Details.com editor James Oliver Cury tackles controversial food-and-drink-themed etiquette issues.
I get it. The summer heat is brutal. You want to wear less. Go ahead: Trot out your sandals (or even the mandals). You do realize, though, that showing off your hairy knuckles may cause some folks to run for cover (see this recent Slate article and the nearly annual Details column on the subject). Hey, it’s your body, right?
Not so fast. If you’re a server at a public restaurant, different standards apply. It’s no longer a personal thing; your choices are business decisions. You actually do have to consider what other people will think - especially if you hope to get a decent tip. Your boss may even tell you how to dress. That’s his or her right.
So why then do we continue to see so many egregious examples of unappetizing (and borderline repulsive) fashion when we sit down to eat and drink?
I believe that rules of hygiene and etiquette have not been clearly stated, or even discussed (it was years before someone told me that blowing my nose at the table was rude). So below I’ve rounded up the six style and grooming choices that, right or wrong, are most likely to offend customers. If you’re a waiter or busboy (and I’ve been both), you’d be wise to consider these quasi-taboos.
And if you’re just a fellow diner, you might want to give these a read, too. Dissenters, of course, are free to ignore the suggested don’ts. Just don’t sit near me.
Sandals and Flip-Flops
Like it or not, certain body parts are unappetizing to a majority of diners. We tend to cover our nipples, for example, no matter what gender we are. We cover our butts too - even though it might be more comfortable to wear a thong.
I think sandals and flip-flops are terrific for the beach and great at home, but not appropriate at a restaurant. It’s not just the bony protuberances and mashed toes - there’s a sense that you’re walking dangerously close to the filth on the streets and then sharing whatever you’ve picked up with the entire dining room.
Two words: underarm hair. And for some of you ladies: underarm stubble. You’re not gaining THAT much more cool air by shunning sleeves. Stick to standard short sleeves so we don’t have to see your pits. (Note: There’s a reason we say something is “the pits” when we don’t like it.)
Seeing gauze wrapped around a finger immediately broadcasts that your body is tackling blood and scabs, and any sound mind will reason that there is a possibility that the Band-Aid could fall off - meaning either that food will be contaminated with a sticky plastic bandage or that your nasty finger may touch the glass I will be bringing to my lips. Hard not to be repulsed.
That said: When a waiter cuts himself there aren’t many other hygienic options. I’d suggest investing in transparent Band-Aids or Neosporin. What we, the diners, don’t know won’t hurt us.
It’s not clear why piercings trigger such visceral loathing from diners. I believe it stems from the fact that a stud or ring could fall (or have fallen) into the food. And it certainly would be gross if it fell from your nose, your labret (right under the lip) or your tongue. But the truth is: This is very very unlikely. Still, the issue has forced some states to consider banning facial piercings at restaurants. The solution for most waiters: Remove your bling before serving.
I’m generally a big fan of womanly curves, but my wife believes there is a not-so-fine line between showing off the twins and foisting flesh into eaters’ faces. I rarely see the problem, but that’s part of the problem. The only time the chest should steal the show away from the food and décor is at a Hooter’s, a strip club, or in the privacy of your own home.
Too Much Cologne or Perfume
We tend to smell foods before we actually eat them, so a strong whiff of musk or lavender, while well intentioned, only interferes with the dining experience. The chef did not want his or her server’s personal fragrances to compete with the dishes’ aromas. But more often than not, the guilty party in this scenario is a fellow diner. You can file this one next to “reeking of cigarettes,” which is just as bad a transgression.
Got an etiquette question Cury can address? Share it in the comments below.
More from Details:
Time to Stop Wearing Those…
The Best Breakfasts in America
5 Foods that Make You Look Younger
In defense of the restaurant dress code
7 deadly restaurant sins that keep customers from coming back
5 reasons you shouldn't blame the waiter
5 ways to complain effectively in a restaurant
5 ways YOU delay your meal
Hey waiter-don't stick stuff down the back of your pants. I don't want to see the menus going down there or my check and credit card. That's what your hands are for. If you have to make more than one trip, so be it.
And if you're wearing a cross, cover it up! Your employer is allowed to tell you how to dress and the jewelry you can and can't wear because they want to project an image for their business, but as soon as they try to restrict religious jewelry the christians go crazy and file lawsuits.
Holy Jebuz on a skate board!
This post reeks of fail and hate.
Concur. It's just a cross. Are you really that threatened by it?
I don't care about the tank tops or the sandals. But I agree it's mighty tiresome to see too much cleavage, and when a woman has to bend over a table or lean over bar to talk to customers, I do not want to see breasts. Cover up, for heaven's sake – show a little pride in your own modesty. Neither do I care to see a lot of tattoos or facial piercings. Tattoos look dirty, facial piercings look like you don't care about your own hygiene, and together they present a look that I don't want touching my food. I used to work in the operating room and all I see when I see piercings and tattoos is this 80 something woman who proudly showed off all her 'body art' to us – all of it wrinkled and drooping and some of it infected or inflamed. UGH! Don't tough MY food!
