Graphic: Nicole Antonuccio | Photo: Teri Dixon/Getty Images

Are you a server’s worst nightmare without even knowing it? We’re here to help. Introducing The Salty Waitress, The Takeout’s advice column from a real-life waitress that will teach you how not to behave like a garbage person while dining out—and maybe in real life.

Dear Salty Waitress,

I can tell by the death stares that snapping my fingers at a server is not the preferred way to get their attention, but sometimes I just really need a side of ranch promptly because there’s literally no point to eating anything without it. What can I do to flag down a server without making them want to punch me in the face?

Dude, where’s my ranch?

Dear Dude,

When you’re at work and your boss is on the phone, do you snap at her to get her attention? Just curious. Yes, it is my job to bring you a side of ranch, but there are other ranch lovers in this restaurant, and I’m doing everything I can.

Here’s the thing: your server already knows you need something. They can usually feel your eyes boring into the back of their head. They’ve gathered from how rapidly you ordered that you’re not fucking around and have very important places to be after you finish your burger. We have a mental checklist happening and making sure you have everything you need is, believe it or not, on that list.

But as with any job, distractions arise. Cool Dad, who looked chill at first, wants his 4-year-old to order for the whole family. “Go ahead, Caleb, tell the nice lady what mommy wants to eat.” This adorable display of parenting will set your server back a solid five minutes, which might as well be five hours to someone who needs their goddamn ranch or Chardonnay refill.

Still, here are a few basic rules for what you should never do to get your server’s attention if you want to see them for the rest of your meal:


  • Snapping
  • Whistling
  • Aggressive menu waving
  • Standing on your bar stool while yelling “Hey you!”
  • Bopping them with the menu

“So what CAN I do, Salty?” Well, you can make eye contact while smiling politely. You can wave in a reasonably subtle fashion. You can even say “excuse me” in a polite tone.


Some examples of acceptable waves:


This is NOT polite waving:

Of course, we food service workers are not perfect. (By the way! In 18 states our minimum wage before tips is $2.13 an hour.) We have bad days like everyone else and we might forget about you from time to time. If this happens and the previously mentioned steps don’t work, just walk over with a polite, “Excuse me, sorry to bother you, but may I get the check when you get a chance?”


Sure, you might be peeved your server was clearly checking the ‘gram instead of waiting on you, but if you’ve ever spent working hours trying to bait Anthony Scaramucci on Twitter or taking a quiz about which type of condiment you are, you know shit happens.

The moral of the story, Ranch, is this: just don’t be a dick. The only time you’re allowed to snap your fingers moving forward is while listening to “The Longest Time” by Billy Joel. Got it? Good.

Got a question about dining out etiquette? Or just a general question about life we can help you with? Email us: