11 things you should never do at a chain restaurant, according to former employees

Dining at a restaurant isn't an excuse to be rude or messy.

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Dining at a restaurant isn’t an excuse to be rude or messy.
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Shutterstock

Servers, hosts, and bartenders at chain restaurants may deal with hundreds of diners a week, so courteous guests can make their lives much easier.

Insider spoke with current and former employees to figure out what customers do to really irk chain-restaurant staff and how to avoid becoming the least popular guest in the building.


Don’t expect to be served just before closing time.

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You might want to go somewhere else if the restaurant you’d like to visit closes in 10 minutes.
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Getty

Restaurant staff generally hate it when customers stroll in a few minutes before closing time and expect to be served.

“My biggest annoyance when working in restaurants is people who come in just before closing time,” former chain-restaurant worker John Frigo told Insider. “If a restaurant is open until 9 p.m. and you come in at 8:50 p.m., not only do the staff have to wait for you to eat and then clean up after you, but the kitchen staff has already cleaned the grill, cleaned the fryers, started putting most things away.”

In addition to needing to re-clean equipment, tables, and floors, staff may also be forced to cancel after-work commitments due to the appearance of latecomers.

To be considerate, Frigo advised not stepping foot inside a restaurant that’s within 30 minutes of closing. Allowing at least an hour between your arrival and the posted closing time is always best.


Never ever snap your fingers or “hiss” at a server to get their attention.

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Whistling, hissing, or yelling is rude and disrespectful behavior.
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tartanparty/Shutterstock

The most efficient way to become your server’s least favorite customer is to snap your fingers or use random sounds to get their attention.

“The rudest and most disrespectful way to get a server’s attention – or any human being’s attention – is by snapping or hissing at them. I hated when customers would try and wave me over and ‘psst psst’ until I met their gaze,” said Aixa Bellido de Luna, a former waitress at a popular family-focused restaurant chain.

Far more acceptable ways to get your server’s attention are to say “excuse me” or indicate politely that you need something with a discreet wave.


Allowing kids to run around the restaurant is rude and it can be dangerous.

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Allowing children to roam the dining area is a recipe for disaster.
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“Parents letting their children run amok in a restaurant is something that happens quite often. Not only does it make the child and parent look bad, it’s super dangerous as servers are going from the kitchen to the bar to tables with unstable trays carrying drinks and hot food,” explained de Luna.

Adults should also keep an eye on their children at the table and prevent them from getting “creative” with the condiments, napkins, or decor.

“It’s also annoying when children at the table play around with table settings,” said de Luna. “Why do parents not stop their kid when they see they have opened 20 packets of sugar?”


You might want to avoid complaining to your server about the strength of discount drinks and cocktail specials.

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Your server can’t really do much about it.
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bogdanhoda/Shutterstock

One way that chain restaurants try to get customers through the door is by marketing seasonal and limited-offer alcoholic drinks.

These drinks are often attractively priced, but you shouldn’t expect them to be strong, artisan cocktails.

“It’s very annoying when guests complain about the ‘watery’ taste or lack of liquor in discount drinks. If you’ve ordered a $1 drink, you should know that it won’t contain top-shelf liquor and may not be very strong,” said de Luna.

Discount cocktails and drink specials are often pre-made in batches according to the chain’s recipe and dispensed by the bartenders, explained de Luna. Your server likely has nothing to do with crafting your cocktail and can’t do anything about the house recipe.


Don’t put your used tissues on the table.

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Your table isn’t a garbage can.
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Shutterstock

Melissa Robertson, a former waitress at an Italian restaurant chain, told Insider that customers should never leave used tissues or other germy items behind for others to clean up.

“Do not leave a dirty tissue on your table. This is not only disgusting, but a great way to spread germs to those who are constantly working with the public,” said Roberston.

This etiquette applies to other body-fluid-filled items as well, such as anything used to stem a bloody nose or clean up baby spit-up.


Avoid leaving a big mess behind.

