Credit: Darrow Montgomery

Get local news delivered straight to your phone

Restaurant operators, managers, and some staff spend time reading customer reviews on platforms like Yelp, TripAdvisor, OpenTable, and Google. Often they find constructive criticism that they use to improve operations intermingled with what can feel like mean-spirited, subjective attacks.

It’s time to flip the script. City Paper asked D.C.-area hospitality professionals what diners and drinkers can do to be better customers at bars and restaurants. We gave them the opportunity to be anonymous. The result is a manners manifesto with more than 20 tips:

1. “I do not mind splitting checks, but if I ask you if you want to split the check evenly, and you say no, due to literally a 50 cent difference, I am going to judge you pretty harshly. Also, younger kids, learn how to buy rounds! You’re not gonna die if you pay for your friend’s $4 beer.” —Caitlin Schiavoni

2. “If you want a separate check, just say it when you start. Two hours later, we don’t know what ‘your check” is when you’ve been at a table with friends ordering from multiple employees.” —Owen Thomson

3. “If you have an uncommon allergy and you contact us in advance, we will bend over backwards to accommodate it and make a bad ass meal for you. If you tell us when you sit down at 7:30 on a Friday night that you have an onion allergy, there is actually very little most restaurants can do to make your meal of equal quality as the rest of your table. Dining is a two way conversation. The more we know about a guest, the better equipped we are to make sure they have a wonderful meal, not just a plate in front of them. That’s why my hosts ask about allergies for all phone reservations and our OpenTable confirmation asks as well.  —Josh Phillips

4. “Saying, ‘Make my birthday, anniversary, proposal, etc. special’ isn’t helpful. You know the person you’re dining with—give us some guidelines and we can help you out, but we’re taking care of everyone and have no idea what your partner would call ‘special.’”  —Anonymous

5. “I wish guests would stop name dropping the head people of a restaurant brand, expecting to get something like a full meal comp or a special privilege, when they only know that person by name, or said hi one time years ago.” —Anonymous

6. “Please don’t come to an empty restaurant at 9:55 p.m., when the kitchen closes at 10 p.m., and linger for two hours.” —Sam Pulda

7. “This is why I think it’s important to have that information on the web site (and maybe on the door or menus) saying something to that effect. We’re open until X time, the kitchen closes at Y time, or “we will seat our last guests in the dining room at Z time.” —Nick Foreit

8. “If you’re finished dessert, the last people there, look at the kitchen. If you see a dishwasher or bussers leaning on the wall or expo line waiting for you, please let them go home to their families. There’s a good chance is they’ll probably be back in the morning to serve your friends at brunch. Take your conversation to a last-call bar or take a nice stroll and chat.” —Matthew Wilcox

9. “Not every place is for every person. If it’s not your scene, don’t try to change it. Just move on.” —Karl Hemmer

10. “Please don’t wave your hand or snap your fingers in my face for attention while I’m in the middle of helping another customer.” —Justus Staton

11. “Your children count as a seat at the table when making a reservation no matter how small they are.”  —Anonymous

12. “The dirty dishes on a table in a seat-yourself restaurant do not mean sit at that specific table even though every other table is clean!” —Riad Bakeer 

13. “There’s a special place in hell for people that are rude to hospitality professionals, but there’s also a VIP list in heaven for the friends that recognize their friends are trash and apologize for them. No apology required family, you get it and I appreciate you.” —Zac Hoffman

14. “Furniture is arranged with fire codes, accessibility, and organization as priorities, then guest requests. It hurts my ability to help you if I can’t get out of my bar because you’re standing there, and I need to be able to reach your table to drop orders. —Anonymous

15. “Don’t get angry when a restaurant takes off your favorite dish. If they’re seasonally changing the menu, this is a good thing! It means the kitchen cares quite a bit about the quality of dishes they’re serving. —Kevin Egan

16. “Every ingredient is not listed on the menu, so when I ask, ‘Do you have any allergies or dietary preferences?’ don’t wait until the food is dropped to say ‘I don’t like cilantro or I can’t eat some item in a dish that’s not listed as an ingredient.’” —Iyana Zaria

17. “Understand that hospitality people are human too. Treat them with a bit of respect. Also, when you are out on weekends and holidays, show staff a bit of love. They are giving up their holiday, when they could be with their family, to serve you.” —Fergal Dooley

18. “I see customers who appear to be unaware that remaking a dish is expensive and a food waste issue. People will innocently not see an ingredient or won’t remember to ask to remove an ingredient—for example ‘no cilantro’—and ask for a new bowl to be made for free. We cannot reuse the food and profit margins are very low in food. Please be careful when ordering.” —Margaux Riccio

19. “If a table is empty, that doesn’t mean it is available.”  —Josh Phillips

20. “Parents with kids, please please please, please respect the ambience of the establishment, if you don’t take your kid out often to eat, chances are they’ll have fits. Start taking the kids out at a young age so they’ll be able to adjust to the sights and sounds of the restaurant.” —Anonymous

21. “It’s a business. Yes, we are in the business of making you feel welcome and at home, but [a restaurant’s] sole function is to turn a profit. The flagrant nature with which people expect, or demand, free stuff is astounding. Regulars are shocked at a large tab after spending a night at the bar. Diners assuming that an add-on won’t cost anything…It’s a tough line to balance, but in this ever competitive environment people expecting free food or drink can be detrimental to owners and workers alike.” —Annonymous

22. “I wish that customers understood that all we really want is for them to have a good time and eat great food. Everything we do, from the moment we get in until we leave, is to work to make sure customers have a nice experience. And that when we don’t hit the mark, it is very personal. We take mistakes and failure seriously and personally. If customers understood this, then they’d be less likely to write horrible, personal attacks on review sites, particularly Yelp, and more likely to talk with us while they are still at the restaurant, where we can resolve the problem. The end result is everybody would be happier.” —Zena Polin