December 5, 2023

You’re the Boss: Readers Offer Their Own Restaurant Rules

Start-Up Chronicle

Turns out, 100 rules were not enough. Readers thought I missed a few. Many of them made me feel better, calmer, a more measured individual. Take the first two comments: one threatens a server’s eyeballs, the second his or her very life. And you thought I was tough.

I think it’s permissible to stick a fork in the eye of a server who calls me “honey” or “sweetie” because I’m of a certain age. Rosemary Molloy

Never, ever serve food over a baby/child. If you scald a newborn, there’s a chance the father will take your life. — Peter

When you seat me, please do not put the dirty, frequently handled menu directly on top of my silverware. It’s gross. MCM

Don’t scrape uneaten food from plates in view of your guests. ronaldo

Always yield to the guest no matter what. (read: move aside and let the guest pass you by) When serving, always face the guest, never present your back when placing down a plate or glass. Jake

I don’t KNOW if my food requires pepper until I have TASTED it. And when I say, “I’ll let you know just as soon as I’ve tasted it,” don’t then disappear with the pepper mill. Jeff Woodman

Why is it that a pepper mill must be brought and administered? For a few hundred bucks, why can a restaurant not just set one out at each table? Ellen

When a diner leaves the table intending to return — e.g., after making a telephone call or a trip to the restroom — he/she correctly places the napkin on his/her chair. This signals the waitperson that the diner is not finished and intends to return to the table. In such situations, do not pick up the diner’s napkin, semi-fold it and place it on the table.  The waitperson’s hands should not contaminate itbarbara w

Look at the name on the credit card. When I’m using my card and the check goes back to my husband, guess how generous I am with the tip! M. J.

So many times I have been out with my boyfriend, and even though I am the one to order the wine, it is presented to the man rather than the woman for the first taste. Marisa Geoghegan

Do not spontaneously suggest a wine choice. Do not assume a 27-year-old doesn’t know anything about wine. Do not automatically recommend the most expensive, or nearly most expensive, wine. — D

Waiters should suggest wines to go with specials. We call this wine pairing in the industry. It is quite common and extremely successful. Not everyone who drinks wine knows what goes well together. — mg

If you happen to see guests saying grace before the meal, pause for them to finish. jiminboulder

WAIT STAFF PLEASE DON’T EVER EXTEND A HAND FOR A HANDSHAKE!! This falls under the category of never touch a customer but this issue needs to be specifically addressed. It suggests a level of familiarity that is inappropriate and I have zero interest in touching the hand that is exposed to all of the dirt, germs and yuckiness of dirty plates, food etc. michael

Tea bags are bad enough for tea drinkers, but to be asked if I would like more hot water for a used tea bag is worse. Please bring another tea bag with the hot water. caw

Can you please, please, please ask servers to always take away a dirty knife and never forget to replace it prior to serving the next course? I just don’t understand why the knife alone is my responsibility, but all other silverware is the server’s. Capri

Do not remove soiled knives and forks from the soiled plates and place them back on the table.
 Bring fresh silverware for each course. Henry

Please add: do not I.M. or text with your cellphone while taking an order. A waiter did this during my dinner at an upscale bistro recently! Mary

Do not bite your fingernails. 
Do not scratch your crotch. 
Do not run fingers through your hair. Major Slack

Never ask guests to move to the bar after finishing the meal — it ruins the experience. pearl

Don’t take the final sales slip or payment before the guests leave. I find it outraging when a server takes the completed bill (showing my tip) before I’ve left. Keith T.

NEVER, NEVER approach a table carrying dirty dishes from another table. Tammi

I personally prefer it when a waiter writes down orders, because it makes me feel secure in getting the order I wanted, but I was wondering … Goran

My pet peeves includes waiters who remove the bread when the main course arrives … Discovering a charge for the bread … Waiters who tell me I look like a certain famous person. Not appropriate!  Please do not take away my wine glass when there is still a tablespoon of wine in the bottom. I’m a single-glass-of-wine kind of person, and I want to finish that last swallow in my own good time. Dory

Have no television, or always have seating nowhere within view or earshot of one. Not everyone  cares about “the game.” Brad Willett

Never use cleaning products near the customers. My meal was ruin once by Windex wafting over my table and foodJK

Many a meal has been ruined by a staffer hurling hundreds of forks, knives and spoons at their wait station. One of the more grating noises. Keep that kind of clatter for the kitchen, please. Erin

My biggest pet peeve of eating out — when the waiter asks you how everything is while your mouth is full. How can you possibly answer?! I can’t help but think they do it on purpose. ECA

I care far less about whether the flugelhorn is muted enough than I do about whether the server is courteous and doesn’t treat us like a nuisance because we have a 3-year-old. Servers get big tips from us when they do things like bring his drink in a straw cup rather than a full glass, drop off some crayons and paper for him or bring him food quickly if he is cranky. Liz in Seattle

Don’t serve a salad on a warm or hot plate right out of the dishwasher, either. J. Jill Robinson

My pet peeve is when a restaurant staffer spritzes the table next to mine with lots of smelly chemical cleaner, which then wafts over my food and up my nose. Ugh! Debnev

How about NOT playing music at all! Patricia

Do not play recorded music in a restaurant. I would like to talk to my dinner companion(s), not listen to music. When did it become a rule to play music in restaurants? And why? Alex Greer

I had a waiter who pointed at a customer with his pencil. 
‘And what will you have?’ 
I took his apron and pencil and threw him out. frank visakay

I would also add: don’t fiddle with yourself or make adjustments to your clothing (tie, shirt, bra strap…) while waiting on a table. — Martina

If I’m in a restaurant where there is one knife and fork on the table, why wouldn’t a waiter at least replace it after my salad or appetizer? Even more galling are those who ask “Would you like to keep your fork?” Mike F

In this day and age of cheap computers/printers, please PRINT the specials so I can study them (and their ingredients)… Frank Potash

I love pepper and never get enough when a waiter has to grind it (not to mention, it doesn’t arrive with the dish…). While you are at it, please put salt on every table. I know the chef is better at seasoning than I am. Still, if I want salt, I don’t want to be made to feel like I am a clod or insulting the chef by asking for it. Cynthia

An addendum to #54: if there is a vegetarian menu, incorporate it into the regular menu … If there are dishes that can be made without meat, state that on the menu. Lori S.

And please don’t say, “Are we ready to order?” I didn’t invite you to eat with us. Also, please don’t squat down to take our order. If you wanted to be a baseball catcher, you are in the wrong business.  — Trudy R.

As for my water glass, I’d make the same prohibition — stronger than your #62. ASK me if I want it topped off — and don’t bother me at all when it’s still more than half full. Ken K.

62(b): Don’t disappear after the first round from the bar. The second drink is the hardest to deliver for most restaurants but it’s a great way to show attentive service (and get a better tip) even if nothing is ordered. Craig W

Don’t  leave out tea drinkers. Never let a tea bag get cold. If it does, offer a new tea bag. Always offer more hot water as often as you would coffee. Always serve hot water that is truly hot.  Serve hot water in a pot that holds more than one cup of water if possible. As for ice tea drinkers … If you wouldn’t serve coffee from concentrate, why serve tea that way? August

Bruce Buschel owns Southfork Kitchen, a restaurant in Bridgehampton, N.Y.

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