How To Be a Good Customer

a conversation with local waiters and waitresses about diners

V1 Staff, photos by Andrea Paulseth

Service with a smile at Mahli Thai (212 N. Bridge St. downtown Chippewa Falls).
Service with a smile at Mahli Thai (212 N. Bridge St. downtown Chippewa Falls).

What makes a customer great?

The plight of the service worker is well-documented. There are plenty of horror stories about picky diners and screaming children and low-to-no tippers. But what can we as eaters and drinkers do to help out our servers? We talked to a number of local waiters, waitresses, baristas, bartenders and fast-food workers to try to figure out how to be the best customers possible and make up a bit for those horror stories. Here’s what they said.

Small adjustments to the order are fine, but if you ever have to apologize for being high maintenance, chances are you’ve gone too far already. And if you find yourself asking “Am I your worst customer today?” there’s a 100% chance you are.

Even though you’re eating at a restaurant where the wait staff clears the table after you leave, it’s still polite to clean things up a bit upon departure. Stack some plates and cups. Put the silverware in one place. Gather all those napkin fragments you tore up into little pieces and stick ‘em in the garbage. When a group leaves the table looking like a bombed-out trash heap, it’s a real drag for not only the server, but other patrons as well.

Say “please” when you order, and make eye contact. Otherwise you come off like an aloof Tom Buchanan. After all, this is a real human being with whom you’re interacting.

Origami tips are the best. I’ve received origami dollar rings, little shirts, flowers even an elephant once.  

Nice comments on tip slips are also the best and to be quite honest it doesn’t really matter how much you tip, kindness is always and forever the best possible tip.  I’d rather receive a dollar tip molded into an elephant from a cute table who was really sweet, fun and nice, than a $10 tip from a table who was awful and rude.  

I’d rather receive a dollar tip molded into an elephant from a cute table who was really sweet, fun and nice, than a $10 tip from a table who was awful and rude.

Please don’t ask me what I think of our competitors because whatever my personal opinion is, I’m obligated to stand up for my place of work.

If you’re ordering for a friend, ask what size they want before you order. “I don’t know, it’s for a friend” is a not a size and I will blank stare at you in response.

If you have a big party of people, please try to keep the number of bills to a minimum. It is very difficult to keep eight different piles of bills and change organized when we are at the cashier.  If you can, put everything on one bill.  It makes the server’s job much less stressful.

Do not snap your fingers at a server if you would like them to come to your table.  It is rude and disrespectful.

Please make sure you read the menu and understand exactly what you are ordering. Your food will be served exactly as it is written on the menu unless you specify otherwise.

Working hard to quench the thirst of local thirsty people at Zanzibar Restaurant and Pub (228 E. Main St., Menomonie). Don’t forget to tip your bartenders.
Working hard to quench the thirst of local thirsty people at Zanzibar Restaurant and Pub
(228 E. Main St., Menomonie). Don’t forget
to tip your bartenders.

Don’t ask for things that aren’t on the menu. If you don’t see it on the menu, it literally doesn’t exist in our restaurant. Don’t ask for it. Try a grocery store instead. If that doesn’t work try online.

Don’t act like ordering is hard or painful. Being able to eat out or buy fancy coffees is a luxury and something not everyone is fortunate enough to do; don’t act like it’s a root canal.

Ask us how we’re doing. Even if we just answer with a generic ‘fine.’ It’s the thought that counts.

Sitting at the counter and chatting with the barista always makes the time go faster. I appreciate regulars and new customers alike who go out of their way to ask me how my day is going. I will reciprocate.

Don’t ask for free stuff. If you’re nice and tip well and come in often, sometimes you’ll get the perks of being a great regular customer. But the second you expect something for free, you lose that privilege.

If there is a line of people behind you, know what you want before you get to the front. Do not get to the front of the line and stare up at the menu in awe like you’ve never been to a coffee shop before.

If something’s wrong, bring it up instead of just writing it on the receipt as you leave. Writing, “I ordered a my steak medium and got it well. :(“ doesn’t help. You had to eat overcooked meat and I get to feel like a jerk for not fixing it.

Say “thank you” at every possible chance. New water glass? “Thank you.” Next course? “Thank you.” More bread? “Thank you.”

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