Food & Drink

The Things That Really Annoy Your Server Probably Aren't What You Expect

Annoying restaurant customer
Daniel Fishel/Thrillist

It will shock no one that servers have a long, long list of pet peeves involving customers. But what might surprise you is that many of these pet peeves have absolutely nothing to do with tipping. It’s true!

Drawing from a mix of personal experience and a survey of servers from every type of imaginable, we've compiled a list of restaurant behaviors that you probably didn't realize get under your servers' skin. Turns out tea isn't as relaxing as you thought.

Ordering hot tea

“Wait, what’s wrong with hot tea?” you're asking. Here's the thing: hot tea was the single most-mentioned pet peeve among all the servers surveyed for this story.

There are two reasons for this. The first is that a lot of restaurants require servers to bring an entire box of various teas for a table to sift through, like the thing is full of rare gems rather than dried leaves in a bunch of brightly-colored bags. That adds an entire extra trip just to show off a box of garden scraps -- and that's time you can often ill-afford as a server. The second reason is that even with restaurants that don’t feature the Box of Perpetual Annoyance, putting together a mug, saucer, tea bag, teapot, and lemon takes what feels like 5,000% more time than just filling a glass with ice and soda.

Sure, you have every right as a customer to order hot tea, but don’t expect your server to be happy about it.

Asking for a cappuccino

If hot tea is like having someone flick you in the ear, cappuccinos are like having them poke you in the eye for five minutes straight while they shout-read Louise Mensch’s Twitter feed at you. Cappuccinos take FOREVER to make, half the time the milk doesn’t steam right because 95% of all restaurants use an espresso machine that appears to date to the Carter administration, and they’re never going to be particularly good from a restaurant. For the love of God, don’t order cappuccinos in restaurants. Just save that shit for coffee shops, where they have the technology -- and time -- to do it.

Tearing up napkins, coasters, and sugar packets

You might think this is a problem exclusive to badly supervised children. Ohhh, you sweet summer child.

Why a grown-ass adult has that much of a shpilkes problem that they have to tear up every piece of paper within grabbing range like some sort of meth-addled beaver looking for DIY house materials is puzzling, but it happens. Just buy a fidget spinner, or whatever replaced fidget spinners since they are apparently no longer "A Thing."

Ignoring the staff's greetings

Not responding, or just immediately demanding (and it’s always a demand) what you want rather than acknowledging your server’s “hello, welcome to Melvin’s Discount House of Turkey” is the second-biggest dick move you can pull as a customer.

Snapping your fingers at your server

THIS is the single biggest dick move you can pull. Your server should have the right to clamp one of your extremities in a waffle iron for each time you do it. Maybe this one seems obvious, but it’s such a screamingly obnoxious, yet frequent, thing that it bears noting.

Leaving two pennies as a tip

Bad tipping is a subject that deserves (and gets) its own long-winded list of shitty practices, but this one deserves special mention. If the service is so bad you don’t feel it warrants a tip, whatever, fine (not fine, but let’s just move past that for the sake of argument). But if you leave two pennies instead of just leaving nothing, there is a special place in hell for you, you smug, sanctimonious wank-dolphin.

Failing at mixing credit and cash

So, splitting checks is fine. Yes, it’s an annoyance, but it’s a part of the job. You know what’s not fine? Saying you’ll pay for X amount on one card, X amount on another card, and “the remainder” in cash.

You probably don’t see the issue here, and I don’t blame you. In a just world, this actually wouldn’t be a problem; there’s nothing THEORETICALLY wrong with doing this. But what happens in practice, roughly 90% of the time, is the person with cash says “I’ll handle the tip,” the people who paid in credit don’t leave a tip, and the person with cash tips 20%... on the CASH amount they paid on the check.

This one is extra frustrating because the customer clearly MEANT to tip well, and is not a douchebag who leaves 10% for good service, but they apparently never passed sixth-grade math.

Not asking for all the extra stuff you need at once

If someone needs a side of ranch dressing, and someone else needs extra napkins, and a third person has decided that, you know what, actually they’ll have a lemon with their water after all, for Christ’s sake ask for them all at once. There’s a reason your server asks, “Does anyone need anything else?” after the first person requests their thing. If you sit there dumbstruck at that question, then proceed to send your server on six different trips for six different things, they’re going to eat cabbage and crop-dust your table and you’ll deserve it.

Asking your server to taste your food

You might think, “Wait, that can’t be a thing that happens.” It does. This typically happens when A. there’s something wrong with the food, AND B. the customer is a domineering douche who wants to show their server who’s in charge. Look, if there’s a problem with the damn dish, I’ll take the thing back and get it fixed. I don’t need to taste it myself to confirm there’s a problem. Also, that is disgusting. What the hell is wrong with you?

Insisting on Coke when the restaurant only has Pepsi

No matter how much you whine at a server, he can’t transmute the Coke into Pepsi. He is not Minerva McGonagall, as evidenced by the fact he's currently putting up with your shit.

Server pet peeve
Daniel Fishel/Thrillist

Reaching to grab drinks off a server's tray

Let your server set the drinks down, otherwise disaster looms. On the other hand, it’s a great way for you to show off your latest fashion, Everything That Was A Few Seconds Ago Comfortably Sitting On The Tray. Très chic!

Not knowing how you want your steak cooked

“I’ll have it medium to medium-rare, maybe a little more on the well side.” Nope. No. Know how you want your steak cooked and have it be an actual temp that exists for human consumption. 

Seating yourself when there's a clear sign not to do that

This one honestly isn’t as big of an annoyance as a lot of the others (despite what servers and hosts will tell you), but it IS indicative that the people who do it are probably going to be terrible guests who tip horribly. If anything, it’s a good early indicator for servers not to get their hopes up.

Asking "what's good" without any further indication as to what you're looking for

Look, man, you want to give me a category, I can figure something out for you. In fact, I’m happy to, because I’d rather you eat the thing I personally like the most because you’re more likely to enjoy it and tip me more. But don’t just say “what’s good” without any further direction. I’m not going to sit here playing a guessing game with random items off the menu before I get to one you’ll actually tolerate -- I already hate that game enough when my wife and I play it on Netflix.

Asking your server to "hook you up"

Nobody's going to “hook you up” and give you free shit if they just met you, especially since 99.99999% of the people who would ask a server they’ve never met before to “hook them up” are either planning to dine and dash or would cheerfully tip 5%.

Assuming your waitress is flirting with you 

Studies have shown that women servers actually make more in average in tips than men -- but the flip side is men rarely have to deal with the casual, creepy harassment that’s par for the course for any woman who’s ever had to wait tables. Every woman who’s done it has these stories, and they are pretty much universally shudder-inducing.

Buddy, here’s a hint: If you think your waitress is flirting with you, she is not. Whether she makes rent depends on her being nice to you; she’s not trying to get on that. Don’t leave her your phone number. On the infinitesimally small chance she actually IS interested in you, she’ll leave you HER phone number. Don’t be a creeper.

Ordering something that isn't on the menu

There are multiple forms this one can take, but maybe the most irritating is people with the palates of 5-year-olds who come into nice restaurants and try to order something that isn’t listed, but is nevertheless one of the five food items they’re familiar with. In the words of one of my friends, “If you don't like authentic Italian food, why did you come into a fine dining Italian restaurant? No, I can't ‘just make you a spaghetti.’”

If you’re one of those hopelessly damaged adult humans who refuses to eat greens because “vegetables are yucky” or who will only eat cheese pizza and chicken nuggets, fine, it’s your life. But don’t come into a fancy restaurant and try to get them to make you plain noodles with butter.

Also, don’t invent your own menu items with 50 different substitutions, because chefs are insane and servers prefer to not be murdered.

Coming in 10 minutes before closing

This is the single biggest one that every single server on the planet will agree with: If you do this, you are a douche. I don’t need to explain why this one is terrible, right? Decent human beings all understand this by now, and anyone who does it is DELIBERATELY being a jackass with zero empathy? Cool. Glad we got that sorted out.

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C.A. Pinkham is a guy who makes inappropriate jokes about Toblerones on the internet. Follow him on Twitter @EyePatchGuy.