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Is it ever acceptable to give service instruction to a server?

I have a couple of pet peeves when it comes to restaurant dining. I can tolerate less-than-ideal service at a low-end or moderately priced restaurant, but when I'm paying good money for a meal, I expect well-trained servers.

My biggest pet peeve is that my drink glass should never be empty. I would prefer that my glass be refilled before it gets to the point of being empty. Is it ever acceptable to explain that to the waitstaff at the beginning of a meal?

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  1. Servers are damned if they do, damned if they don't. I like to pour my own wine at the table; I don't care for someone having to hover to refill 4 sips into my water glass.

    But there's nothing wrong with politely setting expectations at the outset of the meal.

    1 Reply
    1. re: DuchessNukem

      I think tone is the most important for a request like that. If it's done in a manner of "this is how I will most enjoy the evening, and I'd like to let you know" - then I don't see it as a problem. However, if it's done in an attitude that implies "you should know that this is the right way to do your job" - I can see that leading to an antagonist evening with the server.

    2. Are you referring to all beverages or just to 'freebies' like tap water and (frequently but not always) ice tea?

      I've seen many a posting here where the OP was upset that a waiter kept everyone's wine glass filled nearly to the brim, in the end wasting a good deal of wine - which to the OP looked like an intentional ruse to encourage him to buy another bottle.

      This past fall I was at a fine dining restaurant where the service was so good I could have sworn there were fairies refiling our glasses because they were never more than half empty (water or wine) and I never once caught any of the servers doing any pouring. The only drawback was that 8 of us unwittingly went through 12 bottles of wine just at dinner. Had a marvelous time.

      3 Replies
      1. re: KaimukiMan

        'The only drawback was that 8 of us unwittingly went through 12 bottles of wine just at dinner. Had a marvelous time'

        You must of been with Hunt.

        1. re: Beach Chick

          heavens no, we would have gone thru 16 or 20, not 12. LOL

          it was with cousins and such, some of us haven't seen each other since before we could - legally - drink (and I'm in my 50s now) so there was much catching up to do. and obviously a love of wine, and good food, runs in the family.

          1. re: Beach Chick

            I scrolled back up to see who posted. I assumed it was hunt and he forget to sign at the bottom.

        2. Trouble is you are starting things off by antagonizing the server

          71 Replies
          1. re: redfish62

            Do you really think so? My biggest pet peeve is removing plates while other people are still eating....really drives me up a wall. If I can remember,I try to make the hostess aware of it first,if that doesn't work I have been known to look at the waitstaff and say "Please don't remove any plates untill we are all finished eating". I don't think that is offensive,plus any decent restaurant should train their staff to do just that. I had to laugh the other night when I said that to a waiter....the man at the table next to me applauded and then said to me that it was an American thing...he was not from the USA! Maybe so!

            1. re: Mother of four

              It's not the least bit offensive but it does create an antagonistic relationship because you have informed the waitstaff that they are not up to snuff.

              If the service bothers me I don't return to the restaurant but I don't see it as my role to tell the restaurant staff how to do their jobs, I find doing so unpleasant and there is always the chance that they have been instructed to remove all plates immediately by the management.

              1. re: Mother of four

                I so agree. It makes the person who is still eating feel like they should hurry.

                1. re: Mother of four

                  +1 My wife has been known to stop the server who lifts a plate while some at the table are still eatimg and instruct the server to leave the plate alone and come back and clear after we are all finished wwith the course. If ignored, she has been known to request the check and pay and leave and never return to the restaurant.

                  Clearing while some are still eating is extremely rude behavior and should not be tolerated. It sends a signal that those still eating are either slow or eat too much.

                  1. re: bagelman01

                    That's a bit severe. It is more likely the capatain or management instructing the wait staff to clear the table. She shoud take the matter up with them.

                    1. re: bagelman01

                      That is still the standard, although it is more and more called into question. Many diners are extremely calorie conscious and would prefer the plate cleared as soon as they are done eating so that they do not overindulge. It is very hard to resist eating the last 1/3 or whavever of a wonderfully prepared and presented plate.

                      I'm not going to disagree that the original intent on the part of the restaurant industry in starting this was to move the customers along, but it does have some benefits. My guess is that if there is one person still eating and everyone else is staring at their empty plates sipping on their water and looking at their reflection in the bowl of a spoon that the slow eater is aware of things whether there are plates on the table or not. But in formal dining, it is a bozo no-no.

                      1. re: bagelman01

                        Good for your wife! I have actually had to hang on to my plate to stop them from removing it! I can never figure out why they insist on it....I mean really,are they going to pack up and go home after clearing half of the table?

                        1. re: Mother of four

                          If by "they" you mean servers, keep in mind they are trained by the restaurant management on issues such as when to remove plates. In other words, their boss has told them when to remove the plates. So no, they aren't going to pack up and go home after clearing half the table...they are simply trying to keep their job.

                          1. re: carolinadawg

                            "...they are simply trying to keep their job."

                            Thank you for saying this. It amazes me how many people view wait staff as independent contractors that come to the restaurant, grab their tips and go home. Do people really think that a wait person could get away with consistently clearing dishes after a person is through eating if management did not set this standard? Front of the house management, captains, etc, have their eyes on every table. If this was not part of service then the wait person or bus person would not be doing it.

                            And as for the part about "packing up and going home" I wonder how many people realize that the wait staff has at least another good hour of work ahead of them after the last table has left? There are a lot of shift duties to perform after the restaurant has closed to ready it for service the next day.

                            1. re: ttoommyy

                              and that hour or two they are working for their base wages, often well below minimum, no tips after the patrons have gone.

                              1. re: KaimukiMan

                                Yes, but their average hourly wage (including tips), is often much better than the kitchen staff, and many customer service people (retail, etc.). The base wage of the last hour or so doesn't really matter.

                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                    Yet again, I have to question what people think the job of waiting tables really entails. It amazes me how clueless most people are about the job details, pay rate, etc.

                                    1. re: ttoommyy

                                      When you waited tables, how did you feel about patrons sharing their dining desires with you - the topic of the thread?

                                      Was that a problem, or did you appreciate their sharing?

                                      Did it make any difference to you?


                                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                                        Sharing, asking, not a problem. Treating me as an equal, fine. Instructing, demanding, hitting me, never acceptable. I was a professional providing a service; I knew my job and worked within the parameters of the restaurants rules and what I knew as a professional waiter to be correct. I was not a servant in the 1700s who was to be ordered around and told how to do my job. Just as any professional sitting in an office does not like to be told how to do their job, so goes the professional wait person.

                                  2. re: sweethooch

                                    Certainly depends on the restaurant. When I waited tables (less than 10 years ago), there were definitely nights I made $5/hour (below federal minimum wage at the time)

                                1. re: ttoommyy

                                  Thank you for saying that. I'm horrified by the way people treat and disregard servers.

                                  1. re: EWSflash

                                    You're welcome. Sometimes people on these boards talk about waitstaff as if they are indentured servants.

                                2. re: carolinadawg

                                  +2 for carolinadawg's explanation, and ttoommyy's concurrence.

                                3. re: Mother of four

                                  I agree with the other responses, but also want to add that you can ask your server to leave your plate until you ask for it to be cleared or only when others have finished.

                                  The other half of the diners out there are equally miffed when a server does not clear their dinner plate immediately. I guess expectations in dining is evolving. Old standards are, like everything else, slipping away.

                                  1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                    Quite right, Sal. When it is just the two of us we prefer if the plate of one is not clear until the other has finished. When there are 4 or more at a table we go with the flow. Sometimes it is convenient to have empty plates removed to provide more table room.

