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How to Be a Better Diner, Part 5: Think Of Your Table As Real Estate

Welcome to our third guest blogger series written by Ella Lawrence, who works as both a freelance writer and a server at a popular restaurant in San Francisco. Lawrence has been published in Travel & Leisure, Time Out, and the San Francisco Chronicle and has her own blog, Restaurant Girl Speaks. This is part five of a six-part series in which she dishes out the tips on how to be a better diner, something about which she has a lot to say. Listen up.

In San Francisco, property values are high—even on your restaurant table. When you're squeezed into the booth or canoodling at that intimate table for two, remember that you're not the owner of that real estate: You're renting it out for a few hours. So, please act accordingly.

Keep common spaces free of extraneous accessories. You'd complain to your landlord if your neighbor left a car up on blocks in the driveway that went between your two houses, right? Please don't park your Prada on the back of your chair where people are going to have to maneuver around it. Many waiters I know are not above knocking large purses off the backs of chairs purposely as they walk by, so that their owners will stash the purses under the table instead. Better yet, check out one of those companies that sells little hooks you can use to hang your bag off the edge of the table (and remember the restaurant purse snatcher from last year?).

Cell phones do not belong on the table. Neither do elbows. Not only is it rude to your dining companion to be sprawled all over the table, texting your crush or your business partner, it hinders the waiter's ability to serve you. We don't like having to be obtrusive when we replace your silverware, fill your wine glass or remove a plate, but we can't help but get in the way a little bit when we have to work around your elbows. If you see a waiter bearing down on your table with several plates of hot food, please move your wallet, cell phone, clutch, lipstick, or whatever is in the space in front of you where your plate is supposed to go. If you are sharing food, please help us make sure there is a space in the middle of the table. Many people don't realize that their waiter subtly clears these spaces right before the food arrives, and will put their personal items in these handy blank spots on the table.

Don't linger. After dessert or coffee. When you've finished your meal, have paid the check, and are sitting at an empty table chatting, the entire restaurant staff is wondering when you're going to leave so they can seat the next reservation (which is most likely already there). Move it to the bar if you want to continue your evening, because rent control does not apply to San Francisco restaurant tables.