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Ted's Rules For Restaurants   98 comments

Posted at 12:55 am in

This page was originally a post, but I've decided to copy it here so I can add to it from time to time as you suggest new rules, or as new ones occur to me.

I eat out a lot, and I've come to see that there are a number of rules for running a restaurant that are honored in the breach more often than the reverse. None of these are rocket science, but I thought I would write some of them down because a lot of restauranteers really need to read them.

1) Honor Your Posted Hours

I can't over-emphasize this item. Your posted hours are part of your contract with the public. Nobody forced you to post a particular set of hours on your door, but having posted them, you need to honor them. If I have made myself work until 9:30 with the lure of a nice supper based on your promise to be open until 10:30 and I show up to hear "Well, it wasn't very busy, so we closed the kitchen at 9, it's too late for me to go elsewhere. You have ruined my evening.

I try not to be a jerk. I will not waltz in at 5 minutes before closing and order an elaborate meal, but if I show up at least half an hour before posted closing, I expect to find your establishment in full operation.

2) Make More Tea

This is a related point. If I come in at least half an hour before closing, and you are out of tea, I expect you to make more. Yes, some of it will go to waste, but it is on your menu and only costs you pennies to make. Besides, if your staff weren't so hellbent on closing before you are supposed to, they wouldn't have dumped the urn.

3) If My Glass is Empty, Fill it Up

Really what more can I say? Is this so hard to do?

4) Don't Bring the Bill While I am Still Eating

If you bring the check before I have finished my meal, it implies that you want to get rid of me, and is somewhat rude. It also implies that you are washing your hands of me, and that I can expect no further refills. It is also not in your best interests. If I have been contemplating dessert, having a finalized bill pretty much kills the chance that I will ask for anything else.

5) Don't Let the Bill Sit

This is the inverse of the last rule. If I am not ready to go, I will not put cash or a credit card on the check you brought me. When I am ready, and do place my payment, I don't want it to take twenty minutes before you pick it up.

6) Never Ask: Do You Need Change?

If I have a check for $8.21 and hand you a $20 bill and you say "Do you need any change?", it implies you are angling for a $11.79 tip. It's even worse if what I would be getting back is close to (but more than) what I would be leaving you for a tip. In that case it makes me feel stingy for begrudging you an extra eighty cents.

The correct phrase is "I'll be right back with your change". This gives me the opening to say "That's OK" if I intend you to keep everything.

7) Make Sure the Staff Instructions Agree with the Menu

If your menu describes an item of food in one way, make sure the instructions given to the kitchen and wait staff agree with the written description.

For years, the menu at Shoney's described the spaghetti as coming with mushrooms. So I would order spaghetti, and it would invariably come without mushrooms, leading to the following exchange:

I didn't get any mushrooms with my spahgetti

You didn't say you wanted mushrooms

Well, the menu says it comes with them..

The same goes for El Chico, and the guacamole that is supposed to come with the burrito con queso..

8) Don't Let the Waitresses set the Thermostat

They are walking around and carrying stuff. It's a hard job, and they are working. I am not, I'm just sitting there gradually freezing to death.

9) If You Must have a TV, Mute It

Sports bars are excluded, I suppose, but if I walk into a general restaurant, I either want to talk with the rest of my party, or if I'm alone, think my own thoughts. I don't want to hear about the news, a soap opera, an infomercial or even the weather I just came in from. On most modern TVs, you can activate a close-caption mode that lets the staff follow their programs without annoying the patrons.

10) Don't Argue

It amazes me that I feel I have to list this one, but it has happened, and flabbergasts me every time.

If I say I need a new fork, don't ask me "What's wrong with that one?". Just get me the fork.

11) Think About Your Restroom Design

First, if at all possible, your restroom door should open out. If I have just washed my hands, the last thing I want is to have to grab a restroom door handle and pull just before returning to my table. I should be able to pivot, push the door open with my back and continue without having to touch the door with my hands. Second, the trash can in the bathroom should be an open bin. I know this is somewhat unsightly, but I don't want to have to touch the lid of a bathroom trash can in order to dispose of my paper towel. It is amazing to me that some restaurants actually use trash cans with lid-springs so strong that it takes two hands: one to push open the lid, and one to toss in the towel. People are simply not going to do this, and that is why the floor around these trash-cans is always litered with towels. People want to be neat and help out the cleaning staff, but not to the point of touching trash-can lids. On first blush, trash-cans with foot pedal operated lids seem like a nice compromise, and indeed if they worked they would be, but my experience is that they are too delicate for public accomodations. After the first week or so, the mechanism breaks, and towels start to accumulate on the floor beside the can (or even on top of the lid). This is a case where the simplest solution, an open bin, is the best solution.

12) Unlock your doors!

If your entrance involves "double" doors -- unlock them both! I don't know how many times I've made a fool of myself blithely shouldering into one of a pair of double doors which turns out to be locked for some unaccountable reason. At the very least, deploy a Please use other door sign!

13) Give me some singles back

If my bill is $9.83 and I give you a $20 bill -- don't give me a $10 bill and 17 cents. Give me a $5 bill, 5 singles and 17 cents. Otherwise, I may have no way to tip you.

14) Keep the questions to a minimum

Perhaps I have just recently become sensitive to this as I now have a very limited lunch window, but it seems to me restaurants are asking more and more unnecessary questions and slowing things down. No, I don't have your loyalty card. No, I don't want a bakery item for just 99-cents..

If I order something, assume I want it prepared as your menu describes it unless I say differently. Don't keep up a constant stream of questions on how I hypothetically might want it customized. Moe's, yes I do want the Art Vandelay with rice, Subway, yes, I really did want bacon, lettuce and tomato when I ordered a BLT.

15) Offer Me Dessert

This goes along with rule 4. Maybe it's just me, but I have a quirk such that if I ask for dessert, I feel like a pig, but if you ask me if I want dessert, I feel like I'm being agreeable in going along with it. No, it's not logical, but yes it is real. Honestly, I don't look like a guy who skips a lot of desserts, so why not ask me? You might make some more money.

16) Don't Pounce!

