10 Rules for Dining on the Patio

The first day of spring was a few weeks ago which means one thing for restaurant workers: it’s patio season! It’s that time of year when dining al fresco is the most important thing a restaurant patron can possibly do with their day. It can mean extra tips for servers but along with those tips comes extra work. Setting up and breaking down a patio can be a miserable experience. How many of us have had to do it more than once during a shift when the rains starts and then stops and then starts again? In order to assist our customers, for it’s all about their needs, I have created a list of rules for dining on the patio.


  1. Don’t complain about the weather. You wanted to sit outside so if it’s windy or too hot please don’t expect your server do something about it. Most servers do not have Mother Nature or God on speed dial so they are unable to help with the climate. For those of us who do have direct access to them, we’d rather use that connection for our own personal needs like asking Mother Nature to make it rain when it’s our turn to set up the patio or having God give flat tires to people who leave 5% tips.
  2. Don’t come into the restaurant and then ask the hostess what it’s like on the patio. If it was 98º when you got out of your car and rolled your bucket of Ranch dressing ass up to the host stand, there is a pretty good chance it’s also 98º on the patio. And while we’re at it, don’t ask if it’s going to cool down or if it’s going to stop raining soon. Do we look like Sam Champion or Al Roker? If we could predict the future we would not be waiting tables. We’d be on the 5:00 news prognosticating the weather or in Atlantic City playing craps.
  3. Please be aware that the floor may be uneven. The patio is not necessarily a smooth even floor that will let your table be perfectly steady. The patio may be made of paver stones, bricks, cement, wood, grass or if you’re in New York City, it will be the Ninth Avenue sidewalk. This could affect the stability of your table. If you need a solid surface for your table to be on, might I suggest sitting inside where an architect made sure that the floors were level as opposed to sitting outside where a restaurant owner threw a card table onto a piece of plywood and called it a patio?
  4. Don’t freak the fuck out if a bug or a leaf lands in your food. You’re outside and this is one of the inherent risks that you took when deciding to leave the safety of four walls and a roof. No restaurant is going to comp your meal because a leaf fell into your mimosa and no restaurant is going to comp your meal because a lady bug took a nap in your salad. You deal with it. Pretend you’re camping, pick up the offending object and throw it away.
  5. If you live in New York City, there is no smoking allowed. The patio may be outside, but it’s still a place where people are working and eating and you are not allowed to smoke. If you need that cigarette all you have to do is stand up and walk outside the perimeter of the dining area and light it up. And if you are in a city that allows you to smoke, don’t use your plate as a fucking ashtray.
  6. Forgive your server for being sweaty. As you sit underneath your patio umbrella sipping frozen daiquiris and iced teas, your server is walking back and forth from table to table under the blaring sun. He might be a Sweaty Betty. He hates having the pit stains even more than you hate looking at them. Ignore them. Don’t tell your server things like, “You sure look like you’re working hard” or “Hot enough for you?” He is working hard and it is hot enough for him. Drink your drink and shut up.
  7. Have patience. Often times, the patio is as far away from the kitchen as humanly possible. If you ask for more dressing the server is going to have to weave through the patio, go up the three steps to the restaurant, go inside, cross the entire dining room and then enter the kitchen to get that dressing. It will take a couple more minutes than it would if you were sitting inside. Consequently, do your server and yourself a favor by consolidating your requests. Or better yet question yourself this: “Do I really need that extra mayo?”
  8. Dress appropriately. You may be outside, but you’re still in a public place. Shoes and shirts are required. I know you may want to get some sun, sir, but no one wants to eat their Awesome Blossom while looking at your sagging man titties covered in grey fur resting themselves on your table. It may seem like a good idea to take your feet out of your shoes so they can feel the cool grass but please keep those unpedicured horrors covered up or at least in a flip flop.
  9. Accept it if the patio is closed. Yes, it may have stopped raining a whole five minutes ago, but that does not mean the patio is open for business. It’s wet and none of the tables are set up. Don’t ask if we can “just go dry one off” for you. We are not going to open the patio until we know it is going to stay open. Nothing is worse than seating a patio and then having a rain storm blow in and suddenly there are fifteen tables of customers who need to move inside all at once. If it’s closed, it’s closed for a reason.
  10. Make sure you hand payment to the server. Don’t just place a stack of cash on the table and walk away. The same goes for a credit card slip. That cool breeze you were enjoying ten minutes earlier can also be the thing that blows your payment into the parking lot. No server wants to go chasing after a credit card voucher as it whips around tables and trees. Take an extra minute to be sure that the server gets the money.

Hopefully these handy dandy tips will make dining on a patio a better experience for all involved. We servers look forward to having you sit in our sections on the patio but we also would request that you keep these things in mind. One final thought: the patio is not your own personal backyard and there are other people waiting to sit at that table when you are finished eating. Please enjoy your time there. Enjoy the view of the lake or the parking lot or Second Avenue but know that if you stay there too long after you have finished eating, your server may begin to resent you. We make our money by turning tables over and re-seating them. If you’re desperate to sit outside for an unlimited amount of time, take your ass to the park or just get your own contemporary dining table sets in your own house and act however you want. When you’re in the comfort of your own home you can eat whatever you want, take as long as you want and act however you want.

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