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There’s no need to put used utensils on the table.
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Shutterstock

It’s obvious that part of the appeal of dining out is the freedom from dish duty, but that doesn’t mean customers should leave a massive mess in their wake for staff to deal with.

“Many people take advantage of the fact that they do not have to participate in the clean up after their meal,” said Roberston. “Throwing food all over the floor, putting napkins in used glasses, and leaving excess garbage on the table are all unacceptable.”

Roberston added that though stacking your dishes after you’ve finished eating can be helpful, it’s not strictly necessary. In fact, piling up dishes and glasses incorrectly may leave the stack too heavy or lopsided for the server to successfully carry.


Try not to bring your shopping bags or bulky items into the restaurant.

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They can become a danger for servers and patrons who are trying to walk by.
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Shutterstock

After a long day of shopping, it’s natural to want to sit down and refuel with a good meal.

However, walking into a restaurant with a ton of shopping bags in tow isn’t ideal for fellow patrons or servers.

“If you shopped that day, do not bring your 17 bags of merchandise into the store and plop them down in a pile next to your table. The bags are a major trip hazard and are in the way when we’re trying to take your order and drop off food and drinks to your table and neighboring tables,” Kelly Reddington, a former server at a popular chain restaurant, told Insider.

Instead of piling your haul next to your table, stash the bags in your car before heading into the restaurant or tuck them beneath your chair. If you really must bring bags into the dining room, ask your server where to stow them in order to avoid any accidents.


Don’t walk up to the host stand or bar while on your phone.

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It’s always polite to give people your full attention
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Shutterstock

You wouldn’t try to start an in-person conversation while chatting on the phone, so don’t attempt to request a drink or table from restaurant staff without hanging up first.

“When customers approach the host stand or bar on their phone, they’re implying that the staff member is not as important as their phone call,” bartender and author Johnny Welsh told Insider.

Welsh explained that phone use slows down service, as customers on their devices are usually slow to respond to information and questions from staff.

If you want your restaurant experience to go smoothly, keep your phone in your pocket until all orders are in.


Don’t try to “hack” happy hour by ordering yourself two drinks at a time.

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It’s a little bit sneaky.
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Shutterstock

Many chain restaurants have drink specials that run during a certain time each day or week – and one surefire way to irk bar staff and servers is to put in a last-minute request for multiple drinks just before happy hour ends.

“Every now and again a customer will try to order two drinks at the same time because it is one minute before the end of happy hour, or tries to order for their friend who is on their way. This can be annoying,” said Welsh.

Your mileage with this bargain-hunting behavior will vary – many establishments (and cities) have a strict one drink per person rule.

Even if the bar staff agrees to make you two drinks at once, this kind of sneaky ordering tactic is never appreciated.


Don’t blame the host for a long wait.

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It’s not their fault you have to wait.
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Oli Scarff / Getty Images

Waiting for a table at a restaurant can be frustrating, especially when your stomach is growling.

But no matter how hungry you are, getting upset with the host won’t get you seated any faster.

“It’s not the host’s fault that people are eating dinner and wish to take their time finishing up their meal. It’s not the restaurant management’s fault you have to wait. It’s a necessary evil of wanting to eat at a chain restaurant on a busy weekend night,” said Reddington.


You should never forget to tip at a chain restaurant.

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Most of the times servers, bartenders, and hosts rely on tips.
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Trong Nguyen/Shutterstock

It may not be a Michelin-starred establishment, but your local chain restaurant is still staffed by servers who often rely on tips to make ends meet.

For example, in the US, workers who regularly receive at least $30 in tips per month may be paid as little as $2.13 per hour in wages, which is well below the US federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

De Luna explained that neglecting to tip may mean your server finishes a long shift without much cash to show for it.

“At many chain restaurants, servers at the end of their shift must give 3% to 6% of sales to the bartenders and hosts to split, as they also helped serve the restaurant guests. When a guest does not tip, the server is essentially using their own tip money from other tables to compensate for the sales,” said de Luna.

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