                                  2. re: Mother of four

                                    I have no opinion on this subject, but I will say that I've read many threads on chowhound where opinions were evenly divided between the people who hate to have their plates cleared and the people who hate to sit with an empty plate in front of them. It is by no means a settled question that it is always undesirable -- let alone rude -- to remove a plate when each individual diner is finished.

                                4. re: Mother of four

                                  I was a server in a nice restaurant years and years ago - and clearing plates was ALWAYS a problem (reference the damned if you damned if you don't mentioned above).

                                  Our intent was always to only clear plates after everyone was done eating. With a table of say 8 that is VERY difficult to orchestrate - even though it sounds very simple.

                                  With a table of 8 you will ALWAYS get one or two people at the table that are done first and often they will start giving you "the look", the "hey I'm done and I don't want to sit here with the parts of my steak that I decided not to eat in front of me all night" look.

                                  Or you get the one person who "plays" with their food. You can't tell if they are finished, eating, taking a break . . . you think they are done but then you glance over and their fork is back in their hand. Are they just eating the bits because the plate is still there or are they really done.

                                  Once you come to the table to "ask" if everyone is done, it's over - someone will pick up their plate and shove it at you, even if everyone isn't done - or you get the "yes, take my plate", even if everyone isn't done - and then you end up with a few people that are eating while other's plates are cleared. . . .

                                  Just a perspective to give your next server some slack . . . .

                                  1. re: thimes

                                    In a truly formal and traditional situation the host would determine when everyone was done and it was time to clear the plates. And if poor aunt Millie wasn't done yet then she would have to work faster on the next course. Seems to me there was one British monarch who was a fairly quick eater and somewhat impatient as well. The court all learned that they had better keep up or go hungry.

                                    Alas now it falls on the server to read everyone's mind.

                                    1. re: KaimukiMan

                                      It is so rare when dining out today for their to be a "host" - but yes that always makes it easier.

                                      We were always raised (right or wrong) to place our knife and fork crossed at the top of our plate when we were finished as well - but all those types of social indicators are gone. There was some benefit to all the stuffy protocols after all . . . .

                                      1. re: thimes

                                        Interesting. I was taught to place cutlery together on the plate when finished eating.

                                        1. re: CanadaGirl

                                          If I included a photo it would look similar to being placed together on the plate.

                                          Found one - similar to this but imagine the fork just crossed over the knife.

                                          I love etiquette and bygone rules - even if I don't follow them all the time. . . . .

                                          (I have no idea how to attach a photo anymore . . . . and I thought I was over getting used to most of the site updates - I guess no photo for now)

                                          1. re: thimes

                                            guess you can't attach a photo from a post you are "editing" . . . . ugh

                                            1. re: thimes

                                              Looks like we are on the same page after all :)

                                            2. re: thimes

                                              That is backward - knife and fork crossed is the "rest" position indicating you are not done and the plate should not be cleared. Knife and fork parallel means you are done.

                                              1. re: akq

                                                Isn't this one of those things that's different in Europe and North America?

                                                  1. re: splatgirl

                                                    actually, historically yes. Europe and America (in general) have always eaten differently and held our silverware differently leading to different table expectations.

                                                  2. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                                                    No. There are differences in Continental and American dining ettiquette but this is not one of them. Crossed silverware isn't the "finished" position in American dining ettiquette, it is the "rest" position in Continental dining ettiquette. The "finished" position in both American and Continental dining ettiquette is fork and knife parallel. If you really want to get into it, the angle of the fork and knife on the plate and the fork tines up or down may differ between the two, but that's it.

                                            3. re: thimes

                                              Exactly. The used silverware should be put diagonally in the upper right hand corner of the plate to signal you were done.

                                              A picture:


                                            4. re: KaimukiMan

                                              Queen Victoria. She would wolf down food like a hungry college boy, and them the Duke of Windsoxbridgecaster would have his quarter-eaten plate whisked away too. Eventually the courtiers learned to treat state diners as a speed contest, or possibly had their valet smuggle them a pork pie and chutney after dinner.

                                              1. re: ecumer

                                                i thought it was, but i wasn't sure - and i've stuck my foot in my mouth too much already this year and it's not even february. thank you ecumer!

                                          2. re: Mother of four

                                            For us, we're usually chatting while sopping up the garlic butter from a steamed clam appetizer, or something similar. When they come to take salad plates away, etc. I usually comment on how great the broth tastes, and how much we're enjoying it. They've always gotten the hint and left the plate.

                                            1. re: Mother of four

                                              two approaches:

                                              "just one thing -- i know some staffs are trained to remove plates when individual diners are finished. please, i'm just letting you know, i really prefer that you don't begin clearing until everyone is done. just a preference of mine."

                                              early on, when the server is within earshot -- "hi, just want to let you know a strong preference of mine: i realize some diners prefer that plates are removed quickly, but i really would appreciate no plates being taken until everyone at the table is finished. would you be so kind as to make sure your bussers are told?"

                                              1. re: nosh

                                                I think this is a great way to put it. It lets the server know that you understand you are asking for something to be done differently from the norm. And that is very different from telling them that you assume they will do it 'wrong'.

                                                Etiquette be damned, my mother is one of those who cannot stand having her empty plate in front of her once she is done eating. I prefer it as well, but it's not a big deal to me...though it is nice having room to put my elbows on the table.

                                              2. re: Mother of four

                                                I share your annoyance at plates being removed while people are still eating.

                                                However, I think this is best dealt with by addressing if and when it actually happens.

                                                I don't think it helps things to site down and immediately dictate rules to the server based on an expectation of bad service.

                                                1. re: taos

                                                  Working for nearly 20 years in a restaurant in Austria, Europe, I can only say that here most people find it annoying if you don't remove the plate as soon as they are finished. It is seen as very rude if the waiter walks by your table and does not remove it. Also, I wouldn't want to sit there with an empty or nearly empty plate just because someone else is still eating.

                                                  1. re: NilesCable

                                                    " Also, I wouldn't want to sit there with an empty or nearly empty plate just because someone else is still eating."

                                                    I agree. I hate having to look at dirty plates sitting in front of patrons while others are eating. I have never once in my life felt rushed to finish my dinner because a waiter has cleared plates from others at my table who were finished eating.

                                                2. re: Mother of four

                                                  I worked in about a dozen chain restaurant and EVERY ONE of them instructs any server, bus person, etc walking by a table with a plate in front of someone who has quit eating to whisk it away as quickly as possible.

                                                  If you do not do the steps of service EXACTLY as you are instructed, you get admonished by the management, and eventually can get your pay docked. If you are "shopped" and don't do things perfectly, it's even worse.

                                                  Whatever you think proper etiquette is or isn't, this is policy at many places. Even if you told the server not to do it, others on staff might.

                                                  1. re: rockandroller1

                                                    I have noticed that at too many restaurants, and not just chains.

                                                    I assume that some comes from training at chains, or a stated desire by the management to turn tables, as quickly, as is possible.

                                                    At one high-end restaurant in Hawai`i, I had to slap our servers hand away, on about the third attempt to gather my plate, when I was clearly not done, and was just speaking with my wife. I instructed him that when he saw my utensils at about 5:00 O'clock, THEN I would be done. It made matters worse that there were a dozen empty tables, so turning tables should not have been an issue. I can only assume that at some point, he had been trained to seize any plate, that was not being actively worked on, at that moment. He was worse than trying to eat lunch in the CO High-Country, with robber jays around you.


                                                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                      Oy, Bill. I hear your frustration, but I can tell you that if you'd "slapped my hand away," you'd have likely ended up with a nasty suprise in your lap. Oh, it'd have been "accidental," you betcha!! But to actually smack your server? No. No no no.
                                                      And I'd gladly do it in lieu of a tip. I'd walk away from that one. Happy as hell.

