Food Manners: 13 Things Customers Do At Restaurants That Chefs And Owners Can’t Stand (And 10 They Appreciate)

Everyone has bad days, and that's okay—as long as a bad day isn't taken out on the staff responsible for dinner that evening. Many of us have been to restaurants where we either weren't impressed with the food or had an issue with the service—it's just human nature. What's not human nature, though, is to make that well known in the most obnoxious way possible. Chefs are known for having short tempers, and while that's a stereotype, it doesn't mean that they have endless patience either. Some customers just enjoy crossing the line, while others don't even realize they're doing that, but we're about to make that line clear as day.

While the front-of-house staff takes a majority of the criticism, some of that feedback does make its way to the kitchen. It can be stressful not only on the staff but on the chef as well to know there are unsatisfied customers in the dining room. Additionally, there are things that can completely change the mood and the atmosphere of the kitchen if a customer is satisfied with a meal and goes the extra step. Keep in mind that critiques affect everyone, from servers all the way up to the owners of an establishment. Here are 20 things that affect them all, both good and bad.

23 Annoying: It's Okay To Modify A Menu Item, Just Not Entirely

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It should go without saying that what's on the menu is what's offered, but it's not always that obvious for some. When having a meal at a restaurant, the goal is to order something from the list of available dishes—not to create your own. While simple modifications such as excluding certain things or adding another menu item are widely acceptable, requesting a complete overhaul can mean trouble for the kitchen. A surefire way to get on a chef's nerves is by ordering a completely new dish that can be inefficient both cost and time-wise. The best course of action is to choose a restaurant based on foods that you can and want to eat, rather than what can be modified.

22 Annoying: Sending Food Back... More Than Once

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It happens; occasionally, something will be wrong with a dish. Regardless of whether it hasn't been cooked correctly, came with or without something, or just wasn't what was ordered, it's not the end of the world if it needs to be brought back to the kitchen. What can cause stress is when a dish is sent back multiple times and it's not via the fault of the kitchen staff. A prime example of this is when a customer orders a cut of meat rare, medium, etc. but isn't well versed in the appropriate temperature or appearance of meat at that stage. The kitchen staff should be well versed in this knowledge and is likely temping the food before it ever leaves the line. Customers who order a specific temperature should be well versed in what they like, too.

21 Appreciated: Considering The Menu And Making A Compromise


Speak of the devil! Going out for a bite is exciting and fun and should be personal. No one wants to go to a restaurant that he or she's not interested in with food that seems unappealing. It's a common practice that the restaurant of your and your party's choosing should be one on which everyone, not just a select few, agrees with. Once that's been decided, a helpful tip is to look up the menu online. Does it have dishes for everyone? Can slight moderations be added to make it more appealing? Is it in your comfort zone? Once these have been answered, arriving at a decision will be much easier... for all involved as well as the restaurant staff.

20 Annoying: There's A Difference Between Preference And Allergy

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Ah, the big kahuna. After a party has been seated and their minds have been made up as far as dining choices go, the last thing any server wants to hear is "Can this be modified? I'm on such and such meal plan," "can't eat any sugar," "no starch or grains," etc. Now, this isn't to say that there can't be modifications as long as they're within reason. Asking the kitchen to overhaul an entire dish, however, rather than just leaving something out or adding one or two ingredients, puts a strain on the staff. If there's an allergy involved, it's imperative that the server is alerted immediately before orders are even placed.

19 Annoying: Specials Are Special For A Reason

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Walking into a restaurant in the mindset that every item—including specials—can be altered at your will is just pure nonsense. Usually, specials are what happens when a restaurant wants to provide an elevated or unique dish, receives overstock of a certain item, or is running out of something and has a limited quantity. Therefore, restrictions apply to these menu items, as altering them will be costly and completely counteract the purpose of them being "special." It's rare that these dishes can be altered and are usually an "as is" dish. If you choose a special, put your trust in the chef that he or she will deliver something worthy of being called a special, or don't order it at all.

18 Appreciated: Trying Something Out Of Your Comfort Zone

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Whether it's a special menu item or something else, many restaurants will have one or two dishes that fall outside of their traditional menu. These dishes are fun additions for those who are seeking something a bit different, whether they be vegetarian, vegan, a unique cut of meat, or borrow from another cuisine. This could also include a rotating menu item—for example, something that's cooked seasonally. It's always appreciated by the chef and owner(s) of a restaurant if these dishes are ordered because it shows that they have versatile customers and a level of trust in what they decide to put on their menu.

17 Annoying: Leaving An Unnecessarily Poor Review

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We get it—some restaurants truly do earn their poor reviews. On the other hand, a busy restaurant that accidentally missed something in your order doesn't call for a parade of pitchforks. A negative review can do so much more damage than anyone realizes, as it's displayed for the entire world to read. Customers should consider their actions carefully before torching a restaurant based on individual factors that were likely minor in the grand scheme of things. Barring a catastrophic meal, leave the bashing to Gordon Ramsay and close the Yelp app.

16 Annoying: If Something Is 86'ed, It's Gone

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No, servers aren't just telling you that the kitchen is out of something in order to keep you from ordering it. No, it's not a personal vendetta—it simply means that it's been "86'ed", i.e., there's nothing left of it in the kitchen. This often happens on busy nights and should not be surprising at a popular restaurant. The problem occurs when customers are angered by it, resulting in a tense situation not only for the staff but the owner as well. The best course of action is to call ahead if there's a menu item you're keen on or—even easier—simply ask for a recommendation on the next best dish.

15 Appreciated: Not Stressing Your Server Out

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This is, without a doubt, a solid way to stress out the entire restaurant. While the kitchen staff is relatively separate from what's happening in the front of the house, it doesn't always mean that servers will keep their distance. If a customer is on a rampage over a dish, this can sometimes snake its way to the back of the house as well as to the owner, causing tension amongst the establishment. Servers have an incredibly tough job that they're forced to do with a constant smile, and that's something to keep in mind if there's an issue. Kindness goes much further than anger for both parties involved.

14 Annoying: Please Don't Change Your Mind After Your Server Walks Away

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This is especially important to note when dining at a restaurant that has tablets rather than traditional pen-and-paper tickets. Once the decision has been made on a food order, those orders are then sent immediately to the POS (point of sale) system in the kitchen, where they flash on a screen and the line begins working. Due to this, it's important to know exactly what to say, complete with any questions or modifications, before the order is ever sent back. At that point, it's challenging for the server, who then needs to run to the kitchen and manually modify an order—which can be extremely stressful on a busy shift.

13 Appreciated: Being Ready To Order And Well Versed On The Menu

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This is well appreciated by everyone in the restaurant. This doesn't necessarily mean that a customer can't ask questions, but they should be ready to ask them and not be shy about it. Knowing something about the menu is also helpful, especially in today's day and age where using technology is similar to the act of breathing... second nature. If a customer is familiar with the menu, it shows. This also means that a customer was thoughtful and cared enough to know exactly what they're getting into, which results in a pleasant dining experience and appreciation from owners and kitchen staff as well.

12 Annoying: If You Annoy Front Of House, You Annoy Back Of House

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Guess what? The server that was just badgered with questions and harassed over the food they didn't cook now needs to bring this information back to the kitchen, where a chef will take the brunt of it. Constantly nitpicking about something that can't be helped—such as the timing of when food comes out in an obviously busy restaurant—only leads to stress. A customer who's annoying is the one who isn't appreciated as a paying customer should be. By initiating a stress response at the table, a customer could be unleashing what could be a poor start to the night overall. This tense atmosphere isn't conducive to any good business.

11 Appreciated: Considering Others In The Restaurant, Including Staff


Don't make a scene, ask questions respectfully, and consider that a restaurant operates with both a front of house serving staff as well as a back of house cooking staff. If open communication and concerns are voiced in a well-mannered way from the get-go, customers will ensure that they're doing the best thing possible in order to get the best result. It's highly appreciated when customers remain calm and speak in an even tone, as opposed to those who don't mind raising their voices and bothering those around them. Additionally, this will allow the server responsible for the table to do the same when communicating this to the chef.

10 Annoying: The Kitchen Isn't On Your Time, They're On Restaurant Time


There's nothing worse than having a customer walk into a busy restaurant, wait in line for 45 minutes, and then complain that food is coming out too slowly. The only thing servers can do at this point is to check the status on their food—but that's it. A kitchen is run by humans and, as such, this means they're just that: human. Food doesn't get cooked with superhuman speed, regardless of where one's dining. It's one thing to wait for food at a half-filled restaurant for an hour; it's another to sit in a packed dining room and complain about food taking 30 minutes to arrive at the table. The kitchen staff and their chef can only put food out as quickly as it takes to fully cook.

