9 Things To Never Say To Your Server Based On My 9 Years Of Experience In The Service Industry

These things will make you instantly annoying.

Maeve holding a long receipt. Right: Maeve drinking a glass of wine at a restaurant.  ​
Georgia Contributing Writer

Maeve holding a long receipt. Right: Maeve drinking a glass of wine at a restaurant.

This Opinion article is part of a Narcity Media series. The views expressed are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Narcity Media.

I've worked in the service industry for nine years since I was 15 years old.

In that time, I've learned the ins and outs of restaurant work, many valuable lessons and life skills along the way, like how to pacify unruly customers or how to do shots of amaro like a champ.

When dining out, there are some things you should never do, and phrases to avoid saying to the person taking care of your table, out of common courtesy.

Here are nine things to never say to your server based on my experience of working in restaurants for nearly a decade.

"How long is this going to take, we have other reservations." 

Asking this as soon as you are seated is a loaded question.

A lot of factors go into the amount of time your dining experience will take, like how quickly you decide what to order, what menu items you choose, and how many other clients' orders are in front of yours.

While the service staff can give you an approximate answer on how long specific meals will take to arrive at the table, we have little control over how long the kitchen or bar takes to prepare them.

If you're in a rush or have other plans, take them into account before arriving, or simply order food to go.


This is an ultimate pet peeve of mine as it feels very disrespectful and dehumanizing.

Servers are not dogs. Whistling, shouting, or rudely flagging us is inconsiderate.

There are many other ways to politely alert wait staff that you need something, like asking politely, raising a couple of fingers, or simply making eye contact. We do this for a living, we'll know when you're trying to get our attention.

"What are you doing later?" 

Hitting on your server is not only irritating, it's creepy.

We are here to make sure you have a pleasant dining experience, not entertain your fantasies or accompany you out on the town after hours.

Asking your server for their phone number or to spend time with you after they clock out (which is usually late at night) is a surefire way to come off as a weirdo, and we will be talking about it in the service well.

"I'll take a martini" 

There are lots of different varieties of martinis out there, and likely a very specific way you prefer to enjoy yours.

Be clear with your preferences when ordering this beverage so that we don't have to ask you several questions, which you'll eventually get tired of answering.

I would much prefer someone to order a "shaken, gin martini with a vermouth rinse and two olives" than just to say "martini."

It tells me you know exactly what drink you want, and we won't have to remake it when you send it back because you wanted it with vodka instead of gin.

"Is this all you have on the menu?" 

There are special exceptions to this, like if a restaurant has a specific menu for specials or dietary restrictions, but a lot of times what you see is what you get.

If you are in the mood for chicken wings, don't be surprised when the Mediterranean tapas restaurant you chose to dine at doesn't offer them.

If something is not listed on the main menu, chances are, we don't have that dish.

"This menu is really expensive." 

Servers have essentially zero control over pricing. We aren't managers, we just work there.

Complaining about the pricing of menu items will land on deaf ears because there's essentially nothing we can do about it.

If you are upset by $15 cocktails there are plenty of excellent dive bars where you can find strong drinks for cheap, and we are likely all there together after work.

"You would be so pretty if you smiled more." 

For the sake of my paycheck and providing friendly service, I spend a great deal of my shifts smiling.

However, if a customer is being exceptionally rude, I won't go out of my way to be overly fake.

These are usually the patrons that insist on you smiling, then proceed to be insufferable.

I enjoy smiling, but I am there to make sure you have a decent dining experience, not to look pretty for people who are discourteous.

"Can we move to that table over there?" 

If you've already been sat and asked to move tables, a lot of times I will try to accommodate as best I can.

However, between wait lists, reservations and balancing serving sections, things get a little more complicated when a table is dead-set on sitting at a specific place.

If you are interested in sitting at a particular table, letting a hostess know when you arrive is the best way to secure it. But once you've been seated and a server has begun taking care of you, moving becomes more impractical.

"Do you ever plan on getting a real job?" 

Serving is a "real job." Restaurant work is grueling, labor intensive, and oftentimes requires well-developed social skills.

While some of us are working towards other goals, implying that our current job isn't valid is impertinent.

We are working hard to make a living and pay our bills, and that's as real as a job can get.

Maeve Browne
Georgia Contributing Writer
Maeve Browne is a Contributing Writer for Narcity’s USA Desk focused on food and Internet trends and is based in Savannah, Georgia.