                                                      1. re: mamachef

                                                        When a person goes into a restaurant, they are entering into an unspoken compact to behave in a certain way, usually dictated by good manners, including, but not limited to, treating the people in the restaurant with respect. Slapping someone's hand strikes me as a severe abrogation of that unspoken compact, to say nothing of being seriously ill-mannered. If I had been that server, I would have asked my manager to have that person told to leave.

                                                        1. re: roxlet

                                                          And your response would have been the correct one. Mine being completely unprofessional and knee-jerk; totally reactionary.

                                                        2. re: mamachef

                                                          Agree, mamachef. I have to admit, I was rather taken aback at the slapping of a server's hand in what was purported to be a high-end restaurant, rather than speaking to management about the issue.

                                                          Mutual respect - it goes both ways. But if that mutual respect is not proffered by one party, it does *not* give the other carte blanche to behave in a demeaning manner. (And this comment was not directed at your reaction, mamachef.)

                                                          1. re: LindaWhit

                                                            Maybe for "mutual respect," one need to learn good manners, in the first place, and to NOT take away a paying patron's dish, before they are finished. That would be where I would suggest that one start - learn the manners first.


                                                            1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                              And yet two wrongs don't make it right, does it?

                                                              As I said, if that mutual respect is NOT proffered by one party, it does NOT give the other carte blanche to behave in a demeaning manner.

                                                              Treating a waitperson in a demeaning manner, no matter the way they acted, is -- plain and simple -- rude.

                                                        3. re: Bill Hunt

                                                          I love you, Bill, but smacking the hands of anyone over the age of six, and to whom you are not related by blood, is completely inexcusable.

                                                          I might not have dropped something in your lap, but it might have been the last you ever saw of me that night....but the manager might have taken my place.

                                                          1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                            "At one high-end restaurant in Hawai`i, I had to slap our servers hand away, on about the third attempt to gather my plate, when I was clearly not done, and was just speaking with my wife."

                                                            Really??? Hitting someone is your response? It matters THAT much to you? I'm literally at a loss for words.

                                                            1. re: ttoommyy

                                                              Often, I have to take on the bartender and the bouncers, and fight my way out of the restaurant. When we end up on the street, I am the only one standing - wonder how that happens?


                                                              1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                I can tell I'm going to have to create an entire new list of restaurants for you next time you are here, you having been 86'd from your current favorites.
                                                                (please note tongue in cheek)

                                                                1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                  Well, the "t-n-c" aspect is somewhat lost on too many.

                                                                  A "figurative" hand-slap has translated into personal "bodily-harm." The subtlety of such a comment is totally lost. That is why I felt the need to deal in hyperbole - some people just do not get it. Should have put some emoticon in the statement, so that it would not go totally over their heads.

                                                                  Sorry for that. In the Deep South, if one refers to "slapping one's hand," it seldom means corporal punishment. Guess that too many just want to be offended in one manner, or another. My bad. Should have realized that most folk have no sense of humor, at all, and are looking for something to greatly offend them.

                                                                  No, we are pretty good, on OUR restaurants, and one should not need to pre-dial 5-O, before hand.



                                                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                    when it comes to physical violence, there is no allowance for a sense of humor.

                                                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                                                      Sorry about that. There WAS no physical violence - not even a little. The "slapping of the hand" was a euphemism for "do not take my plate, until I am done." Nothing more, and certainly nothing less.

                                                                      Sorry if everyone has gone "porky" on this, but that is THEIR problem. Maybe they should just get over it, and move on with life?


                                                                    2. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                      Well I guess I am thick because it does not read as a figurative slap, but I understand wanting to redial that one. Is blaming the reader proper? I am not offended, but i sure am getting a good chuckle.

                                                                      I think I have finally figured out a thing or two.

                                                                      Ah the deep south... so misunderstood. ~laughs.

                                                                      1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                                                        "Is blaming the reader proper? "

                                                                        A bit of irony there, isn't it? :-)

                                                                      2. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                        Oh, it was a FIGURATIVE handslap. Silly me, for not reading between the lines. Boy howdy, do I feel obtuse now.
                                                                        All I can say is, it must be a wonderful thing to never ever ever be in the wrong. I'm at the place where I think the majority of Mr. Bill's defensive posts on this thread and many others are just posted to engender reactions. And look, it's working!! :)
                                                                        Obtuse, obtuse obtuse. Such a grand word.

                                                                    3. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                      This comment sort of has me left me slack jawed. Or maybe it is simply stuck in that position after reading that you slapped a server.

                                                                      I am flabbergasted.

                                                                      1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                                                        No, as stated, there was no physical violence - actual, or intended. I admonished them verbally, to NOT take my plate, until I was finished. Now, their "pain," might have actually been greater, than if I had actually touched them, but I cannot tell, not being Dr. Phil.

                                                                        No animals were injured in the taping of this episode - I swear.


                                                                  2. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                    I have been inapporitely touched and I do not take it lightly. If my manager puts me in a situation of the customer or me oh my...

                                                                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                      to repeat carolinadawg's truth:
                                                                      servers are trained by their employers.
                                                                      unless they are family in a family-owned operation, they do what they are told to do by management in order to keep their job.
                                                                      if not given direction by their current management, their assumption is that the managers that they've had in the past knew the ropes.
                                                                      most servers start when they are young and often come from situations where, in their youth, they personally have not been exposed to the niceties of even mid-priced restaurants.

                                                                  3. re: Mother of four

                                                                    ITA. My reply (down at the bottom) was basically the same as yours. My better half (who is French) goes ballistic over this issue. He also says it is an "American" thing. I guess so!

                                                                    1. re: jarona

                                                                      Well I guess we Americans have a lot of good things going for us,but this is not one of them. I too have been known to go ballistic over this issue....just ask my DH,he will tell you! That and driving in the left lane when you are not passing anyone and not making a left hand turn within a half mile....well that is another thread but not for Chowhounds! LOL! Just my two major pet peeves.

                                                                    2. re: Mother of four

                                                                      Yes, this can be a tough call.

                                                                      Some like "finished plates," to be disposed of quickly, while others want ALL plates to stay in place, until the last diner finishes theirs.

                                                                      As we attend a lot of "events," and as I am a slow diner, I usually prefer that all finished plates be removed, as they are finished - but ONLY when they are finished.

                                                                      I have seen both sides cited in various books, and in many threads. What is "proper," might well depend on where one is dining?


                                                                      1. re: Mother of four

                                                                        I hate this too! My SO eats very slowly, while I eat more quickly (a bad habit that I am trying to adjust). I just hate it (and so does he) when the server picks up his plate first. It makes me look like a pig, and it makes him feel like he has to hurry.

                                                                        But I've never said anything about it. What I try to do is leave some food on my plate until the end of the meal so they won't even ask. And I try not to make eye contact so they don't ask if I'm finished.

                                                                    3. If you are talking about tap water, I'm sure a better restaurant would provide you with a nice carafe of water for the table if you asked. Problem solved.

                                                                      1. I can be a thirsty water drinker. In cases where I know that's going to be the case (a warm day where I've been out walking) I often tell the server at the beginning that I'm likely to be thirsty. I figure they can then keep an eye on me or else bring me a carafe. Not everyone likes that sort of service, so I wouldn't make it sound like "that's what a good server" necessarily does.

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: DGresh

                                                                          Yep, I've asked for a carafe of water before!

                                                                        2. It is difficult to appropriately answer this without knowing if your speaking of alcoholic beverages, wine or soda, tea or water.

                                                                          If alcohol a simple comment like "and after the first one just keep them coming, Dr's orders" is fine. Remember servers are there to serve you and enhance your experience I don't see anything wrong with you telling them what your preference(s) are. Just be polite or use humor so you don't come across as condescending.

                                                                          1. Like others, my response depends on the beverage. I have never had a problem with my wine glass emptying at nice places (I rarely eat high-end, so I'm talking $25ish entrees). Other paid for beverages, I would expect to be asked as my drink emptied if I want another.

