer who would just waltz into the kitchen for a chat whenever he’d had a few glasses of wine. Here we were middle of a dinner rush, and there’s this guy trying to have a conversation about ‘back in Italy…’ Admittedly, he was a really nice guy and a really good customer. But no matter how many times we told him he never quite got the point.”
Just as you’re a guest in someone else’s home, you’re a guest while dining at a restaurant. Leave it as clean as you can! It was one of the most contributed obnoxious trait people do in restaurants on our ETNT Facebook Poll and almost anyone who’s ever worked in the industry can attest—it’s disgusting and downright shameful.
“I have seen many customers act in an obnoxious manner in restaurants, from leaving a mess on the floor to making inappropriate comments to the waitstaff,” says Parker Heyn, restaurant business and marketing consultant of ten years. “The most egregious example I have seen was a customer who threw a full plate of food at a waiter in a restaurant I was working in. The customer was angry because they felt the food was not cooked to their liking.”