The difficult customers everyone deals with when working in a restaurant

Featuring the wine expert, the indecisive guy, and the table who just don’t want to leave


Would the restaurant industry be better without customers? Sure, profits would take a hit – but anyone who’s worked in the service industry knows the people you have to serve are the most soul-destroying part of the job.

There’s the angry ones, the picky ones, the messy ones, and the ones who really want to speak to your manager. Yes, they are all as bad as each other.

These are all the customers you’ll have the pleasure of meeting when you work in a restaurant. Here’s hoping they tip well.

The ones who haven’t booked

These will invariably be the people who are the most angry about not having a table. They’ll tell you they drove forty minutes to get here, that it’s their sick grandmother’s birthday and that they’ll send a slanderous email to your head office if you refuse to seat them right this instant.

Meanwhile, the couple who did book and have been waiting for their food for an hour on a table next to the loudest cutlery drawer in the county are still being absolutely delightful.

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The couple who pretend they’re not going to order the cheapest bottle of wine

Up and down the wine menu their eyes will scan, stopping only to field each other questions about the £48 pinot noir or the £70 beaujolais.

After five minutes of chin scratching, tutting and page-flipping, they’ll settle on the £12 chianti at the top of the list and look at you in a satisfied way that suggests they think they’ve fooled you.

The wine taster

Sniff. Swirl. Sniff again. Swirl. Lift slowly to lips. Sip. Swirl. Gargle. Swallow. Sniff.

You know he knows nothing about wine. He probably knows you know he knows nothing about wine. Regardless, you stand there holding the open bottle until he’s deemed it the appropriate time to raise his eyebrows, cock his head and say “yes, lovely.”

The guy who’ll just have a beer, thanks

At every mixed table of three plus guests, there’s always the guy who’ll just have a beer, thanks. He’s probably wearing a check shirt; he’s probably got a bit of stubble and a slight gut that even his weekly game of five-a-side can’t shift.

He’d probably rather be at the pub, he probably won’t bother using his napkin and he’ll probably nip out between courses to smoke a cheeky rollie.

The only thing that’s definite is that he’ll just have a beer, thanks.

The one who makes a real point of pronouncing everything correctly

This man in the spectacles with the whispy white hair probably didn’t even want to drink Vins de Pays de l’Aude Yvon Mau or eat pompe à l’huile, but he’s got a holiday home in the South of France and he damn well wants you to know it.

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The perpetual menu-readers

You gave Table 6 the menu a good 30 minutes ago, so how are they still deliberating? Honestly, there are only about eight options on there. What are they reading that you can’t see?

The one who can’t decide

Oooooooo the squid looks good, doesn’t it? But then, I haven’t had seabass in so long. And I’m not usually a pasta fan, but the linguine’s really caught my eye. You know what? Come back to me.

By the time they’ve ordered, the kitchen will be closed anyway – and all of your other tables will have left without paying.

The guy who really cares about steak

He wants a 9oz fillet, blue, griddle-fried, garnished with garlic salt and fresh rosemary and served in a stilton and peppercorn sauce – and he wants it ASAP.

He thinks he’s impressed his date with his order. In reality, she’s fantasising about eloping with the bloke behind the bar.

The guy who really cares about there being blood in his steak

He can’t have blood, he really can’t, he just can’t stand the sight of it, he really can’t.

You’ll make sure the kitchen fry it for so long that it looks like it’s survived a nuclear winter, and still he’ll push it around his plate for ten minutes before sending it back and choosing the chicken burger instead.

The guys who should really be at a bar

They kicked off the meal with three or four pints in the bar area, and now they’ve loudly proclaimed they’re moving onto gin & tonics as you seat them at their table with great difficulty.

It will be almost impossible to glean their order, mainly because they’re more interested in finding out your name and ascertaining why you don’t have shot glasses behind the bar.

20 minutes and six whisky tumblers of Jägermeister later, they’ll all order the exact same “beer and a burger” deal.

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The woman who knows your mum

I can’t chat right now, Joyce, I have loads to do, but I’ll definitely tell her that you had a good time in Sardinia and I 100 per cent will come round to meet your new dog, but I’m super super busy right now so please stop holding onto my forearm.

The couple whose relationship is on the rocks

Their eyes are glossy, their expressions stern. Every time you approach their table to see how the food is you feel as if you’ve stepped into a raging warzone, and from their expressions it’s as if you’re responsible for it.

Your face will, for them, represent their miserable breakup in that miserable restaurant. In weeks to come, they may picture you while they cry.

The fussy mum

My son (gestures towards son) can’t have gluten, so we’ll have a wheat-free alternative to the children’s lasagne.

