Don’t Be a Restaurant Hero—Just Be a Good Customer

No, restaurant employees don't need you to pitch in to help.

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server holding plates
Photo: Corepics VOF (Shutterstock)

If you’ve been out to eat recently, you may have noticed that service has been a bit slow, or that the staff at your favorite restaurant looks visibly stressed when it gets busy. As you’ve no doubt heard by now, the restaurant staffing situation is very strained and is only getting worse. Many establishments are running on skeleton crews, which means every employee is essentially doing the job of more than one person.

If your order is taking a while and you’re hungry, it’s easy to slip into an impatient mood. I get it. But no matter how dire things get, absolutely do not do what the customer in a recent viral TikTok video did—that is, walk up to the cash register and assume the role of an employee just to get things moving along faster.

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The video’s text overlay says that the non-employee was even wearing a uniform from a different job, and if you look carefully, you can see that this is true. There’s so much wrong about pulling a stunt like this, I almost don’t know where to begin.

A commenter noted that using a point-of-sale system at a Chipotle location isn’t as easy as stepping up to the register and pressing buttons. You need special access—in this case, a keycard. The comment read, “they have cards they swipe to log in too, im sure it was noticed eventually.”

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The original poster, @brown_eyed_girl95, responded, “I’m sure they did but they left their card at the register she worked at a Chipotle a while ago so she knows the system. but people just didn’t care.”

The fact that “people just didn’t care” doesn’t make this okay. The person featured in the TikTok video was essentially impersonating an employee, and could have done pretty much anything with access to the keycard. If the non-employee had, say, made a mistake charging for something, the employee whose card they used would have been falsely logged as being the one being responsible.

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Another commenter said, “the manager on duty probably got fired because of this LMAO.” I wouldn’t be surprised if Chipotle’s corporate office already knows about this, since the video has racked up over 185,000 likes in the week since it was posted. And guess what? The manager is probably now in hot water, or has at least been spoken to about this. And for what? So a customer could get their food five minutes faster?

There are other serious issues at hand, too, like liability and food handling licensure (in case this person decided to assemble orders while they were back there behind the counter). Whether or not this video was staged for internet clout, it ultimately raises an important point about how to be a good customer when a restaurant is slammed. The number one rule? Just be patient. 

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The best way to help a short-staffed restaurant

Even if you’re genuinely trying to be helpful as you dine out at a short-staffed restaurant, there’s simply no need for you to throw on an apron and start chopping vegetables, ringing people up, or bussing tables. Other customers won’t think of you as a hero, nor will you be making life easier for the employees—in fact, a stunt like that can get people fired for negligence, threatening their livelihoods.

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Every restaurant operates a little differently; you could easily disrupt employee workflow by adding an extra element of hassle as you attempt to figure out how things function. And frankly, you’ll just physically be in the way, which is a dance that you learn quickly as an employee, but not as a guest.

Just relax, sit tight, and you’ll be taken care of in due time. Someone will eventually get to you, take your order, and start assembling your meal. It might take a while, to the point where you feel exasperated. Again, I get it. But if you’re feeling that way, then imagine how the staff feels. They want you fed and smiling—after all, it’s the service industry. If you really don’t have the time to wait, it’s better to leave than to try to do everyone’s jobs for them.

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And we always recommend you tip well, not just because you want to be “nice,” but because by doing so, you’re also keeping an employee paid well enough to justify working at this damn hard and sometimes thankless job that keeps you fed and happy. If those employees leave to work in some other industry because the pay sucks, it’ll take even longer for your food to hit the table.