This one seems to come up more and more recently. In fact I can't ever recall it being an issue *before* fairly recently: If I am eating and put my fork down for the last time, don't immediately swoop in and pre-bus all my dishes. It makes me feel like I am being watched by the predatory eyes of a hawk! Even moreso if there are two or more of us, don't swoop down and carry off the dishes of the first to finish. It puts unnecessary emphasis that one person is sitting there with nothing to do and unnecessary pressure on the remaining diners to finish things off. After all the diners are finished, and have had time for the post-meal "well, that was nice" chat, then you can come in, do some pre-bussing and follow rule 15.

What Are Your Rules?

I'm sure you have your own rules that are violated all the time. Leave me a comment, and if I agree, I'll add it to the list!

UPDATE 10 May 2009: Added rules 12 & 13.

UPDATE 14 June 2010 -- I'm going to copy the picture of the "right" trash can I posted in the comments to here, and add a "wrong":

RIGHT -- Moe's on Beltline in Columbia:

Note the total lack of towel refuse around the open container.

WRONG -- Kaminsky's on Market Street in Charleston:

Note that this is a pedal operated can. The pedal has been broken for months if not years. See the towel refuse on top of and in front of the can.

UPDATE 21 January 2020: Added rule 16.

Written by ted on February 5th, 2008

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98 Responses to 'Ted's Rules For Restaurants'

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  1. I love your site and agree with your rules. Being in the restaurant business I usually tip
    very well and I hate when they ask if I need change and I also hate when my bill is $ 11 something and they return with 8 ones, if I need change for a 5 I'll ask for it. One more point, I agree with the trash can in the bathroom, but DHEC requires a lid on recepticals in the restrooms. I do think I will
    look for a industrial foot control can for my


    5 Jan 09 at 3:11 pm

  2. Hmm. I didn't know that. A strudy foot-pedal would be nice -- The one on Trenholm Plaza Starbucks broke after about the first week, and the one at the Forest Drive Italian Pie lasted about a month, I think.


    5 Jan 09 at 3:47 pm

  3. Some restaurants want to pack in so many people that the tables and booths are too crowded. I'm a "full-figured" guy. I can't tell you how many times i've gone into a restaurant and the size 0/2 attendant thinks i'll fit in a booth made especially for her--that has no room or at a table where the chairs on either side back up to other hefty folks. My gripe really is, use common sense when sitting folks. Only if a place is busy do you really need to back people on top of each other.


    21 Jan 09 at 4:15 pm

  4. A related one is: If I come in alone, and you have plenty of booths, don't try to seat me at the bar or a table in the middle of the walk-way.


    21 Jan 09 at 4:42 pm

  5. I think the operative word is "plenty," although if you come in and there are plenty of booths available, there might not be plenty by the time you leave. I eat at NND a great bit, but never sit at a booth even if there are plenty available, because by the time I leave, it's generally packed. I hate when individuals sit in booths, and you have a party of three or four forced to sit at a table that is really a good size for two. Plus the fact, there, they'll ask you to move if you're solo in a booth sometimes, which they should.


    21 Jan 09 at 5:48 pm

  6. Not a big issue for me as I usually eat lunch about 3 and supper at 9 or 10.


    22 Jan 09 at 12:27 am

  7. Ted
    I couldn't agree more with two items, but I'd be more emphatic about one: all TVs and music systems should be ripped out of restaurants (we even had to put up with vocal music at an Au Bon Pain the other day). Eating is to be accompanied by conversation with companions or musing with my own thoughts (or reading a book)----you can't do any of that reasonably with stupid (or smart) music.

    Second: restroom design AND CLENLINESS need attention badly. And you've got the right ideas. Zagat should have a "rate the restrooms" section! That might tone things up.

    Keep up the good work.


    28 Jan 09 at 2:49 am

  8. Thanks!


    28 Jan 09 at 2:53 am

  9. This is a fun website. Kind of sad at the same time but good reading for anyone who is entering business.

    Good point on the bathroom trash cans but State Law requires a top on recepticles in womens restrooms. That does not mean they need to be impossible to open.

    Fred Delk

    25 Apr 09 at 8:29 am

  10. Well, I don't know a lot about women's restrooms (I do see a lot of open bins in men's restrooms though), but how about something like this trash can from Moe's on Beltline? You could say it has a "top", but it's still easy to use:


    10 May 09 at 10:45 pm

  11. The SCDHEC rates the overall establishment for sanitation during an unannounced routine inspections. I would like to see a second rating posted on the door just for the restroom. Knowing that the employees use it too, the food is no cleaner as the restroom and the application of Rule 11 on restroom design. Related, I'm still wondering why professional architects have not caught on yet to restroom design from a functional perspective. For years, automotive engineers realized that my standardizing where the brake and accelerator pedals are located, everyone wins!
    (Thanks for the posting and site. The focus on community is refreshing.)

    Chris Starr

    10 Jun 09 at 12:36 pm

  12. I so agree!

    James Greek

    20 Jun 09 at 7:08 pm

  13. This Birmingham blogress has her own rules.


    31 Jul 09 at 10:18 pm

  14. Dock Syndrome

    There used to be a resturant called The Dock in Moncks Corner. It consisted of a vast open room which could seat approximatly eleventy billion persons. There was never more than 2 other couples there any time I was there, but without fail the server would always sit us as close as possible to the other occupied table, if there were no extra chairs at tables that were already occupied. We always got up and moved, being a vast empty room where we were sure they would be able to see us 3 steps away from where they originally sat us. I've noticed lately other restruants do this same inexpilicable thing. Why does it seem like they always want to sit you between the single person on their cell phone and the couple with 4 screaming children when every other table in the place is empty?


    23 Aug 09 at 12:31 am

  15. Oh yeah. I hate that! My theory is that the wait staff wants everybody together for their convenience.


    23 Aug 09 at 1:01 am

  16. Davino's Pizzeria in Dutch Square Mall closed, probably last week or the week before, but I didn't see it listed on your site. They don't answer the phone anymore and their website is down. Sux for me, I loved their calzones and they DELIVERED, too!


    7 Oct 09 at 4:49 pm

  17. The NY Times is posting a list of 100 things restaurant staffers should never do. 1-50 are here:


    31 Oct 09 at 11:31 pm

  18. Damn, #32 needs to be in large print at every place in this city.


    31 Oct 09 at 11:50 pm

  19. There's a recent list at the NY Times website, 100 things restaurant staffers should never do (in two parts); it's great! One commenter said that most boil down to being polite and accommodating. Give it a read here:


    13 Nov 09 at 6:18 pm

  20. I really like your number 5!

    My sister, when she gets the check, will usually tell the server "Don't run off!" as she pulls out her purse.