                                                                            I do tend to drink a lot of water, and so I often say something along the lines of "I drink more water than most, and so would appreciate an extra glass). This always gets me either the extra glass or a carafe.

                                                                            I think this is an issue of how the request/instruction I made, not the simple fact that it is made. To my mind, if I often seem to be requiring something that my companions do not, I need to alert the server to my quirk. As this thread (and so many others) shows, appropriate service is not one-size-fits-all.

                                                                            1. 'My biggest pet peeve is that my drink glass should never be empty.'

                                                                              If your part of the camel family and are downing water to the point, that your taking away from the server doing their other duties, then I would put a carafe/pitcher of water on the table.
                                                                              I've asked for lots of ice and lemon for my water before hand and they've always been happy to oblige.

                                                                              1. It's all in how you say it.

                                                                                A server isn't a mind reader and most will appreciate being apprised of particulars. Do bear in mind that management may have policies which make your request more difficult. As others have noted, how you make the request is key.

                                                                                My pet peeve is I like to finish my salad before the main is served. If I think of it, I will ask if it is possible to have the kitchen wait until the salad has been served before they fire up the main. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't - what seems like a small request might put a kink in the way the line works most efficiently in back....

                                                                                4 Replies
                                                                                1. re: meatn3

                                                                                  First of all you should never have to make that request. A salad should be finished and then you should be able to rest before the entree is delivered. There is one restaurant in particular that can hardly wait to push you in and out within an hour. Now this isn't a fast food restaurant and is Not inexpensive. In the beginning I just made them return the entree,then I started a new routine....I told the waiter,after our wine was served, that we didn't have tickets for anything,we didn't have a party to go to and we didn't have a curfew! He then told me that when we were ready to order to just put the card he gave us at the end of the table....it really worked! We had a lovely unrushed dinner.

                                                                                  1. re: Mother of four

                                                                                    Much depends on how the orders are submitted and how the kitchen is set up. I don't do a lot of fine dining so it happens...

                                                                                    I also prefer not to return the entree. That can set up a slippery slope!

                                                                                    I agree, it is helpful to let the server know if you are in a hurry or if you are looking for a leisurely experience.

                                                                                      1. re: Mother of four

                                                                                        You've just increased the chance of things becoming worse.

                                                                                        In many restaurants this puts the server at odds with the kitchen. I've seen chefs intentionally screw up the rest of a servers orders for the shift as a twisted payback. Not all chefs see a bigger picture. Not all chefs are mature, balanced individuals.

                                                                                        Not all restaurants will automatically prepare a fresh dish in this situation. I'd rather finish my salad later than deal with the possibility of my plate aging under a heat lamp.

                                                                                        This also throws off the timing for the server which can negatively affect the rest of the meal. Usually tables are sat in rotation allowing a natural rhythm to develop. Disrupt the rhythm and it can throw some servers off their game.

                                                                                        I have no problem returning a dish which has problems.

                                                                                2. there is nothing wrong with explaining your service preferences to the server at the beginning of the meal, BUT be aware that servers MUST follow the rules/standards of the establishment.
                                                                                  My cousin insists on a carafe of water on the table so he can refill his glass at will. Many servers are amenable to this, but several have let it be known that the restaurant does not allow this practice.

                                                                                  In general one can make requests, BUT the only time a diner can give service instructions directly to a server is when the diner is the employer of the server.

                                                                                  1. No. You should only give instruction to those in your employ, or to those who have enrolled in a class you teach. If you are not satisfied with the quality of the service, you can choose another place next time.

                                                                                    It's nice when servers show up exactly when needed, but not too often, but demanding it strikes me as a sense of entitlement which is not deserved.

                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: GH1618

                                                                                      Ditto. While some others here may think it's rude to remove empty plates before everyone has eaten, I think it's even more rude to start instructing restaurant staff re: your own "rules".

                                                                                      And telling them your "rules" beforehand? This is how the "rumor" of servers/kitchen staff spitting in food started. . . .

                                                                                      1. re: GH1618

                                                                                        there is a line between instructions and requests. instructions are to be given by those in authority, requests by the rest of us. being a customer puts some level of authority into the request, but it is still a request and would properly be stated as such.

                                                                                        1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                                          Well said. I see nothing wrong with making polite requests as long as they are accompanied by a smile and an understanding if you are told the request can unfortunately not be met. Once you know that the server is not allowed to leave a carafe or whatever else you've requested, you can respond appropriately by either accepting this and enjoying your meal, addressing the management and letting them know you are disappointed in this policy, or simply by not returning.

                                                                                      2. I think it's fine to communicate that you'd like your water glass kept fuller, or that you'd like to pour your own wine etc.
                                                                                        If done respectfully, why wouldn't everyone be all the happier?

                                                                                        1. I guess I should have been a little more clear in my question. I was referring to drinks that are commonly refilled for free -- water, tea, soft drinks.

                                                                                          Many people seem to get out-of-sorts about this issue and the clearing of plates, but there should be no question. Proper etiquette dictates that no plates should be cleared until everyone is finished eating, and drink glasses should never sit in front of the diner (while they are eating) empty.

                                                                                          These rules of etiquette are in place to prevent awkward social missteps and misunderstandings, but I know that few restaurants these days actually train their waitstaff in proper dining and serving etiquette.

                                                                                          Personally, I like to drink iced tea when dining, but it really bothers me when my tea glass is empty and I'm still eating. To me, if I have to signal the waiter that I'm in need of a refill, the waiter is not being attentive. No hovering is necessary to notice that someone's glass is empty.

                                                                                          I guess I feel that proper serving etiquette should be the norm, and special requests (like wanting empty plates cleared before everyone is finished eating) should be what is communicated to the host, but that never seems to be the case anymore.

                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: breed7

                                                                                            its not that the waitstaff is not taught, but they are now taught to clear each plate as soon as each person finishes their course. there are numerous reasons for this, mostly having to do with the economics of mass clearings.

                                                                                            If it is a two top having one server clear the plates isn't a big deal. At four it is still manageable but not easy, and once you get to 6 or more it can't be done. But the restaurant doesn't want to have to keep the staff on hand to clear the plates of 6 or 8 people all at once. It also means that suddenly the dishwashers are overwhelmed and they have far more plates 'out of circulation' at any given time. It all adds up.

                                                                                            So unless you are at the kind of place where the prices can support multiple waitstaff, its far more likely that plates are going to be removed sporadically rather than all at one time.

                                                                                            1. re: breed7

                                                                                              Personally, when it comes to free refills, I'd want the server to keep an eye on the table for when glasses are empty, but to ask before refilling. Just because the glass is empty doesn't mean I want to keep drinking.

                                                                                              The main reason is because I want to keep track of how much I'm drinking, either of alcohol or sweet drinks. If they refill my pop when I've had enough, they're going to have to throw it out later.

                                                                                              In addition, when sharing a bottle of wine, I find that different people have different alcohol consumption levels. So splitting a bottle between three people doesn't necessarily mean 1/3 each - it might be 1/2, 1/4, 1/4, or 1/2, 3/8, and just a taste.

                                                                                            2. Nope. Never acceptable to tell someone not in your field how to do their job. If you are in their field, you take them aside, quietly, and let them know how they can be better. Otherwise, keep your trap shut.

                                                                                              1. It is simply impossible to predict what an individual or group perceives preferable these days. Most people act upon their own needs versus what makes a group more comfortable. Now that we have all of this technology are people more frequently timely? or otherwise busy with a phone? This is only one question a server has to ask themselves of how to proceed.
                                                                                                I do think nicely worded expectations can improve everyone's experience. If you expect to be somewhere at a specific time the server can time your experience better, same goes for accommodating late arrivals.