Cheddar cheese also doesn’t agree with my son (gestures towards son), so if you could replace that with parmesan, please.

The messy kid

You fully understand that toddlers can’t be expected to grasp the minutiae of cutlery usage, but surely no human being is so small and so filled with chaos that they have to smear beans and butter and ketchup on everything and everyone they come into contact with.

As you individually pick peas and potato smiles out of the gaps between tables, you’ll rue the day these little gremlins were allowed to graduate from puréed meals.

The iPad kid

Steven. Steven. Steven put that down and answer the nice lady please. Steven. Steven you can play with that after. Steven. Oh, bugger this. He’ll have the fish fingers.

The sick kid

He’s been sick everywhere. Everywhere. The adults around him are gasping, shouting out for blue roll, backing away from the table and shielding the other childrens’ eyes from the Alien-level horror which has just been unleashed upon the table.

As the grown-ups fuss over him and tell him it’s going to be alright, they fill your arms with vomit-sodden rags without so much as a courteous nod.

The kid who is always in the way

It is always there, under your feet, as you try to manoeuvre trays of coffee and soups and scalding hot stews through a restaurant floor which is already claustrophobic at the the best of times.

You want to kick it. You can’t.

The picky eater

The picky eater is picky not only in their food choices, but in the things they choose to be picky about. They won’t, for example, opt for a simple pie instead of the bouillabaisse – they’ll just ask for the same stew with two types of fish and all of the onion removed.

You don’t want to tell them that literally everything in this place is cooked from a frozen packet, so you trudge to the kitchen and start extracting pieces of mullet and monkfish with a sullen grimace on your face.

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The slow eater

Four times you’ve sidled over to their table to clear their plates, and four times you’ve had to make a hasty U-turn when you realise the woman near the window is still fiddling with her food.

You ordered a steak sandwich, Lisa, there’s no way it takes this long to eat.

The awkward eater

They don’t just eat one thing awkwardly – they eat everything awkwardly.

Chicken on the bone? They’ll try and take it apart with their knife and fork, shredding into a heap of tattered flesh which they barely bother eating.

Burger? They’ll pick it up, widen their eyes and mouth and make a weak attempt at taking a bite, before allowing all of the fillings to topple to the table below with a quiet furious mutter.

Ribs? Jesus Christ, it’s like a massacre in here.

The vegan

I have nothing against you and your noble beliefs but we are stuck in the early 1900s so our only vegan option is literally just leaves.

The woman who ordered too much

She’s already shaking her head and doing a “no, no, no” gesture with her hands as she sees you approaching out of the corner of her eye. “Oh, it’s just too much for me,” she says. You try to act surprised, as if you hadn’t warned the 9st woman in front of you that ordering the mixed grill with extra onion rings was a bad idea.

She hands you what is almost a full plate to take back to the kitchen, but not before ensuring she’s had a small enough bite of everything to ensure you eating the scraps would be just a bit too disgusting.

The one who complains

His meal was fine, but he’ll find something wrong with it: the sweetcorn will still be frozen, or the pork will be raw on the inside, or he found a hair in his sautéed cabbage.

He just wants money off, and you care so little by this point that you’ll grant him his wish.

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The one who is too awkward to complain

The plate of pure garbage cooking you delivered to him was a mangled husk of a meal. It looked like something a fox would find on the side of a road and be too disgusted to eat.

Still, he smiles and thanks you, because the prospect of having a problem with something literally wakes him up in a cold sweat at night.

The one who wants to see the manager

My manager will care about your problems just as little as me, as long as you don’t slag us off on TripAdvisor.

The ones who tip big

They were the loudest, lairiest, most lecherous table you’ve ever served: huffing coke in the disabled toilets, smashing pint glasses for the fun of it and mimicking your accent in a high-pitched voice to the snorting glee of the rest of the table.

Then they left you £20, and you realised they were actually really just really fucking really good guys.

The ones who don’t tip

ALL OF THAT WAS FOR NOTHING?

The ones who don’t understand the concept of tipping

They’ll try and tip on card, and they’ll end up screwing it up somehow. Still, you end up with a £50 tip on top of a £48.90 bill, so there’s no point offering too much help at this immediate moment.

The table who don’t want you to leave

You’re frantically trying to settle bills and cash up and mop the floor behind the bar, but Table 20 have had a few bottles of wine and have decided you’re their new best friend.

If you leave prematurely, you might sacrifice your tip, so you stay and pretend to be interested in Gary’s ligament injury from the 10k he just ran.

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The table who don’t want to leave

I legally cannot kick you out until 11:20, but God help me I will.