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

Dear Salty,

Why do servers have the habit of either interrupting serious, intense conversation to chirpily ask “How is everything?!” Or they seemingly wait until you take a bite to breeze up to your table and ask if everything’s alright.

I can’t help but be sarcastic in these instances, usually. It puzzles me that in a service job, that one could be so oblivious as to do this. Please note, I’ve worked in a restaurant. Not as a server, but as a dishwasher, busing tables, and as a cook. I know how hard people work in food service, but I can say that if I was a manager and I saw one of my servers do this more than once, I’d fire that server.

It seems easy enough to walk up to the table and take in what’s happening at the table and either walk away and come back later, or maybe take away an empty plate or something and not engage with the preoccupied customer.

Thanks,
Sorry, mouth’s full

Dear Full Mouth,

Is your mouth always as full of food as you are of opinions? I don’t think you’re the only one who feels like serves inevitably waltz up to your table when you’ve just taken a big bite, but I’m pretty sure that’s not a fireable offense.

I know this might be tough for you to swallow—pause to appreciate my pun... thank you—but servers aren’t doing this on purpose. I swear on Aunt Lola’s grave. Consider this: Often times, I’m approaching your table in a direction that at least one guest’s back is to me, so I can’t tell if you’re chewing, crying, or picking your nose. Consider this, too: If you’re at a table of four or more people, what are the odds someone isn’t chewing at any given moment? You want me to check on your table pretty soon after I’ve delivered the food, so that’s when everyone’s most likely to dig in. I’ve gotten plenty of reader emails that have also asked why their server drops the food off, never to be seen again, and doesn’t ask how things taste. I like to check up on my tables a couple minutes after they’ve started on their meal, but that meals someone’s probably mid-bite. I promise I’d rather not stare into your gaping mouth of half-chewed food if I could avoid it, but sometimes it just happens.

And as for interrupting serious conversations, I don’t want to do that either. It’s weird for all of us when you and your friend both have your brows furrowed when I arrive; I feel like I’m walking into divorce arbitration. (I wouldn’t want to go through that again either, believe me.) But again, what’s the alternative? I avoid your table for minutes while you get through whatever it is that’s chapping your ass, and maybe by that time your food is cold or another table needs me. Or, as you mentioned, I could walk up to your table, assess the mood, and walk away? Forgive me, doll, but that seems awkward as hell. On a busy night, I don’t have the time nor the spy skills to monitor your table’s every emotional whim. Plus, some people—like me—just have a resting bitch face.

My advice to you is to let it go. If you’re chewing, a simple nod and thumbs up lets me know everything’s good. If you need to say something, just hold your index finger up politely and I can wait until you’re done. Really, this isn’t that uncommon. If you’re in the midst of brokering peace in the Middle East or curing cancer when I walk over, politely ask me to come back in three minutes. I promise to swing back next time you’ve taken a big bite.

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Got a question about dining out etiquette? Or are you a server/bartender with a horror story the world needs to hear? Email us: salty@thetakeout.com.

The Salty WaitressSalty Waitress is 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.