                                                                                                1. Water: I should not have to ask twice; but it is such a small matter that I don't take offense if my glass is empty.

                                                                                                  Wine: I depending on the restaurant, I will tell the waiter to leave the bottle on the table and will take care of it _after_ the first glasses are served.

                                                                                                  I will often tell the waiter to leave the bread basket, or the plate with a simple "I'm not yet finished".

                                                                                                  1. A well-trained server. Ah yes.

                                                                                                    I was a server for many years and I am get frustrated when high-end establishments do not train their staff.

                                                                                                    I think you would be okay telling a server up front, as neutral as possible, "I enjoy plenty of water/beverage with my meal, could you keep it re-filled?"

                                                                                                    If I was serving you, I would appreciate this information. I would be confident that my constant presence at the table would not be taken as an annoyance. In my serving days, my style was "silent" and I was careful to allow diners to have their own space.

                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                    1. if it were a pricey restaurant where I had a lot riding on the outcome of the dinner....**maybe** -- more than likely, I'd pull the server aside, explain that it's a very important meal, and then brief him/her on whatever it is that I'm concerned about -- maybe an international visitor with different expectations of "good" service or similar.

                                                                                                      Otherwise? If it's a pricey restaurant, particularly one with a good reputation, then I expect them to have very good service-- or to pick up on, say, my preference of having a full water glass -- on the fly.

                                                                                                      1. You can make a request anytime you want, but your words "service instruction" make me think you are either the employer or teacher of this server.

                                                                                                        Your pet peeve may be an empty glass, but your dinner companion(s) may hate it if a server walks up to the table too often.

                                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: blue room

                                                                                                          I agree. The wording "service instruction" connotes a severe authority figure giving a command. And I guess I, being human, transferred this connotation onto the OP and pictured him as having a holier-than-thou attitude toward the server. Of course this is all my perception and I am probably wrong.

                                                                                                          1. re: ttoommyy

                                                                                                            To me, the Golden Rule always applies.
                                                                                                            If you wouldn't like it, the person you're doing it to probably wouldn't either.

                                                                                                        2. My requests probably come off as instructions.

                                                                                                          My pet peeve, which I started a thread about a while back, relates to giant styrofoam or plastic cups for kids.

                                                                                                          Many times, I have caught myself "instructing" a server on why I don't want them to give a 32oz container of milk to my child.

                                                                                                          7 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: cleobeach

                                                                                                            32oz of milk all over the table and child! What child can drink 32oz of anything?

                                                                                                            1. re: Mother of four

                                                                                                              Exactly! I don't care if the lid is taped down, if that is dropped or tipped over, that lid coming off do to volume of shifting liquid.

                                                                                                              Imagine the mess!

                                                                                                              I always ask for his drink in a small rocks glass and if it comes in a giant vessel of any sort, I send it back and request the smaller glass for a second time.

                                                                                                              1. re: cleobeach

                                                                                                                Unfortunately most restaurants only provide one size non glass vessel, to provide for their staff and to go orders. I have always found it ridiculous the portion size in that situation. I agree with you, yet many people feel slighted if the glass isn't full. More than 8 oz for a small child is over the top.

                                                                                                                1. re: holypeaches

                                                                                                                  On the CH Wine Board, there are many instances of what some consider a "glass of wine." That differs, restaurant to restaurant.

                                                                                                                  Personally, I do not want a "full pour" in my wine glass. Most adequate wine service restaurants should know what a pour, in, say their Bdx. glasses, should be.

                                                                                                                  Too often, however, I have had servers, who want to fill everyone's glass to the rim, just to sell more wine.

                                                                                                                  That is one of the things that I instruct the servers on - what a good "pour" should be. While I do not mind paying for the wine required, I do have an issue with the "full glass pours."

                                                                                                                  With but a few comments, things like that, can be addressed.


                                                                                                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                                                    Um, they're talking about styrofoam cups for children's milk.

                                                                                                            2. re: cleobeach

                                                                                                              I think the last time I got perturbed at a restaurant was when they had a 4 for 1 deal on drinks that I didn't know about, so I order a martini and she brings me 4, which would have put me well over the limit to drive, I asked her to remove 3 of the drinks.

                                                                                                              For some reason they tend to assume that "more" is what every customer wants.

                                                                                                              1. re: redfish62

                                                                                                                many places that would be illegal. it's called stacking drinks.

                                                                                                                in those locales they put chips or empty shot glasses in front of you until you finish the drink you are working on. doesn't work in a 4 for 1 where the idea is that a lot of the cost is in the labor and they can make 4 drinks at only a small increase in price.

                                                                                                            3. I think that you can pleasantly explain your pet "wants," re service, without creating antagonism. I wouldn't be inclined to instruct a server to serve left, etc. however.....there's a difference between a request and an implied criticism.

                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                              1. re: mamachef

                                                                                                                Yes totally agree. There is a diff between requesting a variance from normal or attending to a desire and being antagonistic or jerky.

                                                                                                                It will also yield you two different outcomes.

                                                                                                              2. I think it is not only acceptable, but a good idea. LOTS of people do it. If you don't want coffee or tea refilled before empty (or do), want to pour your own wine, want a longer than normal time between courses, want them to drop your food and then bug out until you hail...

                                                                                                                It is YOUR dining experience. They will try to accommodate you. Good ones will no matter the prices of the food.

                                                                                                                1. I sometimes make a request - - 'I've been playing tennis all afternoon and I am dehydrated, could you please help me out by keeping an eye on my water glass?' I actually never thought of it as anything out of the ordinary.

                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                  1. re: jeanmarieok

                                                                                                                    "I sometimes make a request...I actually never thought of it as anything out of the ordinary."

                                                                                                                    That's just the point; the OP called it "service instruction" and that is what many of us thought to be a negative. I viewed it as the OP telling the waiter what to do rather than asking if the waiter could please try to help him out. Big difference.

                                                                                                                  2. When I am hosting, I spend time with the service staff, to insure that they know what I want, and especially with the wine service.

                                                                                                                    I do not find anything wrong with that.


                                                                                                                    6 Replies
                                                                                                                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                                                      Back in my salad days as a server, I was RELIEVED when a host/hostess showed early to contact me and explain their preferences. I never saw this practice as antagonistic or bossy, but rather an exchange of pertinent business information from one professional to another.

                                                                                                                      1. re: Dagney


                                                                                                                        Thank you for sharing.

                                                                                                                        In my years at this, I have never felt any resentment, or antagonism from the servers.

                                                                                                                        I have always tried to be friendly, instructive, field any questions gladly, and just explain how I would like things to progress. Sometimes we all have to "wing it," but not that often.

                                                                                                                        Sometimes the menu is limited, but not always. I usually have an idea of the wines for my table (but often have to rely on my server to give me a list of the mains around the table, if I cannot hear their orders).

                                                                                                                        If I have never dined there, I might go into some detail on wine pours, and maybe the order, in which I anticipate them being served.

                                                                                                                        I also ask for input on how we are doing, regarding available wines, as we might need more of X, but have enough of Y.

                                                                                                                        I would not want to place the onus on the servers 100%. I want them to work seamlessly with me, and then, we all benefit.

                                                                                                                        It only takes me a few minutes to get all necessary points across, and I hope that that little bit of time, does not distract from their other tables.

                                                                                                                        I do the same with my staff at catered events. i want everyone on the same page, and working as a team.

                                                                                                                        If I am hiring a construction contractor, I do the same. I want them to know what I want, and then expect. I do not like surprises, and work very hard to insure that there will be none.


                                                                                                                      2. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                                                        THAT'S why I *love* Bill Hunt so much!

                                                                                                                        Here's a guy who's forgotten more about wine than I will ever know, and yet he spends a little time with the staff to get it right -- so that they're on the "same page."

