New Year edition-rules for dining out

It’s the New Year so let’s start off on the right foot shall we? We have one quick story this month, and then a couple of lists for diners and hospitality staff to keep in mind when it comes to dining out.

But first the quick story:

When I was working in Jasper one summer I had a group of southern women come into the coffee shop where I worked. When I told them the total they look puzzled when trying to figure out the Canadian money.
One said to the other, “I’ve discovered that in foreign countries, if you just hold out your hand they’ll take however much they need.” Oi vey!

Now the commandments. Think of these as the golden rules. Some are obvious, others less so, and of course these are all my opinion and worth debating. But if we can follow these I think the dining out experience will better for all involved.


1. Tipping. Tipping is part of the cost of going out. If you can’t afford to tip, make dinner at home. Tip at minimum 15% of the bill either before or after taxes. You can decide not to tip if you like, but just know that everyone hates you including your dining companions. Don’t be Mr Pink.
2. Diapers. This should go without saying, but don’t change a child’s nappy anywhere in the restaurant except in the bathroom. It’s gross.
3. Food restrictions. Clearly state any food restrictions, allergies, or dislikes, before you order. Most kitchens take these things seriously and will do their best to make sure you are taken care of.
4. The menu is the menu. Don’t go to a vegan restaurant and demand that they serve you steak.
5. Snapping fingers. Don’t, under any circumstances, do this unless some hot jazz is playing on the sound system. Do not snap, clap, whistle, or yell “garçon!” The staff at a restaurant are called servers but they are not servants.
6. Closing time. Yes, the restaurant is open until 11pm, but that doesn’t mean you should come in at five minutes to close. There is merit in arguing about how close to closing is too close but five minutes is just rude. Plus you don’t want the kitchen preparing your dinner while also trying to clean up. Disappointment all around. If you must go out this close to the end of the night please see point 1 above and add 10%.
7. Reservations. If a restaurant takes reservations be sure to make one. Also be sure to keep it and arrive on time. If you aren’t going to be able to make your reservation, please let the restaurant know.
8. No touching. Don’t do it. No tapping, no hand on the waist or shoulder, and no hugging unless you are in a relationship with your server (and even then I would err on the side of no touching at work). Personal space and consent don’t get left at the door.
9. Never say “Do you know who I am?” When you say that everyone knows who you are: an entitled snowflake. The same goes for “I know the owner.” Guess what? So does everyone working there.


1. Tipping. Despite my note above, don’t expect tips. There are some Mr. Pinks out there. If someone doesn’t tip at all you may ask them what was wrong with their meal or service, but never pressure a guest for a tip. Accept all tips with a simple “thank you.”
2. Food restrictions. Kitchens can often find food restrictions onerous and sometimes there is debate about whether someone is “really allergic” to something. Do not test this out. If someone says they have a food restriction take it at face value and move on. You never want to be on the receiving end of a lawsuit and bad press because you thought nobody could be possibly allergic to mango or fennel.
3. Closing time. Yes, customers shouldn’t come in a five minutes to close, but the hours of operation say the restaurant is open until 11. So serve those customers as you would any other and stifle the urge to scream.
4. Food quality. The kitchen is responsible for making the food and ensuring it’s up to snuff, but servers are also responsible for checking food quality. If you wouldn’t eat it, don’t serve it. Better to raise the ire of the kitchen then to have a customer complain that the fries were limp, greasy turds.
5. No touching. Just don’t. Some guests might not mind but you don’t want to play roulette and see which ones do mind.
6. All guests are equal. There is no such thing as a “special guest.” Treat all guests as special (or demanding or high maintenance). You can’t please everyone, but if a customer is unhappy with this service at least it’s not you in the wrong.
7. The bill. Don’t disappear and leave guests waiting for the bill. Drop the bill to the person that asked for it or on a neutral part of the table. And don’t ask if the guest would like change. Always assume they want change.

Send complaints about these lists to me at
Happy New Year!

About Rod Weatherbie

Rod Weatherbie is a writer working in the hospitality industry. He spent a number of years in Toronto as a member of the financial press before returning to PEI. Rod has published one piece of short fiction, one book of poetry, and has had work published in Red Shift, the Antigonish Review, Mitre, and the Toronto Quarterly. He has also recently co-produced, co-directed, and acted in a stage production of old television shows.

He also likes writing about food. Go figure.

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