The 6 Rudest Things You Can Say And Do To A Restaurant Host

When it comes to restaurant staff, your first thoughts are probably of chefs, servers and bartenders. But there’s one major player that you’re probably forgetting about — the restaurant host. The host is the person you first see when you walk into an eatery, the one who answers your calls and works to solve any last-minute reservation changes.

“I don’t expect people to have an in-depth knowledge of how a restaurant operates — and the host, the maître d’, is kind of like the conductor of a big symphony, and people aren’t privy to that,” said Patrick Murphy, the director of hospitality and partner at Rootstalk and Radicato in Breckenridge, Colorado.

The role of the host is demanding yet oft-overlooked, Murphy added.

“There’s a lot of vectors of information coming your way ... there’s a good amount of pressure to make sure that people are getting their tables,” said Murphy. “And, oftentimes, people think that person at the front door is sort of the low man on the totem pole, or someone that can kind of be pushed around ... people think that they can kind of bully those people to get their way, and I think that that can be really challenging.”

When it comes to challenging, difficult and downright rude interactions, there are certain situations and phrases that really irk hosts. Below, restaurant hosts and front-of-house staff share the rudest things people do and say to them at a restaurant:

1. Not greeting the host when you walk in.

If you’ve ever skipped over the greeting pleasantries when walking into a restaurant, you’re being pretty rude.

“When someone walks in ... [the host says], ‘Hi, good evening, how are you tonight?’ and there’s no reciprocation or response, it’s just, ‘We have a reservation,’” Murphy said.

It’s a simple thing to reply with a greeting like, “Hi, I’m doing well” or “Hi, how are you?” and when you don’t do that, it can be off-putting for the host, said Murphy.

“They just kind of breezed by the most basic human interaction, which is a simple hello, a smile, a greeting, an acknowledgement that you are a person and you’re doing a job and that you value that first interaction at a restaurant,” he said.

“I think that one is probably the one that is most persistent,” Murphy stated.

Showing up to a reservation with extra people is a major no-no.
Showing up to a reservation with extra people is a major no-no. FilippoBacci via Getty Images

2. Not replying to a notification that your table is ready.

If you’re on the waitlist for a walk-in table but not paying attention to incoming calls or texts from the restaurant, you’re adding stress to the host’s day.

Hannah Brown, a host in New Jersey, said that sometimes people won’t reply to a waitlist notification at all, or will take too much time to reply — resulting in the restaurant giving up their table.

This leaves the restaurant in a tough spot if the person does decide to show up since there are likely other people on that waitlist, too.

“So, just not having any urgency to respond when we’re trying to communicate with them,” Brown stated.

3. Bringing more people than you booked your table for.

“One of the things is showing up with more people in your party than you’ve reserved for,” said Brown, “that happens pretty often.”

“And then we kind of have to scramble to accommodate,” she added.

If you do need to bring an extra person, let the restaurant know ahead of time, Murphy said.

“Because walking into the front door and being like, ‘Oh, we’re five instead of four’ changes the entire landscape of what kind of table we can offer you,” Murphy noted.

The same goes for requesting a specific table, Murphy said. If you’re a party of two, you can’t just request a table for four when you get to the restaurant. If you want a certain spot, this should also be communicated ahead of time, too.

4. Having people join your table halfway through a meal — and not letting your host and server know.

Similar to showing up with more people than you reserved for, having extra people join your table during your meal is bothersome, too.

“When people have other friends or family join them halfway through the meal and add to a table that doesn’t accommodate that many people ... it affects diners around them,” Brown said.

Think about it: You’re trying to enjoy a night out as the table next to you adds chairs to their table, making your corner of the restaurant inappropriately packed.

If you are having more folks meet you during your meal, let the host know. This way, if they can accommodate the extra guests, they can seat you somewhere with the extra folks in mind. Otherwise it causes “unnecessary stress for everybody,” Brown said.

This goes for bringing a newborn or infant, too, Murphy said. Just because your baby isn’t eating a meal doesn’t mean the restaurant doesn’t want to know they’re coming — they may set you up with a little more space for their carrier or set up an area with a high chair.

“For me, it’s just, kind of a safety thing for the kiddo, I don’t want to put a 10-week-old baby in one of the main walkways of the dining room,” Murphy said, adding that there’s lots of foot traffic, hot food and trays of drinks in certain areas, too.

5. Asking, “Why can’t I sit at that empty table?”

Restaurants take walk-ins when they can, but, oftentimes tables may be fully booked (even when they’re empty), said Murphy. And, in that case, there is one thing you shouldn’t do.

“You come in and it’s a fairly empty restaurant — it’s early in the night, let’s say, and I have to tell you, ‘Oh, no, we don’t we don’t have a lot of space right now,’ and someone’s looking around the room and like, ‘Well, what about this table?’” Murphy said.

In other words, just because it’s 5 p.m. and there are empty tables doesn’t mean there are no reservations for those seats — “there’s other people who have reservations,” he said.

“That is a little rude and kind of lacks some understanding that while the restaurant may appear empty at the moment, in a half an hour or an hour, it will be full,” Murphy stated, “And we have to save those tables for people who have reservations with us.”

6. Or saying, “I don’t need that much time to eat.”

According to Brown, when folks are unhappy with the wait time for a table, they’ll sometimes insist that they can quickly eat and don’t need much time at a table, in hopes of getting squeezed in faster.

They try to “convince you insistently” that you should give them a table sooner because they can quickly eat, Brown said.

When interacting with restaurant hosts, remember that they’re human, too.

The good news is people aren’t very rude too often, Brown noted, but it’s important to know that even a one-off decision to bring an extra person or neglect to reply to a waitlist text can be stressful for hosts.

“Just understanding that we’re people at work  ... hospitality is something that we love and take a lot of pride in, and just understanding that we are people, too,” Murphy said.

“When someone is genuinely interested, or kind or understanding ... it opens up that realm and allows us to connect with you on a level,” Murphy added.

When dealing with rude guests, Murphy said he always reminds himself that he doesn’t know what is going on in that person’s life or if they traveled far to get to their dinner reservation.

“And that’s why they come off as terse or rude, and so that’s how we handle those situations,” he said, “there’s just empathy and grace and understanding that people have lives and we don’t really know what’s going on with people.”

So, as restaurant staff do their best to see the humanity in people, diners should do the same by respecting rules, being polite, communicating any changes and remembering that hosts are people at a job, just like you and me.