Dining out at a restaurant is a wonderful treat that you should always make the most of. However, some people make various mistakes, for example, not reserving a table, miscommunicating dietary needs, or being rude to the servers, which can ruin the experience and create unnecessary challenges for the staff. Avoid these 18 common mistakes when visiting a restaurant to make sure you have the best time possible.

Visiting During the Busiest Time

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CBS says “56 percent [of people] say they dine at a restaurant, get take out or have a meal delivered 2 to 3 times a week.” This means restaurants can be very busy at peak times serving people who are dining in as well as preparing delivery orders. Making the mistake of visiting a restaurant at their busiest time can mean there’s a longer wait for food, worse customer service, and potentially a lower quality of food due to the staff and chefs being rushed.

Not Making a Reservation

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Even if you’re heading to the restaurant at a time that you don’t expect to be busy, it can be beneficial to make a reservation. If the restaurant is popular, making a reservation can help you guarantee a table and avoid having to wait in line. Restaurants also tend to use reservations to track their customers, so if you frequently visit the same place, they might notice you’re a regular and give you special treatment!

Arriving Late Without a Heads-Up

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Arriving late without giving the restaurant a heads-up can negatively affect your dining experience as well as the smooth operation of the restaurant. If you notify the restaurant that you’re going to be late, they can alter their scheduling and seating arrangements accordingly. However, if you fail to let them know, your table may be given away to other guests, meaning you’d have to wait for a table or might even lose your reservation.

Ignoring the Dress Code

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Not all restaurants have a dress code, but it’s important to check so that you’re not caught off guard if they do. Fancier high-end restaurants will often require you to wear smarter clothes and not allow attire like shorts, hoodies, or sneakers. If you’re unaware of or choose to ignore the dress code, you may end up feeling underdressed for the occasion or even be turned away from the restaurant altogether.

Not Trusting the Chef

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If you don’t trust the chef, you may as well go back home and cook for yourself! Some restaurants won’t allow you to request changes to a dish, such as leaving an ingredient out or cooking it in a specific way, so you have to leave it to the professionals and trust the chef to cook you a tasty meal. If this is out of your comfort zone, make sure you stick to restaurants where you’re allowed to customize your orders.

Not Asking for Recommendations

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Not asking the server for their recommendations can be a mistake, as you might miss the chance to try something new and expand your palate. Servers often spend a lot of time and effort to get to grips with and memorize the menus so that they can provide expert advice on the available dishes. Don’t let their extensive knowledge go to waste; get their suggestions!

Forgetting to Tip

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Business Insider reports, “a 2024 survey of US adults conducted from April 29 to May 1 found that 67% percent of those who go to sit-down restaurants always give tips to servers.” For the other 33% of you, what are you doing? Servers often rely on tips to pay their wages, and if they don’t receive many tips, they can go severely underpaid. Stop being so stingy and make sure you tip (unless the service was terrible of course)!

Not Checking Out the Menu First

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Many restaurants now have their menus available online, so make the most out of this and check out menus to decide where to eat or to plan what you want to order, as you often don’t get a lot of time to browse the menu at the restaurant. If you don’t have a look at the menu before visiting a restaurant, you might end up unpleasantly surprised by the choice of food or the prices.

Faking a Food Allergy

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Restaurants take food allergies very seriously and go to great lengths to prevent cross-contamination and ensure your food is safe for you to eat. If you fake a food allergy or pretend your dislike for a certain food is actually an allergy, you can cause a lot of unnecessary inconvenience for the staff. On the other hand, never forget to inform the staff if you do have a legitimate food allergy or dietary requirement so they can cater to you accordingly.

Ordering From the Children’s Menu

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Sometimes you might be dragged to a restaurant where you’re unsure about the food. It might seem like a clever trick to venture into the children’s menu to find a meal that you know you’ll enjoy, as kid’s food is often suited to all taste palates, but this can be a mistake. It might look like you’re trying to spend as little money as possible, as children’s meals are typically cheaper. If you’re not sure about the menu, ask your server for recommendations!

Showing Up with Fewer People Than Planned

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Even the best-laid plans can go awry sometimes! You might have planned everything perfectly and made sure you reserved a table, but sometimes things can crop up and some people might not be able to make it. If this happens, don’t just show up on the day with fewer people. It’s good etiquette to let the restaurant know the size of your group has changed, as this allows them to rearrange and book in more people so they don’t miss out on profits.

Being Rude to Staff

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Being rude to the servers and staff is one of the biggest mistakes you can make when dining out. Restaurant staff work hard, have long hours, and often have so much to do, so always be respectful, as I’m sure they don’t want to add dealing with rude customers to their list. Whatever you do, don’t touch your server, wave at them, or whistle at them to get their attention. This is considered extremely rude and will probably just make your server ignore you even more!

Not Checking for Discounts

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Eating out at restaurants can be pricey, especially if you don’t take advantage of any offers or discounts that may be available! According to CNBC, “the average household spends an average of $3,008 per year on dining out.” Many restaurants offer discounts and deals on food and drink with vouchers or at certain times that can help cut your spending on dining out while still getting to enjoy eating at a restaurant.

Forgetting Your Table Manners

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Many of us had table manners drilled into us from a young age and even had to follow them when eating in our own homes, but some people might not be aware or might forget dining etiquette. Try not to make the mistake of talking with your mouth full, letting your kids run around the restaurant, or shouting across the table. Doing these things can be pretty inconsiderate to other customers and frankly quite embarrassing for yourself.

Leaving Unhappy Without Complaining

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Sometimes you might not have the best experience when you go out for dinner. There may be problems with the customer service or your food might not be quite to your liking. Whatever the issue, don’t just leave the restaurant without letting somebody know. Politely bring up the problem to your server then and there so it can be solved. Give the staff a chance to make your experience better!

Spending the Whole Time on the Phone

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There’s nothing worse than your nice dining experience being ruined by someone talking loudly on the phone the whole time! Shouting down the phone to someone can disturb the rest of the restaurant and ruin the relaxing atmosphere. If your phone rings, just ignore it or take it outside! Constantly tapping away on your phone or being on a call can also be rude to the people you’re dining with, as it means you aren’t paying attention to them.

Not Checking Reviews Beforehand

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While reviews can sometimes be misleading, it’s a good idea to have a look at some reviews before choosing a restaurant. Just make sure you take them with a pinch of salt! Reviews can give you valuable insight into things like the quality of food, the standard of customer service, and the value for money. Quickly reading through a few reviews can help you avoid having a disappointing dining experience! 

Eating Too Much Bread and Appetizers

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We all know how tempting the delicious free bread can be, but try to resist! If you overindulge in the bread basket and have too many appetizers when dining out, it can destroy your appetite and spoil the rest of your meal. Most people get pretty hungry while they wait for their food, and while it’s ok to have a couple of pieces of bread or appetizers to tie you over, having too much can stop you from enjoying your main course.

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