    13 Nov 09 at 6:22 pm

  21. Awesome article, Ted!!!! As with so much of this site, so many of your comments here resonated with me. I especially liked numbers 1, 9, 11, 12, and 13. Regarding number 12 (unlock the door), I do not understand why it is almost a universal practice to leave one side of the double doors locked at an eatery. I know some business do this as a feeble attempt to intimidate or discourage shoplifters, but what are they expecting us to walk out of the restaurant with?

    My addition to this list would be, "use judgement in hiring kitchen staff". Little turns me off to a place quicker than seeing that the kitchen staff consists of nasty, surly, disreputable looking or acting thugs. Knowing fully well about some of the disgusting things that go on in the food preparation areas of some eateries, I do not make a habit of eating at places with questionable characters in the kitchen. I feel sure most on here will know what I am saying, with regard to personalities who you get the feeling would just as soon hock a loogie in your food as fix it.

    There is a restaurant in the Harbison area that I had eaten in on several occasions before I began dealing with situations regarding its cooks on a semi-regular basis. I am a retired cop. After a while, it became evident that this restaurant seemed to have a prerequisite for its kitchen staff that they be current or former drug addicts who recently were discharged from prison. This was an otherwise nice restaurant that had a quality list of items on its menu. From the calls I handled there, it was obvious that their stay in the joint had not changed their behavior. Needless to say, I quit dining there. I know that good help is hard to find but I would much rather pay a little more for my meal to have a conscientious chef prepare it than some surly thug.

    I used to work in a part of town that had its share of crack dealers and addicts. We frequently stopped the "customers" of these dealers and did Field Interview cards on them just to get an idea of who they were and such in case something came up missing or broken into later on. The FI card required us to collect info on their identity, occupation, etc. I lost count of how many of these crackheads I carded, obviously trying to score another rock, who were employed in the kitchen of a major luxury hotel in downtown Columbia which had a name synonymous with luxury hotels, at the time. This is more common than most people realize.

    Ray Price

    5 May 10 at 10:55 pm

  22. Oh yeah, graysmoak touched on this one, but it irritates me no end if I have a woman I want to talk with and get to know better on a date, or just a male friend / cohort who I want to catch up on the latest gossip with, to seat people on top of us when there are lots of empty booths or tables that these people could be seated at. Whether I am trying to discuss sensitive legal or political situations or learn more about the lady I am with, I like a space between my table and other diners, unless the place is full or almost full. Besides the privacy issue, it is also annoying when they dump the table full of half drunk college kids with their raucous laughter, or the screaming child on top of you, making it impossible for you and your dinner companion to hear each other.

    Ray Price

    5 May 10 at 11:09 pm

  23. Yep, that's a good one, and has happened to me many times.


    6 May 10 at 1:18 am

  24. Yeah bathrooms are a big deal, especially to me as a woman. Sorry Ted but that trash can you showed a picture of, only works for larger/cheaper restaurants. I wouldn't like that in a nice restaurant. Also, my reasoning is, if a bathroom doesn't look neat/clean then what does the kitchen look like?? There are few places that I let get away with poor restroom facilities.


    26 May 10 at 1:41 pm

  25. Well the thing is there are a lot of very nice looking trash cans that have paper towels all over the floor by them because nobody wants to deal with touching the spring lids..


    26 May 10 at 1:46 pm

  26. I just use a paper towel to open the lid and then throw it in while it's open....


    26 May 10 at 1:51 pm

  27. That's doable with some, with others, the spring is too aggressive, and it takes two hands..


    26 May 10 at 2:10 pm

  28. Here's an idea. They have these sensors on towel dispensers right? So, how about putting that on a trash can so it opens automatically? Now I'm off to fix this pesky oil leak. ta ta

    John R

    16 Jun 10 at 9:18 am

  29. The nicest solution to the trash can lid, IMO, is a hole in the counter between the double sinks, with the trash can locked out of site. Does this count as a covered can if you can't see it down there? And the one door opened, other door locked thing drives me crazy, too.


    1 Jul 10 at 6:56 pm

  30. here's one I have: be sure your menu is included on your makes me 10x more comfortable with a place I go and while I can usually find something where I eat, I feel a lot more comfortable if I can go online and read their menu beforehand


    1 Jul 10 at 10:01 pm

  31. I have never tipped
    As little as they add on
    When they figure it.

    If you put a 15% tip on my bill, you will get 15% and not one penny more. If you let me decide for myself, I usually go for 20%, if the service is merely adequate, and 25+% if the service is good.

    Haiku Guy

    4 Apr 11 at 3:01 pm

  32. Also note that the trash can you showed a picture of would interfere with the baby changing station. So in addition to wrangling the baby, I would have to prise up the trash can move it to the side, then lower the changing station... Well the trash can would probably fall down, and I would take care of my baby rather than set it back up.

    Industrial strength foot switch would be appealing, if one could be found. Then only the handicapped would throw their towels on the floor.

    Don M

    4 Apr 11 at 3:03 pm

  33. New rule suggestion #1: Do not clear the table until everyone at the table has finished eating.
    New rule suggestion #2: Do not allow the wait staff to address their guests/customers as "guys"; as in "what'll you guys have to drink"
    New rule suggestion #3: When a guest orders an additional glass of wine, do not pour the remnants of the previous glass into the new one.
    New rule suggestion #4: When a guest orders an additional glass of wine, bring it in a new/clean glass; do not refill the previous glass
    New rule suggestion #5: When the wait staff clears the table after a course - e.g., the appetizers - remove the silverware (as well as the plates), and do not set the used silverware back on the table for further use.

    Terry Catchpole

    4 Apr 11 at 3:43 pm

  34. Hmmmm.

    1. Make it easy for me to give you money. You'd think this would be the basis of every business but it is amazing how often I have to practically fight with someone to give the business money. If that actually is a part of your business plan, then go with it to the maximum. Just make a big pool of jello and demand that anybody who wants to pay their bill has to wrestle their server in the jello.

    .... I'd pay extra for that btw. :)

    2. If you are going to have a website don't go overboard with it. It should be nice, clean design and absolutely functional. If the website doesn't help me decide to dine at your restaurant, then it is useless and should be fixed.

