Skip to Navigation Skip to Content

How to Be a Better Diner, Step 3: Keep Your Hands To Yourself

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. Every Tuesday for six-weeks, she’ll be dishing out the tips on how to be a better diner, something about which she has a lot to say. Listen up.

As a waitress, I do not often consider actually taking a tableside flirtation to the next level. But recently I was hit on with such tact that I thought I would pass along this gentleman’s method for those of you out there who might ever want to ask your waitress (or waiter) out.

Rule #1: Err on the side of politeness. Being obvious about your attraction to your friendly server will only turn him/her off completely.

Rule #2: Buy whatever your server tells you to. If you’re willing to drop coin, and you’re listening to everything I say, I’m going to notice both of these things. (And you’re going to have a nice dinner because I know what I’m talking about.)

Rule #3: Subtlety, subtlety, subtlety. When the gentleman asked me (being emboldened after consuming two bottles of my well-chosen wine with his friend) what nights I worked, I knew what was coming. But I quickly turned the conversation around to the fact that I work days somewhere else, and told him and his friend what a nice restaurant it was and that they should dine there. The gentleman then turned the conversation back around to me by remarking that it was nice that I have most of my evenings free, and I realized again what was coming and quickly excused myself from the table.

Rule #4: Leave any sexual overtures at the door. When I’m serving you, it’s my job to talk to you and if you’re overtly hitting on me that makes it hard. We’re not in a club or a bar, you’re out on the town and I’m in my place of employment. Don’t put me in a sticky situation.*

(*Once, at a venerable four-star institution in the Wine Country, a table of two young men (attractive, wealthy, but overall despicable) got drunker and drunker, and more and more forward. One of them asked, “So, what time are you off?” (never, ever, ask your server this) and wouldn’t take no for an answer when he asked me to join them for a cocktail in a far-off town, which included a couch that I could sleep on—unless, what I really wanted was to get in bed. I responded tartly with, “Oh! Well, if that’s the case, why don’t I just give you my phone number and you can come over later and we’ll have sex?” The gentlemen looked at me, astounded, meekly paid their bill, and left the restaurant.)

Rule #5: Tip 20%. This is a good tip amount. Any less and you’re a cheapskate, any more and you’re desperate. On his way out the door, the gentleman handed me a folded piece of paper, saying, “This is for you,” He could’ve left it in the check presenter, but I appreciated his boldness (brought on by my exceptionally well-selected wine).

The note read: “His Name” and then his telephone number (he was visiting from Chicago). Next line: 415 (the name of the restaurant I’d recommended). Next line: Tuesday night (my next night off). 8pm. Dinner? Next line: Call me!

This is the perfect way to ask out your server. Put everything completely in his/her hands, leave before you embarrass yourself (because the server will most likely share all details of the interaction with his/her coworkers), and don’t be too disappointed if he/she doesn’t call you back. This man was attractive, nice, well-spoken and polite. Under other circumstances, I probably would have called him.