                                                                                                                        Personally, I'm with Bill on making it clear not to over-pour a fine bottle of wine. I think it's a shame that where they serve the kind of wine Mr. Hunt (and to a lesser degree, I) enjoy, that the servers need any sort of prompting. But better safe than sorry.

                                                                                                                        Now, about the instructions to the servers: just look at the post above. Mr. Hunt is cool and "gets it done" so that service *knows* what he expects. It's their choice whether to meet his expectations -- or exceed them.

                                                                                                                        Emily Post et al put it all in black and white for anyone who wants to know how to deal with these situations. It's all basically about how making one's guests feel comfortable is of the utmost importance.

                                                                                                                        There is nothing wrong about communicating what must be done. There is nothing wrong about communicating a time-table for how soon or how leisurely the meal must be completed.

                                                                                                                        On another tack, however, there's a problem when communication to the servers/captains isn't left to the host; when each and every diner starts making demands (whether or not they're paying) then, there is an opening for miscommunication that will only result in *someone* ending up unhappy.

                                                                                                                        1. re: shaogo

                                                                                                                          Some times, the "instructions" come via e-mail, and in a very few instances, during a pre-event visit. Usually, however, I arrive early, find out who my servers are going to be, and then meet with them, just before the guest arrive. In a few cases, I know the staff, know the menu and have already chosen the wines. Then, it's usually just a matter of specifying the order of the wines. It just depends on several things.

                                                                                                                          In the last 10 years, I can only recall two instances, where things went wrong, and I can only think that the head server for our event, just did not listen, and then disappeared, leaving us at the hands of others, who did not have a clue. In one case, that cost a local restaurant several meals with my wife's group. In the other, we pulled three more "candidate dinners," and moved elsewhere. In the case of the latter, it cost the restaurant about US $ 13,000. In the case of the former, it was less, but then, it took them about 5 years to convince us to come back.

                                                                                                                          When I have had the opportunity to talk with my servers (not trusting higher-ups to carry the message), and things do not go, as I plan, then it is my fault.


                                                                                                                          1. re: Bill Hunt


                                                                                                                            Thank you so very much for re-iterating what I now seem to recall you've said previously about the way you deal with restaurants.

                                                                                                                            Oh, how I wish you were nearer to where we are (New England). I'd open a restaurant just for you, your wife and your friends!

                                                                                                                            About the disappointment that cost the restaurant $13,000 over three visits; again, I wish I'd had the chance to serve your group! Most times I'm proud to talk about what I do -- but when a restaurant manager/captain drops the ball at that level -- it still never ceases to astound!

                                                                                                                            I have never -- never -- heard something so humble as the last paragraph of Mr. Hunt's last post. He puts the blame of mis-communication straight on the shoulders of the communicator -- in this case, him! I wouldn't go that far, given the pool of restaurant workers these days.

                                                                                                                            1. re: shaogo

                                                                                                                              We had two, very similar such instances, at local, high-end restaurants. The service issues were not the same (as would be expected), but shoddy, none the less. Both happened at candidate dinners, though for different positions. Both happened at restaurants, where we had dined, either as a couple, or hosting a group. In both cases, these came at the first "candidate dinner," and in one, there were six more to come (already booked, but canceled and moved), and the other had four more such dinners.

                                                                                                                              Often, folk just do not consider the impact that their actions, or enactions, might cause their place of employment.

                                                                                                                              In one case, it was a "grand stand" by the sommelier, over one bottle of wine being returned, along with very spotty food service. In the other, there were too many major complaints, to list - nothing was good, and I know that that restaurant was, or should have been, more than capable.

                                                                                                                              I also understand that groups from 12 - 24 can be problematic, and ESPECIALLY with those, I want to have 5 minutes in private, with the service team.

                                                                                                                              I seldom feel the need to micromanage (I am not good at that), but think that I need to inform everyone, what I would like, and especially as there are likely some major wines being poured, need to make sure that everyone knows what I would like - never anything that would not logically be part of regular service at a higher-end restaurant.

                                                                                                                              I just do not understand how some people have a set ideal for service, but an aversion to sharing it with the people serving them. It appears that many would rather have an evening ruined, and then complain about it. I hate it, when I feel compelled to complain. I'd much rather have great service.


                                                                                                                      3. As others have said, it depends on how you ask.

                                                                                                                        My pet peeve is people assuming that servers are not "well trained" just because they can't read your mind.

                                                                                                                        11 Replies
                                                                                                                          1. re: ursy_ten

                                                                                                                            Personally, I do not want my servers to have to try an read my mind. They have enough to concentrate on.

                                                                                                                            I try to help, and create a synergy between me (the host), and the servers. When it does come together, it is seamless and perfect.


                                                                                                                            1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                                                              Just how it should be :)
                                                                                                                              A synergy sounds more respectful for both sides.

                                                                                                                              1. re: ursy_ten

                                                                                                                                To me, at least, it IS a two-way street. I, the host, and they, the service team, need to work together. It is all about my guests.


                                                                                                                              2. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                                                                Again, Bill nails it!

                                                                                                                                So many diners expect the server/captain/host to "read their mind." It's part of ego run wild.

                                                                                                                                Bill's realistic and understands that servers have more than one table at a time to serve.

                                                                                                                                Scripture says it best (and I'm a Buddhist but we don't really have something as apropos) "ask and ye shall receive; knock and lo the door will open unto you..."

                                                                                                                                1. re: shaogo

                                                                                                                                  Uh, but the problem here is that "Bill Hunt" appears to be talking about an entirely different animal than the OP.

                                                                                                                                  Mr. Hunt seems to be talking about a large dining event where he is the "host" (or maybe caterer?). The OP was talking about a regular dinner where he wanted to be sure his water glass was refilled on a regular basis.

                                                                                                                                  Instructing a wait staff in advance when you're hosting a party is a far cry from taking one or two waiters aside & reading them the riot act as to you wanting your glasses filled, plates taken away or not taken away asap, etc., etc.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: Bacardi1

                                                                                                                                    I differ. It's all about instructions given to ensure a smooth, enjoyable dining experience. It's all the same, whether Mr. Hunt's giving instructions on which wines to be decanted and which ones with each course, or my late mother's request to every server, "may I have water without ice?"

                                                                                                                                    1. re: Bacardi1

                                                                                                                                      Were I the diner, wishing that my water glass be refilled on a regular basis, I would whisper my desire to my server - not really any different than my stated situations, other than I would not likely pull the service team aside, before my meal in the diner, and tell them about the water - but if things slipped during service, then a whispered request should definitely handle things. Never a "riot act." Do you disagree?


                                                                                                                                    2. re: shaogo


                                                                                                                                      For me, wine is a very large part of my meal. I sort of take it seriously. I also have a lot of requests, that many servers might not have encountered. When I order, I usually give a list of instructions, to make my dining more enjoyable, and especially in the US, feel that I probably need to make my requests known - such as decanting a younger white Burg. Actually, it is referred to as "carafing," but for practical purposes, it is just like decanting, though there is seldom any sediment (other than tartaric crystals, if the wine has been chilled a bit too much). This is very common in much of Europe and the UK, but not so much in the US. Also, if that white Burg is at, or very near, cellar temp, I will not require an ice bucket (even in Europe/UK, I have to explain that I want the bottle on the table, and not in ice). Same with stemware. I want what would be considered more like a Burgundy "balloon," more commonly used with red Burgs, as few restaurants have white Burg glasses.

                                                                                                                                      If I tell the server/sommelier these things, going in, then I save them wasted time, and especially carrying an ice bucket and stand to my table. Also, the correct stemware can be on the table, ready for the wines.

                                                                                                                                      Sort of the same thing - I cannot do a Vulcan "Mind Meld," and unless I have dined at that restaurant, and with that server, how could they possibly know?


