Know Your Eatiquette

The Reader's Guide To Dining Like a Pro


Emily Post had plenty to say about which fork to use, how to politely decline food that’s not to your taste, and what shoes are acceptable for a Sunday Potluck, but what would she say about Facebooking at the table?

The Reader has put together a brief guide to help you avoid diner douchebaggery. Comment here or Email Crumbs@TheReader.Com if you have tips to add to our list!

Do: Tip on the original total of your bill

Coupons, Groupons, Daily Deal, Living Social, and Amazon all offer discounts on food, not on service. Regardless of the discounted total of your meal, your server waited on you 100%. See that they are compensated fully.

Additionally, if a complaint about your food convinced management to discount your bill, remember to reflect the server’s work in their tip. If your meal was ruined by the commotion of the couple fighting at the next table or the kitchen forgot to leave your sauce on the side, but your food still arrived hot and without your server’s thumbprint in your mashed potatoes, tip on the original total. To make your math easy, move the decimal point over and multiply by 2. For example, if your bill comes to $56.23, $5.62 is 10% of your bill. Multiply by 2 and $11.24 is a 20% tip.

Do Not: Leave your server a note explaining why you left a lousy tip

This is condescending and disrespectful. We often only know our server until the end of our meal, after which they are discarded as a vague face to play an extra in a dream one day. Your terrible words on the tipline of your receipt, however, will stay with them for a long time. If your service was truly terrible, maintain your chill. A little known fact about wait staff- they are actually just humans in disguise. Beneath those sweat filled shoes, that coffee stained apron, and the smile you can tell is screwed on tight after a long double shift, is an actual person capable of having a bad day, a bad mood, and yes- even making a mistake. Patiently mention to your waiter what went wrong with the service and give them an opportunity to make it right. If that gets you nowhere, escalate to their manager. Maybe it will be enough to get that tired server a break… or maybe they’re really bad at this job and you’re the 19th complaint today.

Do: Chat with a manager

Whether it was the food or the service that left a bad taste in your mouth let the manager know. This is the keeper of the solutions and the person with the most power to fix what bugs you. If you have a suggestion or question, they’re always looking to improve your experience. The most important time to pull the manager aside for a talk is when you have had outstanding service. Sometimes a little thank you is what keeps your server from throwing food at awful patrons.

Do Not: Tell wait staff you have an allergy when, in fact, you have a preference

Yes, all the cool kids are gluten free now. That’s not an allergy. Yes, cilantro and arugula taste like dish soap to people born with a set of olfactory genes called called OR6A2. That’s still not an allergy. If you DO have an actual, legitimate allergy, call ahead. The chef may be able to accommodate you, but this will require separate food prep, working, and cooking areas designated to avoid your specific allergen. If you find a place willing to go to this trouble to serve you, please be sure to tip the kitchen.

Do: Yelp about it… Sometimes

Before you put on your armor and sit down like the mighty keyboard warrior the internet loves you for being, think about a few things. Is what you are about to type completely accurate? Be sure to add context to your experience and consider whether your contribution to the piles of online reviews is actually helpful.  If you have a negative experience to report, consider if your mood, your hunger level, or your expectations were actually the problem. If you spoke with the manager about your negative experience, add that to your review, along with what the staff did to right the wrong. If something is legitimately wrong, absolutely write it down. There is a reason 50% of restaurants close within the first 2 years.

Fun story to share- I was sitting down with Nick Bartholomew for last month’s issue when I mentioned to him that I had perused the Yelp reviews of Over Easy. There was one particularly biting negative review from a gentleman who was angry that the vegetarian biscuits and gravy are not vegan.

Nick whipped out his phone and quickly had the review up in front of me, showing me that the bitter account continued via private message. I prepared to see Nick’s responses to the angry and clearly out of line customer. He was fired up as he clicked on his response, which sang to the tune of: ‘You’re right! I need to get some vegan items on my menu. Thank you so much for bringing this to my attention! Hopefully you’ll make the journey back when we’ve tweaked the menu a little.’

Oh, right… the people who open restaurants, painstakingly prepare your food, and work endless days to feed you are doing so because they are passionate about providing you with an excellent meal. Give them a chance to do it.

Do Not: Be Pastarazzi

I completely understand that your meal never happened unless you Instagram it, but clearing a table to stylize your dish, bumping into other diners, and letting your food get cold just to capture the right angle is the pinnacle of douchebaggery.

Do: Research the restaurant before bringing kids

This does not mean that you can’t eat at a decent place just because you’ve procreated. Many establishments welcome kids with crayons, discounts, and special menus. These days, my son brings his tablet with him to a restaurant and plays word games while he waits for his food, but when he was at the height of schedule worship, we popped into The Greek Islands for dinner. The place was pretty busy, but we sat down and placed our order. 20 minutes later, we still didn’t’t have our appetizers and my son was at the end of his rope. I scooped him up and headed for the door to walk around outside until our food came. A foot from the door, George, the owner of the establishment grabbed my arm. With a thick accent and a look of concern he asked where I was off to. I explained that I would be back, but that I didn’t’t want my little one making a scene while we waited. He hollered back into the kitchen and within moments handed me a plate of chicken, gyro meat, and fries. “That should hold him over, yes?”

The Greek Islands is a family restaurant with excellent food. The kids menu goes beyond chicken nuggets, hot dogs, and pandering.

Know the restaurant and know your child. If they aren’t going to eat anything on the menu or if they’ve skipped their nap today, it might be a good idea to bring them a snack from home or place your order to-go. Even a perfect prodigy of table manners will occasionally melt down in a public place. Have mercy on your fellow diners, ask for a to-go box and the check, and pick up any fries they threw on the floor on your way out the door.

P.S.. Throw a little extra tip your server’s way, no matter how many times she tells you she doesn’t mind cleaning rice off of the carpet.

Do not: Ignore your server, date, and dinner for your electronic companion.

Seriously, put away your phone. Eat your meal, engage with your server, and disconnect. Facebook will not melt down after an hour without you. Enjoy your meal.

Do: Cheat on your Favorite Food

There’s this Mediterranean place I’m absolutely obsessed with. The problem is that I am madly in love with one dish. It’s amazing and I could never stray- but the entire menu is brilliant. What’s a girl to do? Answer: Bring a new friend as often as you can, make them order something else, and sample each other’s food. I’ve never regretted cheating. The Spicy Chicken Toss at Mediterranean Bistro knows he’s my main squeeze and doesn’t care if I see a little lavosh on the side.


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