Worst Things To Do While Dining Out During COVID-19, According To Servers

Dealing with inconsiderate and rude customers is par for the course in the restaurant industry. But given the elevated risk for COVID-19 to be transmitted at restaurants, poorly behaved guests have never been more problematic.

As coronavirus cases climb across the country, restaurants are bracing for a new wave of restrictions. But in the meantime, many remain open, with socially distanced tables (inside or outdoors) and new safety guidelines. Still, servers say far too many customers come in expecting pre-pandemic service.

“The list of [bad behavior] is endless,” Rachel Elena Bessman, a writer and server in Annapolis, Maryland, told HuffPost. “The lack of empathy is astounding, and the majority of customers clearly are not concerned with the safety of their server or the other guests.”

The biggest offenders are patrons who refuse to wear masks, Bessman said. Even if masks are worn and social distancing measures are practiced in restaurants, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned that poor air circulation may affect virus transmission.

“I have had an obscene amount of full-grown adults throw tantrums over wearing a mask because ‘they’ll only be indoors for a second.’”

– Mia Mainville, a server in Texas

Servers like Bessman are risking their health to bring some normalcy to people’s lives and customers are still tipping paltry amounts and acting entitled.

“People don’t seem to realize that we are literally doing our best,” Bessman told HuffPost. “Like, we are trying so hard. Never in my 13 years of waiting tables have I busted my ass this hard to make sure that everyone is taken care of, from the customer to the back of house to the front. We’re not subsidized, no one is helping us make this work for you.”

What other kinds of bad behavior on the part of customers has been eating at servers? Below, Bessman and others share the most annoying things customers have done while dining out during the pandemic. (Some sources interviewed requested to be identified by only their first name to protect their privacy.)

1. Acting like putting on a mask for a few minutes is the end of the world

“We’re washing our hands upward of 30 times per shift, meticulously sanitizing each table in between guests, regularly checking our temperatures, getting tested at the slightest hint of symptoms, and wearing our masks anywhere from four to 11 hours straight. The least you can do is wear yours for the two minutes I’m at your table.” ― Cambryn Hunter, a server in Louisiana

“I have had an obscene amount of full-grown adults throw tantrums over wearing a mask because ‘they’ll only be indoors for a second.’ Of course, there are also the ones who actually wear the mask … and pull it down while speaking. WHY?!” ― Mia Mainville, a server in Texas

2. Coming into the restaurant to pick up their takeout without wearing a mask

“Everyone knows they’re supposed to wear a mask while dining in but they think it’s all right to ignore it if they’re going to be in the restaurant for ‘only a minute.’ When I’m wearing my mask for five hours straight, glasses fogged up and the elastic cutting into my ears, it’s disrespectful when people waltz in without one. And pulling your shirt up over your mouth or holding your arm in front of your face doesn’t count.” ― Darron Cardosa, a server in New York City and blogger at The Bitchy Waiter

3. Seating themselves

“People will walk in and just try to sit themselves at a table when it hasn’t been properly sanitized yet, or it might be not socially distanced from other tables and then they get frustrated at us when we ask them to move or wait for it to be cleaned. Essentially, I just wish people had more patience and compassion during these times in all things, not even just in restaurants. Everyone is having a hard time.” ― Allie, a server in New York

4. Not using an indoor voice inside the restaurant ― and spreading germs in the process.

“One of the most annoying things is when guests are being loud since that spreads germs in a bigger radius than it otherwise would. It’s equally annoying when people cough or spit when they’re talking to you or when they hand you their debit card or cash. It makes everything feel really unsafe when it comes to the risk of catching coronavirus.” ― Nicholas Prince, a server in San Antonio

Many servers said they wish customers would mask up when interacting with staff. 

5. Not tipping on carryout orders

“My restaurant has only been open for dine-in for about three months and we are still doing over 75% of our sales in carryout orders. Customers will LITERALLY stand there and write $0 on the tip line, citing, ‘It’s ONLY a to-go order.’ Guess what ― we work just as hard to put together your orders as we do to wait on your table!” ― Mainville

6. Tipping poorly in general

“Hoping for a decent tip is such a gamble even when things are normal. But now? Here in Maryland, we are at half capacity (and about to drop to a quarter), which means I’m already making half the money I would normally be making. It is completely unacceptable to beg for us to remain open, complain about state restrictions as if we are the ones who created them, and then not tip a minimum of 20%. You should be tipping at least 30%. And if you can afford to, you should be tipping 50%.” ― Bessman

“Bad tippers are the worst. That 20% ensures that I get paid, and so do the bar helpers and/or bussers. And people who say they’ll tip more or that they’re fantastic tippers? Nine times out of 10 they’re the worst tippers.” ― Michelle, a server in Houston

7. Complaining about menu items not being available

“You may not be able to get the table you want or the menu may be so limited that the kitchen cannot accommodate your individual requests. This is not due to any maliciousness on the part of the restaurant, it’s a result of trying to juggle state and local laws combined with limited revenue due to the pandemic.” ― Ambrose, a server in Boston

“This one, to me, is truly hilarious. I work in a sushi restaurant. Do people realize how ridiculous they sound, questioning with incredulity how we could possibly be out of a fish we import from Japan? Sir, why would you want us to rush our deliveries on raw animal products? Would that ever make sense? They put the pressure on, roll their eyes and act as if it’s some choice we made. Well yes, Brad, we did make the choice to serve you quality fresh products rather than old crap that was available.” ― Bessman

Servers don't set the COVID-19 dining regulations so don't gripe to them if you're dissatisfied with the rules.

Servers don’t set the COVID-19 dining regulations so don’t gripe to them if you’re dissatisfied with the rules.

8. Asking servers to take off their masks for any reason at all

“This is actually quite common, and I’ve noticed it happens much more frequently to my female co-workers. Not only are you asking your server to put their health in danger, but this is basically just another iteration of general customer-employee workplace harassment, with a COVID twist. Extremely inappropriate.” ― Ambrose

9. Wearing out your welcome after you’ve finished your meal

“We’re thrilled that they decided to support their local restaurant, but with seating capacity at less than 100%, table space is even more valuable than it used to be. When a customer is finished eating, it’d be nice if they recognized that servers and restaurants make money by turning over tables. Sitting at that prime booth for 30 minutes after the check has been paid means it’s costing everyone at the restaurant money. Eat, say thank you, and then let someone else have the table.” ― Cardosa

10. Complaining about the lack of condiments on the table

“People come in and complain that we don’t have salt, pepper, ketchup or other condiments already on the table like we used to. At the beginning of reopening we were using single-use products such as salt, pepper, and ketchup packets but now that we’ve switched back to the normal containers, we take them off to sanitize them between uses and limit uses to those who don’t need them.” ― Allie

11. Acting as if the health of the restaurant’s staff doesn’t matter

“Some customers treat waitstaff as if they’re not people. ‘We don’t have to wear masks. There’s nobody else in the restaurant’ is a common thing to overhear when employees outnumber the guests.” ― Speed

12. Complaining about constantly evolving COVID-19 rules

“Servers have absolutely nothing to do with any of the restrictions, yet servers are the ones who endure the wrath of the angry customer. We don’t want to do temperature checks any more than customers want to have them done, but we do what we’re told in order to keep our jobs. Please don’t yell at us.” ― Cardosa

Experts are still learning about COVID-19. The information in this story is what was known or available as of publication, but guidance can change as scientists discover more about the virus. Please check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the most updated recommendations.

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