9 Appreciated: Not Sitting On Your Phone As Soon As You've Been Seated


A pet peeve of many is social media. Some restaurants will even clarify that sitting on the phone isn't appreciated, by either them or the other diners around you. If a customer's phone happens to be more important than giving their server a matter of several minutes to order, then perhaps, eating out isn't the right option at that moment. This can result in a serious annoyance and can also slow down the rate of orders making their way back to the kitchen. Things will run much smoother if a customer is seated and immediately decides on drinks. After that, the proper course of action is to decide on a starter, and possibly, the entree, if ordering all at once. This is much appreciated!

8 Annoying: Avoid Making Your Own Menu


The menu is there for a reason, and that reason is certainly not for personal manipulation. Choosing something off the menu is encouraged while picking something from your own mental menu is not. The kitchen is only filled with ingredients and prep for the menu that has been placed in front of the customer, with special allocations for allergies only. Minor modifications are fine, but anything outside of that comes off as an annoyance and is usually impossible. If a menu isn't up to par with a customer's likes in the first place, then there's no reason to eat there.

7 Appreciated: Complimenting The Entire Kitchen Staff


The old saying "My compliments to the chef" goes a long way when it comes to a restaurant. What's even better is when a customer goes as far as complimenting the entire kitchen staff. Behind every great executive chef is a line of line cooks, prep cooks who come in before most people even awaken, and occasionally a sous chef who jumps in wherever needed, no questions asked. It's this staff that provides you with the meals customers love so much, and they're all equally deserving of the praise that would normally only be given to the chef. Don't be afraid to spread the love!

6 Annoying: Reservations Affect All Aspects Of The Kitchen


Reservations are great and wonderful aspects of dining out, especially when made in advance and kept properly. However, they do affect every aspect of a restaurant—from the amount of food the kitchen orders to the amount of staff scheduled to work and everything in between. A table will be reserved and a wait list will be started; therefore, it's imperative to either keep or cancel reservations within a respectable amount of time. This is even more important for large parties, as customers can really throw a wrench into restaurant operations if they a) show up without a reservation, or b) don't show up at all.

5 Appreciated: Being A Few Minutes Early


If customers have made proper reservations and happen to be a large group, it's highly appreciated that they show up a few minutes early. This will both confirm the reservation while giving the restaurant staff ample time to prepare, full-well knowing that the party has arrived and won't be late. It will make breakfasts, lunches, dinners, etc., run much more smoothly if customers show up for reservations on time, preventing unnecessary stress and back-to-back orders in the event that they're late. On the side of the customer, you never know—this might also open up early seating, which may allow a group to sit down slightly earlier than expected.

4 Annoying: Last-Minute Catering Orders


Some restaurants offer catering, and this can get especially chaotic around the holidays. While it's perfectly fine and highly appreciated that customers do business with their local restaurants, it should always be done in a timely manner. When a restaurant declares they're taking orders up until a certain point, that usually means they've pre-planned what they can handle and when. A last-minute catering order can do two things: put the owner in the tough position of either saying no and losing potential business or saying yes and putting stress on his or her kitchen staff. Neither of these is appreciated.

3 Appreciated: Putting Catering Orders In ASAP Around The Holidays


Yes, please do this! It's a wonderful thing to support restaurants in catering endeavors, as this can be beneficial to everyone around the holidays. Customers who get their orders in early are praised highly because they allow the staff to have ample time both planning and preparing your meal. This is especially appreciated for large orders. All catering ingredients, prep, paper goods, etc., must be ordered prior to orders being made—this is why it's so important to get those orders in early. It saves the restaurant a ton of stress and will ensure that their customers receive the best service possible.

2 Annoying: Coming In Minutes Before Closing


Commonly joked about amongst the closing crew, last-minute customers are the bane of a kitchen's existence. Think about it this way: after dinner is over, what do we do? Clear away plates, wipe down the table, wrap up and store leftovers, wash the dishes, etc. This exact process is true of a restaurant, whose staff often begins this within 20 minutes to a half hour of closing. It's more than a pet peeve when customers stroll in with ten minutes to go until close, especially when they're well aware of the closing time and simply don't care. Don't be that person.

1 Appreciated: Having An Allergy Card Or List Ready For Reference

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Many restaurants support and encourage this because while things can get lost in translation by word of mouth, a physical card can be handed to the line or chef for references. Allergies are serious business but shouldn't keep anyone from eating out, and having a reference card that details exactly what they are can be incredibly helpful. Coming in with a list of food allergies can also work as long as it's self-explanatory. Another option is to call the restaurant beforehand so that they can make the proper accommodations and answer any questions. This is more for the sake of the customer rather than the kitchen staff, whose job it is to ensure safety as well as a pleasant dining experience.

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