                                                                                                                                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                                                                        I understand, Mr. Hunt.

                                                                                                                                        I must tell you I laughed out loud at your delightful humility:

                                                                                                                                        "...wine is a very large part of my meal. I sort of take it seriously..."

                                                                                                                                        Isn't it your Arizona home that has a 10,000 bottle wine cellar? You've forgotten more about fine wine than I'll ever know! (In fact, you just taught a valuable lesson about white Burgundy service -- revealing that I probably ruined a couple over the years by plunging it right in the ice bucket!)

                                                                                                                                        You're the best!

                                                                                                                                  2. re: ursy_ten

                                                                                                                                    I try to assume that they ARE well-trained, most do not even want to think about getting into MY mind.

                                                                                                                                    That is why I give them instructions, before the service.

                                                                                                                                    Though I appreciate questions, when necessary, it is usually easier to get that out of the way, before the service starts. They might be deeply involved in ____, and I might be in deep conversation with ____ .

                                                                                                                                    Let's talk.


                                                                                                                                  3. My take is that servers appreciate a measure of direction. The default is expediency and uncertainty, a recipe that can result in mediocririty or worse. Nobody wants that.

                                                                                                                                    Edited to add: wishy/washy customers who don't make clear their expectations get what they deserve.

                                                                                                                                    1. < Is it ever acceptable to explain that to the waitstaff at the beginning of a meal?>

                                                                                                                                      Who knows, but I don't. I can explain and be critical about the foods because I think a suggestion about the food is less personal than a criticism of the service. It is a pretty personal conversation -- it is about personal conduct.

                                                                                                                                      1. There is only one thing that drives me nuts (I've worked as a server, so I feel it's kind of ok to mention this). I cannot stand, in any way at all, when a server comes over and takes my plate, or the plate of whomever I am dining with who finishes first away. Wait until everyone is done to take the darn plates away. I've mentioned this on many occasions to servers--even at supposedly "higher" end places. OMG---friggin' wait, will ya??????? That just makes me feel so rushed and it is just rude!

                                                                                                                                        16 Replies
                                                                                                                                        1. re: jarona

                                                                                                                                          Per the list below.

                                                                                                                                          17. Do not take an empty plate from one guest while others are still eating the same course. Wait, wait, wait.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: jarona

                                                                                                                                            Not rude if they have been trained to do so and will get in trouble if they don't. I've worked as a server too, and have been in similar positions.

                                                                                                                                            Anyone who goes "ballistic" over it, as you mentioned above is the rude one if you ask me. There is no call for it.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: ursy_ten

                                                                                                                                              Yes, absolutely. As a server, I was trained (told) to remove a plate as soon as the diner was finished. And anyone who goes ballistic over that has issues.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: carolinadawg

                                                                                                                                                in Jarona's case, the issue would be (her boyfriend) having been raised in a culture where this is considered unacceptable behavior from waitstaff.

                                                                                                                                                How we are raised has a huge impact on what we consider polite or rude -- Jarona's homme was raised in a culture where food and restaurants and the behavior involving that is a huge, hairy deal.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                  None of that has any bearing the gist of my post.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: carolinadawg

                                                                                                                                                    how one was raised has no bearings on our behaviour later in life?

                                                                                                                                                    That's a new one.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                      But, the server is not in someone else's "culture," they are where they are....

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                        So "going ballistic" is justified?

                                                                                                                                                        Realising / learning that things aren't the same all over the world as your home culture really isn't that difficult. In any case, I don't think that's a good enough excuse for ugly behaviour.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: ursy_ten

                                                                                                                                                          it all depends on what "going ballistic" means.

                                                                                                                                                          If it's kept quiet, then no harm done.

                                                                                                                                                          If it involves shouting, throwing things, and verbal abuse, then it's not -- but I would highly doubt that this is the case.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                            Except "going ballistic" and "kept quiet" are oxymoronic phrases. It's quite impossible to go ballistic quietly.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                              Yeah, normally "going ballistic" involves physical outburst either verbally or physically. However, people often exaggerate. They also could mean that they go all ballistic inside their mind.

                                                                                                                                                              I think you guys really agree with each others, and now fighting over the definition of "going ballistic"

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                                                                                Except I'm not fighting, just defining. LOL And if it is hyperbole as originally used, perhaps the person who used the going ballistic phrase can further define what she meant.

                                                                                                                                                        2. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                          Regardless of how one is raised, one should not behave badly.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: carolinadawg

                                                                                                                                                            Wait. What? How refreshing to read that. I sometimes think people consider it an attribute to make a spectacle. If I were dining with someone and they berated a server in front of everyone or did something rude to someone in order to satisfy their ego I would carefully consider my relationship with that person.

                                                                                                                                                            I would also like to note that if I have ever been snarky to anyone that I apologize. OK. Whew. Really. Sorry.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                                                                                                                                              I hate restaurant drama like that, and it's nice to see that lots of folks are with me. (At least ChowHounds). Two of my favorite adages come to mind: "One attracts more flies with a teaspoon of honey than with a gallon of vinegar." the other: "Never complain, never explain."

                                                                                                                                                            2. re: carolinadawg

                                                                                                                                                              Unless one is raised in a place where people behave badly!

                                                                                                                                                2. This was covered in a NY times list of things restaurant employees should never do.


                                                                                                                                                  62. Do not fill the water glass every two minutes, or after each sip. You’ll make people nervous.

                                                                                                                                                  62(a). Do not let a glass sit empty for too long.

                                                                                                                                                  84. Do not refill a coffee cup compulsively. Ask if the guest desires a refill.

                                                                                                                                                  84(a). Do not let an empty coffee cup sit too long before asking if a refill is desired.

                                                                                                                                                  1. When I order milk with my meal, I've always asked that it come with the meal, and not the other beverages before the meal. I like it cold. I smile, ask politely, and it's never a problem.
                                                                                                                                                    When removing plates, I've always been asked, first. Sometimes I smile and tell them I'm still eating, and other times, when I place my silverware on the plate, and my napkin on the table, they know I want them to remove it.
                                                                                                                                                    If I am particularly thirsty, I may ask for a carafe of water.

                                                                                                                                                    1. Personally, if I am finished, and my spouse is not, I don't care if they take my plate, in fact, I appreciate the attentiveness. It allows me to center my coffee cup, have a bit of table space to relax while he is finishing. I don't like having empty, dirty plates in front of me.
                                                                                                                                                      If I was with a group, same deal.
                                                                                                                                                      But, maybe I'm just boorish.

                                                                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                      1. re: wyogal

                                                                                                                                                        Boorish is picking up the plate to lick it... in public. Clanking your fork against an empty glass and yelling "it's empty". Waiving the bread basket in the air and yelling "yoo hoo bread lady!"

                                                                                                                                                        I am a take it away sorta gal too. Especially if there are shells or carcasses scattered on the wreckage that is my plate.

                                                                                                                                                        Bring on the cake!

                                                                                                                                                      2. I don't like being rushed. I tell servers that I would like the kitchen to begin the next course only when I have finished the previous course. If one is polite, any server who understands how to earn tips is relieved not to have to guess what you want. In a good restaurant,the server will likely ask if you would like your glass topped off.

                                                                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                        1. re: law_doc89

                                                                                                                                                          I agree with you 100%.

                                                                                                                                                          Whether we are hosting, or maybe just the two of us, I try to communicate the pacing, so that everyone is "on the same page."

                                                                                                                                                          Sometimes, it seems to be impossible, but very often, and at "higher-end restaurants," our service captain has inquired (if I have not notified them ahead of the start of service), and then, I share with them, our intended pacing.

                                                                                                                                                          That is so important to our dining experience.

                                                                                                                                                          There is a fine line - we do not like being rushed, but do not like being ignored. Great service can tell, or they should, and if not, I sit ready to help them.