    3. Don't just post a picture of your regular menu. Here is an opportunity to really sell your food. If you can give me a menu that I can click individual items on and actually see pictures of the food plated, that is a huge +++ in my book. This should not be all that difficult. A simple cheap digital camera kept available for a few nights should give more than ample opportunities to take a picture of every dish.

    And if you're not making any specific dish within a week then you should really consider removing it from the menu.

    4. If you also include links to that shows your kitchen staff -in your kitchen- actually making some dishes, that is more than just an enormous +++ in my book. That lets me be more of a participant in my dining selections and see firsthand how professional your kitchen staff really are. Consider just how popular cooking shows are right now. Now consider how useful it would be to have videos available to prospective diners.


    One of my favorite restaurants has a space available near the bar where waiting diners can watch not just the tv but also the kitchen staff doing their jobs. And what I invariably see is gleaming, shiny stainless steel clean enough to do surgery on while the kitchen staff go about their work. No running around crazy nuttiness, no sloppiness and no horseplay. Professionals doing their work quietly, quickly, efficiently and making certain every working surface is cleaner than I thought a working restaurant could possibly keep anything.

    I think why that restaurant is one of my favorites is pretty obvious.


    4 Apr 11 at 3:45 pm

  35. If I finish my meal before the people I am dining with, leave my damn plate alone until they finish!

    Also, please don't give me a beverage in a glass that is dripping wet on the outside. I prefer my puddles outside,in a rain storm, not on my table.


    4 Apr 11 at 3:51 pm

  36. Here's one -- at least pretend you're glad to see me.

    Of all the places I could have gone to eaten a meal and given my money to, I chose yours.

    You don't have to fawn over me, but at least be friendly -- it's the courteous thing to do and it improves my dining experience without costing you a thing.

    I promise to be polite in return -- in fact, I'll go first.


    4 Apr 11 at 4:03 pm

  37. One of the consequences of growing older is that your hearing isn't as good as it used to be. Background noises make it harder to hear other people at your table, especially if you're wearing a hearing aid. The background noise level in too many restaurants is too high for comfort. Some restaurants (e.g. Noodle & Company and Chipolte) have stainless steel walls. I suppose this makes it much easier to clean the place but the noise levels are just too high. That's why I don't eat at either of those restaurants any more even though I enjoyed their food.

    Another thing is when the light levels are too low to read the menus. Old eyes need brighter light. I've eaten in a few restaurants where I can barely see my food much less read the menus. I don't return to those restaurants, either.

    Larry J

    4 Apr 11 at 4:11 pm

  38. My old boss beat one important rule int me. "If the staff are comfortable then the customers are not". If hard working staff are not hot and sweaty, the room is too cool. If the staff are having a nice chat, the customers are waiting. If the staff are dancing to the tunes, the customers hate them.

    Special note to waitstaff: If I tell you I'm in a hurry and give you my credit card, don't make me wait even the 30 seconds it takes you to grab a few dishes to avoid a second trip just to clear the table. I don't care if you have to make a second trip. I'm in a hurry, remember?

    Fred Z

    4 Apr 11 at 4:18 pm

  39. Turn off the damn music. I came here to eat, drink, and converse. If the place is quiet, I have a better chance of doing that. If the place is rocking, the music cannot be heard.


    4 Apr 11 at 4:24 pm

  40. I would rather a cool waitress and a cold customer than a hot waitress sweating into my food.
    Also, put the trash basket near the door. May people use a paper towel to open the door and then toss it at the trash basket.
    Don't hand out menus with food on them.
    Don't sweep the floor around my table while I'm eating.
    Don't spray liquid onto nearby tables to clean them, while I'm eating.
    Don't serve food left over from previous customers (e.g., rice).
    I could go on, but I have a life.

    PacRim Jim

    4 Apr 11 at 4:39 pm

  41. I can abide most anything except the waiter's mid-meal query:

    "How is everything, so far?"


    4 Apr 11 at 4:54 pm

  42. Actually I disagree with you about not removing my used plate once I have finished. When I'm done, I want the dirty dishes gone so I can lean my elbow on the table and drink my drink unobstructed. I don't care whether or not others are still eating, I want my now useless plate (and cutlery and used napkins) gone. If it turns out I want dessert, I'll order it later once my companions are finished.

    Alex VanderWoude

    4 Apr 11 at 5:36 pm

  43. Re the bill: I think you may want to include an exception when you have kids. My husband and I eat out fairly regularly with our two children. Both are usually quite well behaved, but we make a point of seeking the bill before we are finished eating, precisely so that we don't have to wait until after we are done eating and risk the kids going into meltdown modet. Along those same lines, if we have the kids with us, and we request that the kids' meals come out as soon as they are ready, we are doing so specifically because we want them to get food, fast, and avoid the risk that they will hassle other diners by whining, etc. One of our favorite restaurants in our hometown can get us appetizers, our meal, and the bill ready for us so we can be out the door in about 45 minutes. OTOH, there is a restaurant in town we really like, but inevitably avoid because we can never, ever get out of there in less than 90 minutes.

    Dee G

    4 Apr 11 at 5:48 pm

  44. I want a 2nd glass of wine when my meal is served not 10 mins later when I am almost done. You know the bar, plan ahead for my 2nd drink, I just might have a 3rd.

    If I am not quite ready to order, don't punish me by not coming back for 15 minutes.

    justin case

    4 Apr 11 at 6:43 pm

  45. Plus the fact, there, they’ll ask you to move if you’re solo in a booth sometimes, which they should.

    Absolutely not. If I've been seated in a restaurant and the staff demand that I get up in the middle of my meal and move to a different table because they want to sell my table to a larger party, that's ask-to-see-the-manager time. That's letter-to-the-owner-next-day time. That's tell-my-hotel-about-my-unsatisfactory-experience-at-the-place-they-recommended time.

    Why on earth should I have my evening ruined because the staff want to turn over the table faster? It's bad enough when they bring the bill early in order to get you out, but actually moving you from your table? No. (And bad service is not somehow more excusable when you're eating alone than when you're with a group.)

    That being said, if you're eating alone you should tip a higher percentage. One person is almost as much trouble for wait staff as two, but spends half as much. The tip shouldn't be half as much.


