As a former server, I can’t help but cringe whenever I see a customer being unnecessarily rude to waitstaff. Like, a) why must you be this way, and b) serving is a demanding job that requires so much more skill than just taking people’s orders and dropping them off.
Especially now, I can’t even imagine what a regular workday must be like for anyone who works at a restaurant. On top of standard safety protocols, restaurant staff must be quadrupling their efforts to not just protect their customers, but themselves. In addition to cleaning the dining room and kitchen every night, staffers have to sanitize menus, scrub tables, chairs, and counters extra vigorously (probably using bleach that leaves their hands dry or even cracked by the end of the night) — all while social distancing and wearing masks.
So while it’s never cool to be a jerk to your server, now’s definitely the time to cool it on some of these bad eating out habits.
1. Asking the server to come back several times to take your order.
Unless your server is really trying to get you the TF out, try to be efficient about keeping orders quick. Most likely, your server has to sanitize the menus you’re using before they go to another table, and the more interactions you have with your server, the more likely you are to spread COVID. Overall, try to keep interactions to a minimum if you can.
2. Spitting out your gum in a napkin and leaving it on the table for your server to deal with.
This is gross, and try to keep things that have been in your mouth off the table. If you find yourself in a restaurant with gum, just wrap it up and put it in your bag and toss it on your way out. It’s easy, I promise.
3. Only complaining about a dish after you’ve eaten half of it and asking for it to be sent back.
Listen. I am that person who will eat whatever is in front of me, whether or not I ordered it or if I’m deathly allergic to it. I hate confrontation. That said, sending a dish back is something I’ve been personally working on, because as annoying as it is for servers and cooks, if you truly didn’t get what you want at a restaurant, it’s okay to ask for what you did want. And mistakes definitely do happen behind-the-scenes (I know this first-hand), and that’s on the restaurant, not you. However! Don’t wait until you’re halfway through your meal to decide you don’t like it. That’s scammy, and now the server is dealing with more germs than they need to.
4. Talking to *anyone* with a full mouth and double-dipping.
Bad habits that were just icky before can now be potentially life-threatening if you do have COVID and don’t know it. Keep all things that have made contact with your saliva to yourself, and avoid the risk of spreading saliva by doing things like talking with your mouth full.
5. Being really annoyed at the host if they can’t get you the table you want.
Yeah, now’s not the time to be upset over inconveniences the restaurant couldn’t control before, and most certainly can’t control now — given that they most likely have less space with half-capacity and outdoor seating mandates.
6. Coughing or sneezing without covering your face.
Back in April, the New York Times ran a piece that looked at a report analyzing why some got sick at a restaurant with a known infected customer, and some didn’t. It seemed like proximity to the person along with an air vents were two major contributing factors (of course, all of this is still being studied and there are a lot of great unknowns). In general, I think we know that it’s common courtesy to sneeze or cough into your elbow. That’s not a perfect solution, but it’s certainly better than coughing or sneezing into the air, which propels tiny, little droplets that could easily get someone sick.
7. Not tipping your server (or takeout delivery driver) at least 20%.
This might be the worst sin (aside from carelessly getting restaurant staff and other customers sick). Always tip your server as well as your delivery driver at least 20%. In most cases, that’s probably how they’re getting by these days, and considering they’re putting themselves at risk by doing a service for you, give them the damn 20% tip or don’t eat out (or order in) at all.
Gina Vaynshteyn is an editor and writer who lives in LA. You can find more of her words on Refinery29, Apartment Therapy, HelloGiggles, Distractify, and others. If you wanna, you can follow her on Instagram or Twitter.
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