9 Things Not To Do While Dining Out On A Holiday Based On My 9 Years In The Service Industry

Whatever you do, don't be "that person."

​A Christmas tree outside of a restaurant. Right: Maeve holding a long receipt paper in a server apron.
Georgia Contributing Writer

A Christmas tree outside of a restaurant. Right: Maeve holding a long receipt paper in a server apron.

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.

For most service industry workers, the holiday season means extra long shifts, accommodating large crowds, and a lot of hustle.

The reality of working in restaurants is that fussy customers can make "the most wonderful time of the year" stressful to navigate.

However, with a bit of self-awareness and common courtesy, you can avoid being the reason a member of the service staff has to take five to go cry in the walk-in.

Here are nine things to avoid while dining out on a holiday, according to my experience working in the service industry for nearly a decade.

Forget to do your research 

Before making plans to spend a holiday at a restaurant, always do your research.

First, you want to make sure your destination of choice is actually open. Some bars and restaurants choose to shut their doors on major holidays to give their staff time at home.

Others operate on limited hours, so before setting your sights on one particular spot, it's best to make sure eating there is even an option.

Assume you won't need a reservation 

Limited dining options mean places that are open can fill up quickly. Don't show up to an establishment assuming you won't need a reservation.

It's best to book your reservation at least a few weeks in advance. If a restaurant is only accepting walk-ins, always come prepared with a Plan B in case they've reached capacity by the time you get there.

Show up late 

While on the topic of reservations, please try your best to be on time for yours. Showing up an hour late can mean sacrificing your table.

Staff members work hard to develop seating charts that are timed to optimize the flow of service. Being late and expecting the host to hold your table for you is disrespectful not only to the people that work there but to other punctual patrons.

Complain about speciality menus

Many restaurants run on limited menus or pre-fixed menus during holidays to ensure things run smoothly.

Don't walk in with expectations of the full menu being offered. Set menus and limited menus help ensure that everyone gets their food and drinks in a timely manner.

Expect unreasonably fast service 

That being said, don't expect lightning-fast service. Ticket times can take a bit longer than usual due to high-volume crowds and accommodating large parties.

If things take a few extra minutes, please be patient. We are trying our best, I promise.

Open a ton of presents at the table 

Bringing a pile of presents to open at the table may seem like a heartwarming idea, but it can make things impractical.

Cluttered tables can lead to spills and disrupt the steps of service. Having limited space makes it difficult for your server to find room to set down plates and glasses.

A few gifts are perfectly fine. Just be mindful not to leave behind garbage for your waitstaff to clean up.


No one wants to deal with you while you're obliterated. It's the cold, hard truth. We want you to enjoy yourself, but overly drunk patrons can be awkward and uncomfortable to interact with.

It can be easy to get carried away while celebrating, but please, for the sake of our sanity, get hammered elsewhere.

Tip like it's not a holiday 

Remember that the wait staff is likely missing out on quality time with their own family to ensure you have a good time dining out with yours.

The best way to express gratitude is by leaving a good tip. The holiday season can be very stressful financially, but tipping well is the best way to show you appreciate our hard work and sacrifice. After all, we've all got bills to pay.

Camp out at the table after you've finished

Once you've settled the bill, please be mindful of how long you camp out at the table once you're finished.

We don't expect you to rush out, but staying too long after can mean longer wait times for other patrons.

Having a cocktail or two while you digest your meal is perfectly fine, but please don't pay your tab and sit for an hour chit-chatting and holding up the reservation list.

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.