    4 Apr 11 at 7:24 pm

  46. Note if I use cream in my coffee so you'll never re-fill my cup to the brim, leaving no room for cream.

    While you're at it, keep the supply of cream (or half-and-half) COLD. It's not that I consider the hermetically sealed, radiated, and guaranteed safe to consume anytime this decade liquid containers a risk - some us use the cream to COOL our hot coffee.

    Lee E

    4 Apr 11 at 7:24 pm

  47. If complimentary rolls are included with dinner, please bring out a number of rolls divisible by the number of people at the table. Don't bring 4 rolls to a 3 person table. Whoever thought up the "1 roll per person plus 1" idea now standard at so many places was a jackass.


    4 Apr 11 at 7:36 pm

  48. @beck -- absolutely! Nobody will dare eat the odd roll because that would be impolite, and the waitress won't bring any more since you still have one.

    @jaed -- I've never actually been asked to move, but as I noted above the restaurant can be empty, but if you come in as a party of one they'll still try to seat you at an awful table or the bar.


    4 Apr 11 at 10:42 pm

  49. New rule suggestion #1: Clear each place as soon as the person at that place has finished eating. Who wants to sit in front of a dirty plate?
    New rule suggestion #2: Speak in a friendly manner as in “what’ll you guys have to drink”
    New rule suggestion #3: When a guest orders an additional glass of wine, pour the remnants of the previous glass into the new one.
    New rule suggestion #4: When a guest orders an additional glass of wine, don't dirty another glass, instead refill the previous glass
    New rule suggestion #5: When the wait staff clears the table after a course leave whatever silverware will be useful for the next course. No need to waste hot water.

    Oh, and if they bring the bill a bit early, that is a fine and polite way to let you know that other customers are waiting in case you want to take that into account. I don't like to stand around waiting for a table so I don't dawdle if I see people standing around waiting for me. It's a personal choice, of course, but there is nothing wrong with the wait staff letting you know on the off-hand chance that you might be courteous.

    Doc Rampage

    4 Apr 11 at 10:50 pm

  50. Managed restaurants for 30+ years and the standing house rule was that the customer is always right-until they become a PITA. Then they are mine. It is management's job to aid those customers that staff cannot handle-that's what they get paid for.
    Opening and closing-open 15 min. early and close 15 min. late. Management on the door at open and at close If there is no management on the floor at these times you will ensure a less than adequate experience for your customer-because that's when customers drop through the cracks.
    The most skilled manager should be on the floor at rush times-this is when you solicit feedback from customers, observe and redirect staff, and solve the problems that will come up(dirty restrooms, wet and littered floors, dissatisfied customers, etc.).
    If you, as a customer, enter an establishment without visible management interacting with customers and staff, leave. Restaurant workers work- It's a hard job. Management is there to direct and help workers and should be very visible-besides, everyone likes to see the boss working.


    5 Apr 11 at 7:53 am

  51. Great blog. Came over from Instaland. A 17 year veteran of restaurant and bar warfare (that's what it is) here. Good points on many of these. A few quibbles, if you will:

    1) Posted hours are nifty, but I always call before I have a latish meal. As a grizzled veteran, I know that no matter how polite the staff is being, if it is dead and a guest comes in just before close, they are cursing you and your children and all possible progeny. It's like gravity. Trust me on this.

    Also understand that many establishments offer the public service of extending hours when busy, so perhaps this cuts both ways.

    6) Many time the change question gets asked to clarify what type of payment is in the presenter. Often the presenter is sitting in the same position as it was set by the waiter. "Do you need a card run or some change?" is not a necessarily a statement that means "I want all of your money for crack", which is often the implied response from diners. Please, people, hang the cash or card out so it can be seen. And asking of change is needed is not something to be offended by.

    There are many moving parts to a dining experience, and being able to judge whether somebody wants to go, hang or has a later appointment to be at can be an art in itself.

    Take the above quandary and multiply it by 1000 and you have a typical evening in restaurant land. I know there is some really bad bad service out there as I see it all the time. Please understand that many of us take a lot of pride in what we do and that many of your assumptions about supposedly simple things are wrong.


    5 Apr 11 at 9:18 am

  52. @ jaed "Plus the fact, there, they’ll ask you to move if you’re solo in a booth sometimes, which they should.

    Absolutely not. If I’ve been seated in a restaurant and the staff demand that I get up in the middle of my meal and move to a different table because they want to sell my table to a larger party, that’s ask-to-see-the-manager time. That’s letter-to-the-owner-next-day time. That’s tell-my-hotel-about-my-unsatisfactory-experience-at-the-place-they-recommended time."

    I thought I recognized that quote as mine, although it was two years ago. What I meant was, if you know the restaurant is going to be busy and you are not seated by staff, don't sit at a booth for four people when you could sit at a table for one or two. That to me is common courtesy. Much like giving an elderly lady your seat on the bus. What will happen is a four person party will end up with nowhere to sit. I should not single out NND, it is just an example of a smaller place with a huge crowd. I agree, if you are seated by staff and they later ask you to move, that would seem unacceptable, but that was not what I meant.


    5 Apr 11 at 9:59 am

  53. Great rules. I'd like to suggest one additional rule. Put some sound absorbing material in your dining area. I do not want to shout to the waitstaff or my dinner guests because none of us can hear over the clank and din of glass, dishes and silverware and the conversation of fellow patrons. Irksomely noisy dining rooms seems to be the rage anymore but I loathe it. It will drive me away from your establishment. Just this past weekend I brought four guests into a restaurant for lunch where one soft spoken guest was telling us some very interesting accounts of his early life. I couldn't hear a word of it over the godforsaken din in the dining room. And later two of the other guests asked me if I had any idea what the gentleman was telling us. Not a clue. They couldn't hear him either. And not the first time. If I am paying a good price to bring interesting people to your establishment, please make it possible for us to converse with one another.


    5 Apr 11 at 10:09 am

  54. If you, as a customer, enter an establishment without visible management interacting with customers and staff, leave. Are you f'n kidding me?

    What I would hope is that all of you with these "you better know what I need before I think it" attitudes, work in a restaurant for a year. Then see how you will change.

    You guys talk about bad service, what about selfish, asshole customers that come in 5 mins before closing and stay for an hour and a half (on a $20 tab).