Good God-what an uptight batch you must be. Glad you never worked on me in the OR. Ya think you're gonna get cooties from a tattoo? Besides-boobies make me smile :)
It's uncomfortable for me in humorus way....I take out my daughter for dinner, and how can I not stare, even though I try not too ( this coincidentally happened recently ).
Regardless, I got red my 15 year old daughter started teasing me about checking a girl out. Fortunately, I was able to make her laugh by saying "How could I not?." In a club, or out and about, sure, but when I am in a restaurant, they can be, um...."Pleasantly too distracting."
Just thinking about it caused me too many grammatical errors...... ;)
( . )( . )
You might not like cleavage; but I bet the girls that showcase the twins make more on tips than the ones that don't.
So the waitstaff can't wear sandals but what about the other customers? You're spending more time looking at them than you are at the waitstaff. This applies to all the other no-no's as well. Woman next to you wearing too much perfume, etc.
Anyone wearing mandals should be placed into a work camp.
Dirty black teeth, tobacco smell on the servers, dirty tables & seats, overwhelming odor of strong perfume or colognes. Even the most expensive restaurants are lacking in cleanliness in their establishments and their wait staff. If the restroom is dirty chances are the kitchen is filthy too.
I disagree with putting on a clear band-aid. The reason we have to wear a blue band-aid when we cut ourselves serving is because there is no blue food. As bad as it sounds, and sometimes it could happen, a band-aid could fall off into someones food and a clear or beige colored band-aid wouldn't be as recognizable as a blue band-aid. We can stop the dish from going out to the table and throw it away quicker. And a free meal and drama could be avoided a lot quicker too.
this is a dumb article, literally every server knows these "rules", it whether the restaurant makes it mandatory to follow them, which most do. how about writing one on how you should tip your server, its surprising how many people think a tip is just a tip rather than it being the only compensation for handling your food.
I'm also curious to see if whomever wrote this article worked in the industry...
And maybe an article on how tips are earned and should not be expected. Good service=good tip, bad service=bad tip. This concept is too tough for some waitstaff to follow for some reason!
who ever actually write something like that down,is a cheap customer regardless,service,just trying justify his frugalness...
Geez. That subject has been beaten to death on this blog. Just go crawl back under your rock.
1. Low-slung pants, so when the waiter/waitress leans over a table, the butt crack is exposed. Ewwwww.
2. Gum chewing; I don't want to think about the gum falling out of your mouth into my food. Ugh.
Long fingernails of waiters makes me feel sick to my stomach.
How about those girls these days required to wear a little black dress? I came to eat, not see their bottom half hanging out of their too-small dress when they're sitting down to wipe a table. I have had meals ruined where I have slightly turned my head and seen EVERYTHING on display on a girl. Gross!
Suuuuure you did. It was ruined because you suddenly had an appet!te for something other than food.
I am a straight female and the only appetite it gave me was an appetite for cleaning what I was sitting on for fear I was sitting on a seat that she had previously done this on. Seriously, how immature are you?
There's a scale for that?!
I'm hungry already.
Stupid article and stupid people that waste their time trying to make sense of something so stupid! CNN u are the hairy chest of the media in this country and u should be ashamed to publish articles like this! Talk about things that matters and will make difference in people's lives...
If you're posting a comment at 2:20 am, you should be worried about your own life and not what CNN is doing!
The times for postings are EST/EDT regardless of where you are. Don't be so quick to judge.
Now I may be mistaken... Maybe it is only the law in my state... But I work in food service and it is law that if a food handler (wait staff are food handlers) has a bandage it MUST be colored!!! (We buy the kids cartoon character ones). This way if the bandage DOES come off it is easily seen and the food can be tossed and new made! Food Safety 101!!! I can't believe that the writer of this is suggesting that their wait staff wear a transparent bandage or none at all citing "what we don't know won't hurt us" REALLY CNN??? Really?
Varies from state to state. In many, prep staff must use those bandages, but servers and other front of the house staff are not; they shouldn't be letting their hands touch the food to begin with.
I agree 100%. I also work in food mgmt. My company uses a blue bandage, it is exclusive of our company and can't be bought retail. If a customer comes in and says they found a "bandage in their food...we will know if it belonged to our employee because we require they only use this bandage! It is for the safety of the customer and the company. We also require they were a glove over the bandage at all times! Servers/cashiers wear finger cots/or gloves (depending on where the bandage is.
I work in a restaurant. It's not super high class and it's certainly not Hooter's, but when the female servers show more cleavage, they get higher tips. It's just guys being guys I guess.
these seem weird to me: sandals? the health dept isn't going to allow that. Not really sure about the sleeveless shirts that might not be allowed either. And I know a lot of restaurant don't want employees to wear perfume/cologne anyways; they want customers to smell the food not the staff.
Really CNN? Shame on you for this article
One vague comment deserves another.
You forgot to mention the chest hair in the third picture, that would really make me want to barf. I would be worried there was some in my food!
Sounds like east coast W.A.S.P. values, like something from white-bred 1950's. Sandals & facial piercings, really? Geez! Yeah, go ahead and stick to the corporate chain restaurants like Applebee's and Chili's; somebody's got to eat there, let it be you.
Flip Flops?! Disgusting – Unless of course you're dining there. