Tips by hosts on how to be a respectful restaurant customer

Next time you go out to eat, be nice to your hosts. Photo by Ethan Veliky.



Aside from being Collegian editors, we are also hosts at restaurants who are sick of telling people to put on their masks and follow basic COVID-19 guidelines. Although some people view going out to eat as an escape from the bleak reality of 2020, it is nevertheless still important for restaurants to maintain a healthy environment for their employees and customers. 

They can do so by following these COVID-19 safety protocols that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest. Creating a safe, COVID-19-free space is not just a restaurant’s job, but a team effort for both employees and customers. Here are some tips, based on our lackluster work experiences, on how to be respectful restaurant customers during COVID-19.

Wear a mask whenever you are not seated

From forgetting their mask at the table to walking aimlessly around the restaurant sans-mask, the “wear a mask unless seated” rule results in an array of mishaps from customers. Admittedly, the logic behind having to wear a mask unless seated at a restaurant is a tad flawed. However, when walking inside a restaurant and speaking to a host, as well as while walking to your table or using the restroom, it is important to keep that mask on. Without it, you could infect innocent bystanders and employees. And by “keep that mask on,” we mean over your nose too. 

Sarah Doran, a senior music education major, was a host at Condado Tacos during the summer, and said that customers had a hard time understanding the logic between wearing a mask at all times besides while eating.

“People would actually get mad about [having to wear a mask] and say sassy comments and then they’d actually leave, just because they didn’t want to wear a mask,” Doran said. “Like are you really that stuck up about it?…They don’t understand the reasoning behind it, since you have to walk past people sitting [at their tables] without masks on, so you need to have something on that protects you and them.” 

Also, no matter how loud the cacophony of voices, plates being dropped and chewing noises are around the host stand, please do not pull your mask down in order for the host to hear you. We can hear just fine without your hot, droplet-filled breath steaming in our faces. 

Doran said that when people approach her without a mask on, it makes her feel nervous about her likelihood of contracting COVID-19.

“It’s kind of uncomfortable for me, when people would talk to me without a mask on,” Doran said. “It makes me feel that I’m more likely to get the virus… [Wearing a mask] just shows respect for the people you’re around, such as the workers, since they’re just trying to do their job and make some money, so it’s polite.”

So if you want to be an overachieving customer, or honestly, just a considerate human, keep your mask on at all times whenever possible. While laws do not require you to wear one while ordering your food or while waiting for the check, if your server is forced to wear a mask in order to keep you safe, it is only polite to do the same. 

Be patient

Everyone is learning to navigate the new environment the pandemic has created, so please be patient when you go out to eat!

Many restaurants are changing the way they operate, and Dalena Trinh, a junior communication sciences and disorders major who works at China Palace, said we all need to work together to get through this.

“Honestly, I want to put emphasis on being patient with everyone. Everyone really is trying their best,” Trinh said.

Gavin Craig, a graduate student studying choral conducting, said some customers are not patient when it comes to waiting for a table to be cleaned. Craig, also a former host at LongHorn Steakhouse, explained that just because no one is sitting at a table, doesn’t mean that it is clean or available for you to sit at.   

“If a table gets up and clears out it doesn’t mean that the table is available right away, we have to sanitize,” Craig said.

It is important to remember that everyone is in this together. Whether that be wearing a mask whenever you’re not seated at a table or longer wait times due to limited capacity, everyone is adapting to these new changes. 

Tip better than you normally would pre-pandemic. Workers are literally risking their lives to serve you!

If you were not tipping at least 20% before COVID-19, you might want to reevaluate your spending habits before going out to eat. Nowadays, tipping at least 25%, or with a “neighbor helping neighbor” mindset, is considered the polite amount to tip servers, Craig said.

“If you have the money to spend $60 on a meal but don’t have the extra 10 bucks to leave a tip … don’t go out,” Craig said.

Trinh said that with restaurants closing for a few months, many restaurant employees were facing financial ramifications.

“A lot of waitresses, most waitresses, depend on tips for wages, but I think a lot of people don’t understand that,” Trinh said. “With most restaurants closing for a bit, it was really hard on some families, and again, I think that’s something a lot of people don’t understand.”

Employees are risking their safety and deserve some compensation and kindness; they work to ensure Karleigh can have a fun night out with the gals, that John and Amy can down some beers and watch the game to escape the monotony of their suburban lives, that the high school theater troupe down the street can celebrate their socially distant paw-duction of Cats the musical.

Whether you are taking Condado Tacos to go or dining in at St. Elmo’s, stay mindful of the sacrifices and precautions restaurant employees take to ensure your safety and dining experience. If you can afford to spend a night out on the town, you can afford to tip a few extra bucks than normal. From the bottom of our penniless little hearts, next time you go out to eat, please consider the well-being of others! 


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