    5 Apr 11 at 10:10 am

  55. I cannot stand to enter a nice restaurant (or otherwise even) and be seated directly across or next to the only other occupied table. It is inconsiderate to say the least. We didn't come in together and we aren't old friends - so we don't want to eat together or listen in on each other's conversations.

    I tried to rationalize it by thinking that maybe the servers have predetermined tables and they want to give everyone a shot, but why couldn't they just alternate tables instead? I think I'll just chalk it up to inexperienced, high-school aged hostesses...


    24 May 11 at 11:53 am

  56. Yeah, I made a related comment up in the first several comments, but never got around to making it a rule. It was to the effect that if your restaurant is nearly empty (I eat at odd times..) and there are plenty of comfortable booths available, don't try to seat me at a table in the central walk area just because I'm a party of one...


    24 May 11 at 12:00 pm

  57. I was wondering if you could REMOVE my business from your list of closings... Bubble Tea Cafe at 1260 Bower Parkway is OPEN for business! Thanks!

    Daisy Newson

    28 Jul 11 at 6:11 pm

  58. Some of these are more things the customer should just stop being lazy about and get over it. A great example would be the doors. If a place has double doors, it's for dual traffic much like a road. You wouldn't drive on the left side of the road, so at closing time most restaurants lock the left door so that no more customers can come in. It would be under common sense that the right side, much like on the road, is the door to take.

    Another one is the whole 20 dollars thing. If your meal comes to be around 10 bucks, why pay with a twenty? If you have intentions on tipping, then just ask back the amount that would be left after tipping. It's not that hard of a concept to grasp. Sometimes, believe it or not, registers get emptied of the ones and it just becomes easier to pass out the big bills since that's what most people pay with.


    30 Jun 12 at 1:49 pm

  59. The door thing has nothing to do with closing time, and it's certainly not always the left door that's inexplicably locked.

    Why pay with a $20? Because that's what comes out of ATMs. And, no, sorry, I'm not going to take out my pencil and do the math.


    30 Jun 12 at 4:39 pm

  60. Many phones have a program where you can calculate the tip. Mine isn't a smart phone or anything but it does have a tip calculator. It's one of several things on my phone that I utilize that my mom doesn't have any interest in.


    30 Jun 12 at 9:42 pm

  61. Well, I don't carry a phone, but that's a different thing anyway. Calculating a actual tip is easy, that's just move the decimal point and double. Subtraction is hard :-)


    30 Jun 12 at 10:31 pm

  62. Just a note about the open garbage can idea. It sounds great but just remember that some townships REQUIRE covered garbage cans. I was a restaurant manager for 17 years the frustration level over garbage cans was immense.

    Bill W

    6 Sep 12 at 3:02 pm

  63. I do appreciate that you're not the kind of guy who will walk in 5 minutes before closing and stay for 45 minutes after you eat; that really makes me so happy. However...

    "Why pay with a $20? Because that's what comes out of ATMs. And, no, sorry, I'm not going to take out my pencil and do the math."

    If you can't figure it out in your head then maybe you should retake some basic math classes. It really isn't that difficult.

    "8) Don't Let the Waitresses set the Thermostat
    They are walking around and carrying stuff. It's a hard job, and they are working. I am not, I'm just sitting there gradually freezing to death."

    Do you want sweat dripping down my face and potentially into your food or drink? I don't think you do. If you tend to be cold you should probably keep some sort of jacket in your car.


    6 Sep 12 at 7:51 pm

  64. Look, I'm always going to be as pleasant as possible, but it is the responsibility of people who sell stuff to make change.


    6 Sep 12 at 9:27 pm

  65. You've clearly never worked in a restaurant, there are so many contradictions in this post it's not even funny, generally, you expect the restaurant to be catered entirely to you, what if a different guest requested a TV be turned up or the temperature be changed.
    Different people want different things, the check is dropped off quickly so you don't end up waiting for it (PRO TIP: I only drop of checks 'early' to asshats like you who I want to GTFO, if this happens to you a lot, adjust your behavior) having me stand there while you dig through your purse or wallet is going to take away time from my other guests who deserve the same treatment as you.
    Turning over a table is a huge part of my job, more tables=more money, trust me, it's in my best interest to get you in and out ASAP


    6 Sep 12 at 10:59 pm

  66. I've never built a car either, but I know the 1985 Renault Alliance was a piece of junk.

    Turning over a table only makes you money if there is a line. That is rarely the case where and when I eat. And certainly I don't expect you to stand there while I fool with my wallet -- that's why you drop off the check and come back to pick it up.


    6 Sep 12 at 11:47 pm

  67. BTW if anyone is wondering why folks are dropping in on the restaurant rules page, it was apparently linked in a Forbes Post.


    6 Sep 12 at 11:53 pm

  68. And now you see why I don't go to restaurants....


    7 Sep 12 at 6:33 am

  69. Forbes, huh? Pretty impressive, Ted. Can I have your autograph? :)


    8 Sep 12 at 8:39 pm

  70. One 'X' looks pretty much like another :-)


    8 Sep 12 at 11:11 pm

  71. This is better than most "rules" lists I have seen so far. Haven't gotten to the NY Times one. That statement applies to the list, though, and not many of the comments I have seen. And those of you who are terrible customers don't get to use the rules on this list. (i.e., drink a glass of sweet tea in 45 seconds and get mad because I'm not back from refilling the tea pitcher--no. Not allowed to complain.)

    When it comes to the restaurant environment being loud--don't go. That is how the restaurant chooses to be, it is their marketing and environment strategy. And some people like that, which is why they go there.

    For the hot/cold argument--One customer says its cold, you turn it down, another complains it is hot. You can't please everyone. I bring jackets to restaurants and movie theaters, period. I know I'll probably be cold.

    When it comes to seating, you can always ask (and should be answered with yes) to sit at a different location. Try being a hostess. Keeping the servers, managers, kitchen crew, and customers happy all at the same time isn't the easiest job. But customers come first, so just ASK.

    For the person complaining about the automatic 15%--if I autograt a party that I don't think will tip based on their looks and/or the way they have acted, but don't autograt your table because your looks/actions indicate that you will tip, people can call that discrimination so many restaurants have a policy that you ALWAYS autograt over a certain amount of people. It is NOT up to the server most of the time. We would rather not in many cases. So please don't take out your frustrations on your server by not leaving an additional amount.

