13 Most Common (And Annoying) Mistakes You’re Making When Eating Out

eating out mistakes

Are you the type of person who’s always asking to speak to a manager when at a restaurant? Do your friends avoid dining out with you because of your constant meal issues — even though these mishaps are seemingly never your fault? Well, I’m not here to place blame on anyone, but these bad dining experience could have something to do with…you. Proper restaurant behavior is acquired from experience and attentiveness, which means that different people learn dining etiquette at different paces. But let’s be honest here — most complaining guests are at the bottom of the dining etiquette scale.

(Yeah, sorry, but I said it.)

Restaurants are just like any other type of business and have an order of operations. When a guest is making requests and behaving in a way that’s counterintuitive to this strategy, friction and hangry (when hungry and angry meet) attitudes arise. For example, have you ever requested your burger to be well-done and the server respectfully replied with a no?

This can be baffling, and you may become enraged, but I’ll have a reason for this reply shortly.


Before the rage typing begins for your Yelp review, consider this article and re-evaluate your actions. I promise that these tips will put everything into perspective for you, and that dining out will become enjoyable again (call your friends and tell them you’re a new person). Allow me to elaborate on the most common mistakes guests make while dining out at a restaurant.

1. Not notifying the server of allergies before ordering.


Big mistake: When a guest assumes that the server will recognize their allergies by their order. If you request to have almonds left out of your salad, that is not telling the server you have a nut allergy.

You must specify your dietary restrictions to the server before ordering.

Even if you read the menu and think you’re safe from an allergic reaction, still state your allergy. There could be a secret ingredient in your meal you’re not aware that you might be allergic too as well.

2. Not being completely present during the dining experience.


When dining out, there is always a strategy when it comes to how a restaurant is assembled, so they can provide the guests with an excellent meal and atmosphere.

Therefore, I only request one thing from you: Stay off your dang phone!

Soak in the ambiance of the restaurant (and remember this is all included in the cost of your meal). Have a conversation with your dining partner — better yet, have a conversation with the staff, too. Be present, eat, drink, and be merry!

3. Requesting items or order changes from someone other than the server.


This isn’t a complete mistake, sometimes needing butter is an urgent matter while the bread is still warm. However, keep in mind that your request might get miscommunicated when it goes through more than one person.

A better idea is to ask for your server instead.

And when they arrive, request everything you need…and this brings me to my next point.

4. Not asking the server for everything you need all at once. 


I know this can be hard at times, because a guest may not need extra salt or pepper until halfway through the meal. But if you can avoid constantly sending your server back and forth (remember they have other tables to tend to), that would be greatly appreciated by the staff.

You will also have fewer pauses in your meal.

Don’t worry about bombarding your server at once with several requests (it’s their job to remember).

5. Signaling that you’re done with your meal when you aren’t. 


It’s extremely annoying when you’re not finished eating and your plate is taken from you. However, your knife and fork could be the reason it happens. Utensils non-verbally signal your eating status, so that the staff doesn’t have to interrupt conversations.

When you’re not finished, but are taking a break from eating, your knife (blade inwards) should be placed on the right side of your plate at a 4’o clock angle. Your fork should be on the left side of the plate at an 8 o’clock angle.

When your utensils, both fork and knife, are together in the middle of your plate (usually at an 8 o’clock angle), this signals that you are done eating. Hopefully, this information will save you from the mini panic attack that can occur when you have your half-eaten truffle fries removed from your face.

6. Requesting changes to the preparation of a meal.


Do you have any chef friends? I do, and they can be very sensitive when it comes to their food. Chefs are not open to changing their recipes.

The reasoning behind this is a toss up between prep time and ingredient costs.

If you receive this message back from the kitchen, do not get mad at the server — they are not making the meals. But if your special changes are accepted, they could take longer to make (no matter the size of the change), so don’t complain about a wait.

7. No warning about complex bill-splitting beforehand. 


If you’re splitting the bill more than two ways, let your server know what the bill situation will be before ordering. This will leave less room for errors on your bill.

Also, it will give the server the opportunity to tell you about any bill restrictions the establishment may have.

8. Putting dirty silverware on the table. 


In between your meal courses, it’s common to see people place the fork used for their appetizer on the table when waiting for the entrée. This is gross (don’t trust a restaurant table).

That fork has been in direct contact with your mouth.

Also, the proper silverware will be provided for you in between each course, so there’s no need to save a used utensil and dirty your table.

9. Improper placement of your napkin.


Once you are seated by the host and food is ordered, your napkin should be placed in your lap and not returned to the table until you are completely finished with your meal. This standard also varies between cultures.

When leaving the table to attend the restroom, some people place the napkin on their chair, while others place the napkin on the left side of their plate.

Both signal to the staff that you are not done with your meal.

If the napkin is placed anywhere else on the table, it could signal that you are done and your meal will be taken.

10. Not asking about items you are unfamiliar with. 


If the menu isn’t clear to you, ask questions before ordering. The server and basically every staff member in that restaurant should be able to inform you about the menu options.

The more questions asked, the better you’ll feel about ordering.

There’s no fun in sending a meal back because it’s not what was expected, and it will intensify your hanger.

11. Not tipping enough.


Personally, I think servers are not tipped enough as is — the 15% standard should move to 20%. In my opinion, dining out is a luxury, and if your financial status doesn’t allow you to leave an appropriate tip, you should reconsider eating at that particular restaurant.

Also, the entire tip does not go to the server.

Support staff — the bussers, host, bartender — must also be tipped out of the amount you leave.

12. Leaving your phone on the table.


Thank me later, because this will save you from buying a new phone once the busser spills water on it. This will also save you from your partner seeing the text message from your ex that just came through.

Spare yourself from the drama and leave your phone off the table.

13. Uncool behavior toward staff members. 


I’ll keep this one short. This staff is handling the food that is about to enter your body. They are also providing a service for you by preparing it and carrying it to your table.


Food should bring people together — not start a war.

Avoid these mistakes and watch how enlightened your dining experiences become.


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