Why It's Bad Etiquette To Order From Multiple Servers

It's happened to us all. You sit down at a busy restaurant, decide what you're going to order (or pretend to choose, having actually made your decision weeks ago by scrolling through the menu online), and ask the first person who passes your table to take your order. Then you get that uncomfortable single finger to indicate, "Wait just one moment; I'll get the right person."

Restaurants are a complex business, and there are many people you'll interact with before your meal is over. A host will show you to your seat, a busboy may pour your water or clear your dishes, and your actual server will be the one taking your order and bringing your food. You might even have both a waiter and a back waiter assigned to your table, or multiple staff members enlisted to bring out several dishes at once.

But be cautious about flagging down just anyone who comes your way, because ordering from multiple servers is bad restaurant etiquette — and it can complicate your final bill.

Order from your server, and yours alone

Servers in restaurants are generally assigned to designated sections each evening, with tables distributed evenly to ensure that no one is overwhelmed while someone else is twiddling their thumbs. This is why you might get some side-eye if you ask to sit in a booth or by the window in a different part of the restaurant from where the host is trying to seat you.

If a server is taking time to get back to you, it's likely because they are mired in orders and other tasks. And if your server is occupied, the other servers are probably busy as well. Therefore, asking them for assistance may only add to confusion and chaos as they add your requests onto their full load of responsibilities.

If your server is really missing in action, you can ask another server — or even your busser — for things like silverware or napkins, but any actual orders have to go through your assigned server.

Tickets and tipping

Depending on what system they use, your server might require a code to access or adjust your meal ticket, so asking someone else could cause your order to get lost in the pipeline. And if you ask multiple people for the same thing, thinking your original server has forgotten about you, you might end up with two of the same order.

Ordering from multiple servers can also lead to confusion over tipping, as some restaurants allow servers to keep the tips from their section, while others pool them. It's also the restaurant equivalent to cc'ing a coworker or manager on an email — it might come off as passive-aggressive and impatient, and could negatively affect your server.

If you want to practice good etiquette, adhere to the restaurant's hierarchy, and above all, exercise patience. Your waiter will come back around and get you all set and squared away. Just enjoy your meal, and don't let yourself get caught up in the rush!