How to annoy your restaurant server

A waiter carrying food.
A waiter carrying food. Photo Credit: HBO / Anne Marie Fox

‘Sweetbitter,” the bestseller about a young woman working in a restaurant in NYC, premiered on Starz this month as a TV series. As a 24-year-old college student working 35-hour weeks at a British pub in Midtown, I relate to Stephanie Danler’s novel. I’ve worked in the industry for eight years, but whether it’s at an Outback Steakhouse in Indiana or the Hyatt in Hoboken, patrons remain consistent.

Here’s how to piss off your server.

1. Make bad jokes. If I see that you’ve licked your plate clean, but you say, “It was terrible, I hated it,” excuse me if I don’t laugh at the 157th time I heard that “joke” this week. You’re also not the first patron to say “a million dollars” or “a winning lottery ticket” when I ask whether there’s anything else you want.

2. Ask personal questions. Know how you’re not supposed to discuss sex, religion or politics on a first date? Same goes for your server. As a Bernie Sanders supporter, I bite my tongue when customers ask who I voted for or what I think of Donald Trump. I’ll say whatever I think you want me to say for a good tip.

3. Say, “Why don’t you smile?” I’ll do a lot of things for a good tip, but smiling because you asked is not one. A guy at the bar in my pub told me to smile, and I rolled my eyes. He responded, “Geez, I didn’t realize it was such a bad thing to tell a girl to smile.” He was halfway to hammered, so I spared him my feminist rebuttal, but he got cut off and kicked out of the bar.

4. Ask for drinks separately. It’s nice you think your server is solely focused on your dining experience. However, he or she has other tables. If I ask whether the table needs refilled drinks, and two people you’re with ask for them, but you’re three-fourths through your Coke and say you’re fine, the best time to ask for another is not when I come back with your friends’ drinks. Order a refill the same time as everyone else.

5. Say you’re in a rush after the order was placed. If you have a Broadway show in a half-hour, telling me after placing your order is too late. Plus, if I know you’re in a rush before you order, I can suggest quick entrees. But if your 4-person-or-more party has less than a half-hour until the show, go to McDonald’s.

6. Keep your table for three hours with a 5% tip. Paying customers should be allowed to stay in the restaurant for as long as they like, even after you stop ordering food and drinks. Realize the restaurant is a business and your server needs to make money. If you are not going to tip accordingly, let another party of seven have that table. Go hang out at Starbucks.

7. Think you are generous by leaving 15%. Come out from the rock you’ve been living under; 18% to 20% is the standard tip. So don’t make ridiculous modifications to your order because you’ll “take good care of me” and then leave me below 20%. While I’ve never spit in someone’s food, if you do any of the above, I’ll ask you about your meal while your mouth is full.

Laura Rose DePinho is a student at The New School.