    And John, I have to ask, how would YOU PERSONALLY like me to inquire about your meal? Would you rather the waiter not come by? Or is the phrasing of the question so hideous? We ask so far because maybe you haven't gotten to a portion of it. Should we just ask how it was and then never come back because we assume what you haven't gotten to eat was perfect too?

    In general--has anyone looked at all of the contradictory and personal rules? Clear my dishes, don't clear my dishes, bring the check ASAP, don't rush me out...Servers cannot read your mind. End of Story. Also, if you put a credit card/cash in the little black book please make sure it is visible. If we don't know its there we won't take it, because if it isn't there and we do take it you think we are rushing you.

    As for the servers on here who said the customer was being lazy: seriously, quit giving us all a bad name. If you expect the customer to calculate the tip first and order a certain amount of change back what is next? Should they get their own food too? And they have a right to assume the door is unlocked. And a right not to look stupid when running into it, I would dislike that as well.

    But seriously, remember, everyone is different and as a server, I can only do what I think you are wanting. I can't read minds. Be considerate and ask for what you want rather than assume the server knows.


    13 Sep 12 at 10:51 pm

  72. Thanks for the thoughtful and temperate comment Chelle!


    13 Sep 12 at 11:27 pm

  73. After reading the Italian Pie Forest Dr. post and having worked there, I can safely say a fair amount of the problems you encounter are brought on by you. No one should treat you poorly on your first visit, but you use up a table for 3ish hours every time and tip 2 bucks. This would be fine if you would pay your bill after eating and read your book, but you would refuse thus keeping the person at work for however long you cared to linger. All for 2 bucks. We would cringe when we saw you walking up.


    14 Nov 13 at 12:06 pm

  74. After reading the Italian Pie Forest Dr. post and having worked there, I can safely say a fair amount of the problems you encounter are brought on by you. No one should treat you poorly on your first visit, but you use up a table for 3ish hours every time and tip 2 bucks. This would be fine if you would pay your bill after eating and read your book, but you would refuse thus keeping the person at work for however long you cared to linger. All for 2 bucks. We would cringe when we saw you walking up.


    14 Nov 13 at 12:06 pm

  75. You can say that again!


    14 Nov 13 at 1:55 pm

  76. Hey ted, #14 is missing a closing strong HTML tag


    14 Nov 13 at 4:44 pm

  77. The examples given for rules 10 and 13 don't exactly show poor service, just that the author acts like an uppitty dick.

    Officer Shitwyck

    3 Oct 14 at 11:17 am

  78. Very impressive guidance for a small restaurant.


    5 Dec 14 at 9:09 pm

  79. Mushrooms or no mushrooms, Shoney's spaghetti sucks! Don't know if I would even admit to ordering it.


    20 Dec 14 at 2:32 pm

  80. One of my growing pet peeves involves take-out restaurants or restaurants which have a take-out aspect and the size of their drinks. It chafes my butt to order a Large drink and get a thimble with drink in it and be told that is the largest they have.

    Worst offenders in the GCMA include but are not limited to Zestos in West Columbia, Sandy's Hot Dogs on 378 in Lexington, and various other places primarily geared to eat-in, traffic. Why is it so difficult to grasp that if your customer wishes to have you prepare a meal for them to take home, that they may not have adequate drinks at home and would like at least a 32oz cup of drink to take home?

    If I go to Zesto's or Sandy's or some other places, I have to plan to get a decent-size drink from Chic-fil-A, Bojangles, Lizard's Thicket, Rush's, or somewhere else along my route that understands that a customer's thirst may need more than a 16oz thimble full to quench it.


    15 Feb 16 at 2:09 am

  81. Ray, have you ever thought about asking for no ice, or maybe taming your soft drink addiction. I have never seen anyone, nor been with anyone who asked for a 32oz drink to go other than McDonalds (where expected). You want to supersize that belly, err...umm.....order. Who needs 32oz of drink to wash down a hotdog and chips in the first place.
    I am sure it has to do with overhead cost, and they are probably trying to do their part to quell obesity by limiting the size of sugary drinks. Remember, the NYC bill to do away with Big Gulps? Were you out there holding a sign protesting for your right to drink as many 64oz Big Gulps as you desired. Protect those Constitutional Amendments.
    McDonald's, Bojangles, & Lizard's are primarily to go restaurants (Lizard's take out is as popular as their dine-in.), and shame on them for offering 32oz drinks to go anyway. Especially, Lizards.


    17 Feb 16 at 12:39 pm

  82. No matter where I go, If I am getting a to go order for my kids, I ALWAYS ask for NO ICE. Fountain drinks are always cold anyway. And if I am going home and it's not cold enough, we have ice at home.


    17 Feb 16 at 2:02 pm

  83. I just want to some of my input here from a patron, and as only having worked briefly in the fast food segment in high school.
    1. I ask for my bill before the end on my meal, and I hand them payment when they bring it to me. I especially do it when the place is packed, so I don't have to wait an extra 20mins to get my check. when eating with the kids when they were young. You want to be paid up when the meltdown begins, so you can make a fast exit. I aYou will also ensure you get that end of meal refill on drinks if needed, since they will be bringing your check, or picking up your payment. Ask for a refill at those two points.
    2. Ted, I noticed that your eating schedule is not during "traditional" hours that the restaurants prepare/staff for. However, you should be getting all the service you need as they aren't typically as busy at those times. Unless, it's fast food.
    3. If I am alone, then I go into a restaurant to eat, not to hangout unless it's a bar. I don't go to read books, or surf the web, or kill time sipping on a water. I understand that me taking up a table just lingering means that I am taking potential money away from the business owner. It's really as simple as that. Especially, if the restaurant is busy and people are waiting to be seated. Courtesy goes both ways.
    4. I will have to say that if you come in 5 minutes before the lights go out, then you shouldn't expect the full amenities afforded those during prime hours. If it's a fast food place and you want to eat in, then don't be surprised if you get cold fries,and a reheated burger that may, or may not have fallen on the floor . Does anyone really want to work at a fast food joint unless they have to do so to pay the bills. I am sure none of them want to hang out after closing while you slowly eat, surf the internet, or just hanging out killing time. High expectations of these places will continue to be a let down.
    5. Be proactive like Chelle said, and ask for what you want instead of seeing how long it will take the busy waitress to notice your drink needs refilling.