                                                                                                                                                        2. No, it's not. Lecturing a server when you first sit down is demeaning.

                                                                                                                                                          But if your glass remains empty for a while then a word with the server and a significant decrease in the tip percentage is justified.

                                                                                                                                                          4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                          1. re: hal2010

                                                                                                                                                            How about sharing one's expectations? Is that also demeaning?

                                                                                                                                                            Just curious, as a patron.


                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                                                                                              I guess it depends how they're shared. I think that if you try to set the stage for service before you've had any experience of it, you're setting yourself up for disappointment. Better to research dining venues and select them based on your preferences.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: hal2010

                                                                                                                                                                Fascinating. They are working for you, and you are there to have a food time. I see to reason to blackmail oneself through being to meek to let a "server" from "servant: what you want, if your expectations are reasonable. There is a point where self-effacement becomes self-erasure.

                                                                                                                                                                Any restaurant worth your trouble will operate to make your experience enjoyable.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: hal2010

                                                                                                                                                                  OK, so I have never dined a great restaurant, that looks good on CH, and on their Web site, but no mention is made of service, other than "it's good." Should I just not bother, since I do not know the restaurant, or should I just dine, and take pot-luck, or dine and quietly express my desires to the service team? Personally, I would opt for the latter. I experience the same, and especially with wine service, where I just explain what I want, say a Burgundy balloon for a big white Burg, or perhaps a larger bowl for any B-T-G wine (often served in smaller glasses, with tiny bowls and thicker rims).

                                                                                                                                                                  When dining as a couple, or solo, beyond the wine service, there is usually little explaining necessary - unless the service team is missing the pacing completely - like at the Ritz-Carlton New Orleans, some years ago. They were rushing out courses (a multi-course tasting menu), when I had not yet tasted the previous course. As the restaurant was nearly empty, I pulled the service captain aside, and told him that I was in no rush, there was no need to turn one of the few occupied tables, and that my wife would not be arriving until about Midnight - just slow down, take a breath, and let me eat, one course at a time.

                                                                                                                                                                  Now, when hosting a dinner, I do try to book a restaurant, where I know the service, and maybe the staff too. Then, I find that I have fewer directions to share.

                                                                                                                                                              1. I think it can be done gently and courteously. In fact, I believe it is mandatory to advise your server if you have a need, request, or preference ("special" or otherwise) you expect to be accommodated. We do this for pretty much every family outing to a restaurant. My mother eats S-L-O-W-L-Y, painfully (for us) and inconveniently (for the kitchen) slowly. We warn the waitstaff and ask them and the kitchen to allow an unusually long time between courses. It's really awkward when the half-eaten appetizer and salad are still in front of her when the main course arrives, which then gets cold before she gets around to it. We also ask the waitstaff to leave all the plates on the table until she is finished so she doesn't feel like she is holding the rest of us up; we want her to have a good time and not feel rushed or guilty. (And I hope this is also the goal of a good restaurant with good staff.) The restaurants at which we are regulars know this already and accommodate our group; they also know if they take good care of us there will be a hefty drink tab AND a generous (grateful?) tip. When we are trying a new restaurant, we ALWAYS call ahead and let the host/ess know our large group will require the table for an extended period of time and why (we also ask for a table not too far from the bathroom--if 92 year old choppers work slowly, the hams don't move that quickly either!)

                                                                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                1. OP back here.

                                                                                                                                                                  It surprises me how many people believe that "proper" service at a restaurant would involve having a server read your mind or would seem like an unusual or excessive request.

                                                                                                                                                                  We went out for dinner this evening with some friends; we dined at a nice local restaurant that was having a busy evening. Overall, the service was adequate, up until half the table was done eating. Our server came and removed two plates from the table without asking, while the other two of us at the table were mid-bite. We chalked that up to the server being a little slammed.

                                                                                                                                                                  When she returned to the table, she started to pull my plate out from under me -- while I had a fork in my hand. I said, "Excuse me, I'm not finished." She looked very embarrassed, apologized, and scooted off without checking on anything else at the table.

                                                                                                                                                                  She seemed experienced, and the restaurant -- where we've dined many times before -- is not the type that would train the waitstaff to hurry customers along by clearing plates without asking, so I was at a loss over the breach of etiquette.

                                                                                                                                                                  No mind-reading should have been necessary to know that we didn't want our plates cleared WHILE WE WERE STILL EATING.

                                                                                                                                                                  I'm sure we'll go back to this restaurant, because we love the food, but I think I might have to speak to the server next time to make sure we don't have any embarrassing moments at the table in the future.

                                                                                                                                                                  5 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: breed7

                                                                                                                                                                    Oh - I think, in your OP, I read your two paragraphs as running on from each other -

                                                                                                                                                                    "... I expect well-trained servers.

                                                                                                                                                                    My biggest pet peeve is that my drink glass should never be empty..."

                                                                                                                                                                    Whereas you meant them as more separate statements - is that correct?

                                                                                                                                                                    I do beg your pardon. I have been in the position as a server (in my youth) of being berated for not being able to read a patron's mind, and have been scolded for doing things that I was specifically trained to do (as well as not doing things I was specifically told not to do). I'm afraid I'm quite sensitive to it, because some days you're damned if you do, damned if you don't - and you're just trying to do your job. So I always point this out when I see it in the hope that it will happen less.

                                                                                                                                                                    So please excuse me, I see that wasn't what you meant now - i.e.
                                                                                                                                                                    "I expect well trained servers and I get peeved when they don't keep my glass topped up [and are therefore not well trained]".

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: ursy_ten

                                                                                                                                                                      As a server, did you mind it, when a patron politely (keep using that word, but I think that it IS important in this thread) informed you of their desires?

                                                                                                                                                                      While I would not think so, perhaps I am wrong.

                                                                                                                                                                      No one is a "mind reader," and they should never be judged on their lack of that "talent." If things are not going well, or as I had anticipated, I never hesitate to have a quiet, and gentle conversation. How is a server to know MY wishes? I want to help them insure me a great dining experience.

                                                                                                                                                                      OTOH, I have seen, and heard patrons stand up and exclaim that ____ was not done, for all the room to hear. That is just not my style. My conversations with my servers is seldom heard by all, but the closest of my dining companions, and probably not even then.


                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                                                                                                        Absolutely, politely is the word, and I was always happy to oblige - after all, I did genuinely want everyone to have a good experience.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: ursy_ten

                                                                                                                                                                          Yeah, but somehow, some seem to think that any expression is per se rude. Of course, there is never any reason to be rude, and expressing one's wishes is not rude.

                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: breed7

                                                                                                                                                                      Pacing is something that I think CAN be handled, if one just politely specifies it.

                                                                                                                                                                      I have had many service captains ask, "how would you like us to pace the meal?" I greatly appreciate that, and tell them how I think that it should go.

                                                                                                                                                                      That can be from the very beginning, "Sir, you have your Champagne. How would you like me to handle your dinner order? I can give you two time to enjoy and read through the menu, or I can help you decide." Normally, if there is no theater, or show involved, a few more moments with the Champagne, and my lovely bride, would be my preference.

                                                                                                                                                                      I have also had service captains inquire, during the meal, "How is the pacing going? Is it to your liking?" I appreciate that, and on a couple of levels. They want to please me, and also do not want to waste the service team's time, by hovering, trying to ascertain whether I was done with dish A.

                                                                                                                                                                      Obviously, these experiences are at higher-end, fine-dining locations, and not at a Denny's.

                                                                                                                                                                      Just sitting by, accepting everything as being "just how it is - tough it out," is not something that I am comfortable with.

                                                                                                                                                                      Any good server should be glad, that a patron quietly and politely explains their expectations - so long as they are not totally off the wall.