If your steak has ever been spoiled by a side of rudeness, we've got news for you—it might your fault. When it comes to restaurant table manners, veteran servers say the customer isn't always right.
Here are 10 ways to be the best customer you can be:
Tip 15 percent or more. Waitresses depend on tips for about 90 percent of their income, as they can earn as little as $2.15 an hour. They must also share their tips with bus staff, bartenders, hostesses and food runners. "We may keep only 80 to 70 cents of every dollar we get, sometimes less," says Steve Dublanica, author of Waiter Rant.
Tip at buffets. If you've ever left a buffet without tipping, consider yourself warned—standard tipping rules absolutely apply. Your server still brings drinks, gives great service and has to clear three times as many plates.
Treat your waitress with respect. Just because she's serving you food doesn't mean she's a servant. "When you go to a restaurant, you want what you want when you want it—and to some degree that's what you should get at a restaurant," Steve says. "But when people start thinking that we're not human ... it hurts."
Put down the cell phone. If you absolutely have to make a call, wait until after you've heard the specials and everyone has placed their order. Otherwise, you'll hold up your dinner—and everyone else's.
Don't place blame where it doesn't belong. Your waitress doesn't mix every drink and sear every steak. If you don't like something, it isn't her fault. "If your steak is undercooked, I'll be happy to get you another one," says Tara, a waitress at Carmichael's in Chicago. "Just let me know, and I'll get it out as soon as I can."
Urge your kids to be on their best behavior. There's nothing more frustrating than going out to dinner and having the night ruined by the screaming kids at the next table. Teach your children to be respectful and courteous at every meal—especially in public. Your waitress—and fellow dinners—will thank you.
Don't ask to change tables. Seating on a busy night is like a house of cards—one wrong move and the whole thing comes tumbling down. "Two people take less time to eat than four people. Six people take more time to eat than four people. So we plan according to those times," Steve says. "If you change one table, everything gets thrown off."
Ask for the check. On a calm night, it's actually impolite for the waiter to drop the check on the table. "If you're having a wonderful evening, the last thing I want to do is go, 'Bang, here's the check,'" Steve says. Speak up when you're ready to go.
Don't overstay your welcome. The only time it's acceptable for a waiter to hand you the check is during a busy night. "If I've got to get you out of there, I will drop the check on your table," Steve says. "Getting another table means the waiter makes more money, the restaurant makes more money, everyone there makes more money because it's a business and we've got to move things along."
Let the waiter know when you're ready to pay. Waiters aren't psychic, so let a little money or a credit card peek out of the bill when you're ready to settle. "You don't want us hovering over your table," Steve says.
Waitresses dish on their biggest pet peeves.
What rude behavior makes your skin crawl? Leave a comment below!