"Please stop seating yourself."

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There are certain things you should generally never do in a restaurant. Among the more egregious transgressions, according to service workers, are bailing on your reservation, yelling at a member of the waitstaff, or touching them for any reason. (This happens way more often than you think.) But in the era of COVID-19, the list has grown longer and become vastly more important.

Good customer behavior goes beyond just being thoughtful and respectful, though you should most definitely still be both. Now, it's also important to be aware of the changing restaurant landscape—as vaccination numbers grow and restaurants start to reopen indoor dining—and act accordingly.

People sitting inside plastic tents at outdoors cafe with restaurant server wearing face mask carrying a serving tray.
Credit: Luis Alvarez / Getty Images

"Please don't tell me you're vaccinated, therefore you don't have to obey our COVID guidelines," says Sara, a server in the Finger Lakes region of New York, explaining that the restaurant could be shut down for not following state health department regulations. She also notes that it's unhelpful when patrons try to argue with her about the science or facts of COVID. "I'm just enforcing state guidelines," she says. "I'm happy you're vaccinated, but you still have to follow the rules!"

To ensure a safe and stress-free dinner out, see below for the latest restaurant rules, according to the people working there.

Seating yourself

"During 2020, Philadelphia, like most cities, allowed for restaurants and bars to set up sidewalk cafés and 'streeteries' outside. There are rules to this type of dining. This seating is not a free-for-all. Please stop seating yourself, especially at dirty tables! We are doing the best we can to keep everybody safe and that includes ourselves as well. We have to clean and sanitize these tables and chairs and it becomes incredibly difficult when guests take it upon themselves and don't follow rules." — Jennifer Sabatino manager of Manatawny Still Works in Philadelphia

Complaining about wait times

"People have to understand that a lot of restaurants are short-staffed. If you have to wait, just be patient don't start complaining that there are a ton of open tables. Not all tables can be used and there may only be two servers working." — Stephanie in Delaware

"Please be patient with us! Staffing is a nightmare right now, and everyone is eager to go out, so if things are slower or we don't offer the same menu item that we did in the past, it's mostly because we simply can't do it right now." — Sara in New York

Being petty

"People will get mad that you may be out of something, but often it's not the restaurant's fault—it could be the venders. I had someone complain about not having handles on her paper bag. With the shut down of glue factories and chemical factories in Texas, that's the way they had to come."— Stephanie in Delaware

Leaving nasty reviews online

"Don't leave a bad review on Google or Yelp. Surface your issue in person or a private channel." David "Rev" Ciancio in New Jersey

Canceling your reservation last minute

"Don't cancel reservations last minute, and then fight with the restaurant about their cancellation policy." — Pam Willis, co-owner of Pammy's in Cambridge, Mass.

Tipping poorly

"As a server, I wish people would stay at home and wait until we are actually out of this because we're both close and so very far away. However, I'm aware that's a lot to ask of our populous after so many dissenting views. So, to those that choose to head out into the world, please tip your server well and actually do us the favor of opening the menu before yelling four options we have never carried." — Randle in Los Angeles

Offering unsolicited advice

"Please don't tell us what we 'should' be doing to make more money/drive more business to us/make customers happy. We've had to pivot our entire business model like 3 times this past year, don't you think we've been agonizing over this stuff for a while? Your suggestions are condescending and unhelpful." — Sara in New York

Camping out

"Please don't overstay. With staffing issues and occupancy caps, each table is more important than ever, and timing is everything. Eat, enjoy, get out." — Jess in Washington, DC

Being a jerk

"Patience, empathy, kindness, compassion, understanding, and self-control should all be worn on your sleeve … or stay home." — Michael Strauss, owner of Mike's BBQ in Philadelphia