    17 Feb 16 at 2:14 pm

  84. A new peeve that I just discovered, waitstaff herding
    customers into specific areas for their (waitstaff's) own convenience. Hall's restaurant in Lugoff is terrible about this. If I go through the payment line and have a glass of beverage, tray, and silverware, and I don't see a clean table in the main central dining area (but usually several vacated and un -bussed), then I am taking my stuff and sitting in one of the three adjoining dining areas where there ARE clean and vacant tables. It pisses me off no end to have a waitress try and herd me to another area after I have selected a place to sit. Add bonus piss-off points (pop) if they try and herd me back to the central dining area where they are just now cleaning off the recently un-bussed tables Add bonus, bonus, POP's if they do this after I am already seated or if they expect me to stand there, holding a tray and drink, while they finish cleaning off a table that will now be soppy wet from the nasty rag they use to clean it, and every table before, with.

    They try to keep the customers compartmentalized into small areas so they don't have to walk all over to pour you a drink or bus your table when you are through. "My God, how awful! She had to walk another twenty feet to pour his drink." Sorry, but if you didn't have one of the several vacant tables in the central dining area cleaned off and waiting on me by the time I got through the payment line, that is NOT my fault and should not be my problem, as you are trying to make it!!!! I get the feeling the "culture" of this restaurant is to keep the customers herded into as small an area as possible for the convenience of the staff. It becomes "Job 1" for the wait staff and should not be such. Management at Hall's needs to take this bull by the horns and fix it!


    16 Oct 17 at 3:44 pm

  85. Well, Okay, I guess I can add a rant here. Why do they have 2 or 3 different servers in one area? Why not give the whole area to one person? This is everywhere, Applebee's, Buffalo Wild Wings, etc. My table will have 1 server, the table next to me has another, and the table behind me has another. Ridiculous.


    16 Oct 17 at 4:43 pm

  86. Completely agree with that Sidney. The restaurant that my wife and I worked in in High School / College had defined sections for servers and it seemed much more efficient that what you commonly see now.


    17 Oct 17 at 7:29 am

  87. I have stopped eating at Moe's because of the irritation at questioning the toppings when they are spelled out on the menu.

    Why would I ordered the item that says it comes with sour cream and guacamole if i didn't want it.

    Also, it makes me fear that they are going to then charge me extra for ingredients that are supposed to be a part of the package.

    Really, I want fewer options at restaurants. Subway is an example of that. I don't really want to put that much thought into a lunch I have clearly already have given up on.

    Lastly, commenting on the speed or size of my appetite will likely mean I don't come back. I have a family member I refuse to eat with or have over because she has to monitor and comment upon what everyone eats. "You are eating ANOTHER dessert?!" "Wow, that's a large portion."

    Doug D

    24 Oct 17 at 3:14 pm

  88. Doug, I cured my mother in law of that by politely telling her to mind her own damn plate. My father in law found that hilarious.

    Joe Shlabotnik

    24 Oct 17 at 8:33 pm

  89. Agree completely about Moes!

    I used to could just order "An Art Vandaley with onions and jalapenos added", and all was well. Then at some point they seemed to forget what was in an Art Vandaley and I had to specify every ingredient, and heaven help me if I forgot to list one of the basic ones, like lettuce. Now they have even forgotten how to spread the ingredients throughout the length of the burrito so you have bites where you only get beans, or only get guacamole etc..

    Panera is very bad for playing 20 questions as well. No I don't have a Panera card. No I don't want a bakery item. I told you my side item in my initial recitation..


    25 Oct 17 at 12:15 am

  90. Mmm.....Moe's.


    25 Oct 17 at 11:13 am

  91. I'm just curious really. I live in northwest nj and hubby and I frequent the diners in the area. seems when a single person comes in, sits at a table or booth. the waitress will clear the extra setting. silverware... why? is there a old time meaning behind this practice? I kind of remember seeing this as a child as well. that's at least 50 years.

    Su san

    11 May 19 at 7:14 pm

  92. Ohhhhh, so now I know why guests complain to *me* about the thermostat that is controlled by corporate. Because they think my sweaty ass is adjusting it to the apparently frigid temperature of 79 degrees Fahrenheit. I had a lady refuse to leave a tip once after I explained, apologized, sympathized, and even offered her my coat (because wth else can I do), because I refused to change the temperature due to nobody in the building having any control over it.

    Oh, and people - the reason you're "sat on top of" other guests is because servers have assigned sections. If the restaurant is empty, there are likely to be very few servers, so the occupied tables will be concetrated to those "open" sections. You are welcome to request another table, but please be mindful of the fact that the next server might come in 10 minutes later and probably wouldn't appreciate you lingering in her section during the entire dinner rush. And it also might affect the quality of service a bit if you're located very far from the server's other tables, especially if they're busy, or if the host fails to inform the server that they need to pick up that table.


    23 Jan 20 at 6:00 am

  93. I think another rule for restaurants - or most businesses - is having an actual web page. It's annoying when a business only has a Facebook, Instagram, or a link to some third-party online ordering service (I see that sometimes on Google maps - links that take you to third-party ordering). People are starting to reduce or quit social media. Those sites make it difficult to look at a page if you don't have an account.


    8 Aug 22 at 1:58 am

  94. That is a good one: A Facebook page is very annoying to those (like myself) not on Facebook.


    8 Aug 22 at 6:16 pm

  95. A restaurant question: Some servers will place the rolls of silverware at the end of the table, so that the diners reach for them and pass them around. Other servers will distribute each roll to every diner. This also happens with menus occasionally. Is there a reason to do it one way instead of the other? I am not complaining; just curious.


    31 Aug 23 at 9:21 pm

  96. Looking for any info on the old skateboard park on Decker in the early to mid-70's. It was located about where the KFC is now. After the skateboard park, it was a "Jeff Price" Tennis & Ski place?


    26 Oct 23 at 10:42 am

  97. To add to Rule 9, yes mute the TV and if you are showing sports please don't turn on the captions. I can see what is going on and I dont need words displaying over the game and getting in the way while i am trying to watch.


    14 Feb 24 at 3:32 pm

  98. The register at the counter should not be prompting people to tip before their food is even made. We went to one such place.

    Along with the other things that people are now asked to tip for, i.e. a simple to-go coffee.


    16 Feb 24 at 8:58 am

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