• Susie Wilson

Restaurant Etiquette

Susie Wilson Etiquette Expert has compiled a list of some of the worst behaviours she’s seen from patrons in restaurants.

Here are the 23 worst examples —and ways to make sure you’re not on it the list.




1. Don’t click your fingers, or whistle, at a waiter. Sure, you’ll probably get an instant response, but it will also come with anger at being treated like a dog. Ask yourself if you want to make the person who will be carrying your meal from the kitchen hungry for retribution.


2. Don’t not turn up for your booking. If you can’t make it, cancel it. It’s rude and unfair to the restaurant if you just ignore it. And if you don’t cancel, we’ll see more and more restaurants move to charging a non-refundable upfront fee when booking.


3. Don’t ask for split bills. We’ve all got a calculator on our phones, so if it matters that much, do it yourself at the end of the meal and sort it out between the group.


4. Don’t argue about varying the dishes. Most restaurants and cafes try to accommodate special requests, but the only way a couple of chefs running a small kitchen can handle a crazy service is to have much of the mise en place already done. Therefore, it may not be possible to leave the garlic out of the sauce or make a vegetarian version of that puttanesca.


5. Don’t blow your nose on your napkin. Worryingly, this is far more common than you might hope in a civilised society. The poor floor staff will have to pick it up when you leave. Eeeeew!


6. Don’t have a shouting match in a romantic restaurant. Save the row for your car ride home. In fact, squawking and bellowing is seldom OK in any restaurant or cafe – as the woman I love often reminds me.


7. Don’t book for six and, without letting the place know in advance, only turn up as three. Most places are relieved if you warn them far enough in advance that numbers have changed so they can use their table capacity to maximum efficiency – and to find other diners for those three free seats.


8. Don’t claim you have allergies when you don’t. I’m told this is especially galling when a conscientious waiter makes sure that the meal you ordered hasn’t even been near a peanut so you don’t go into anaphylactic shock, only for them to then see you tasting your partner’s satay sauce.


9. Don’t do a runner. Firstly, it’s theft. But also remember that in some cases it won’t be head office that wears the bill you don’t pay – rather the person serving you.

10. If for any reason you bleed, take the blood-stained tissues home to dispose of. Don’t leave them on your side plate.


11. Don’t order the under-10s kids’ meals … if the kids dining with you are wearing the local high-school uniform.


12. Don’t eat half the steak … and then complain that 1) it’s not cooked the way you like it; 2) it’s disgusting; or 3) it’s cold.


13. If you’re grumpy because you’ve had a bad day at work or the kids have finally worn you down … don’t take this out on the poor person who is just trying to help you get fed and watered.

It’s better to be nice to the staff, regardless of your own mood. Picture: iStock




14. When dining in a big group, don’t be the heel who splits the bill, telling everyone the total with service and then uses these service contributions to pay his share of the bill. Note: If you see the floor staff flicking their collars as you leave, you’ll know they’ve been short-changed – and your generosity in tipping has been subverted by the bloke who collected the money.


15. Don’t dry your hand on the waiter’s apron … even if there are no paper towels left in the bathroom.


16. Do clean up after your kids. Accidents will happen and kids will be kids, but if total mayhem is created and food thrown all over the floor, at least make a show of reducing the chaos before you leave. Failing that, tip heftily and apologise profusely.


17. If you have over-imbibed and are cut off, it’s time to leave. Don’t ever throw your empty glass at the staff member who has cut you off, or argue in a slurred voice about their judgment of you.


18. Do take your soiled nappies home with you. Don’t leave them in the toilets or under the table – even if they are in a plastic bag.


19. Don’t crowd or block the toilets. You know who you are…


20. If local rules say you have to, don’t refuse to wear a face mask. It’s not fair to put the server in the position of having to enforce any such rules.


21. Don’t turn up claiming you booked for eight when you don’t have a booking – especially if the place only takes bookings for up to six. There are few things more pathetic than a liar caught out.


22. If you go to a no-bookings restaurant and you’re told it’s a half-hour wait for a table, don’t then scream at the manager after waiting 15 minutes.


23. Don’t bully the waiter. They’re there to serve you, but they’re not your servants. Remember what they say in that Kingsman movie? “Manners maketh man” – and woman, for that matter.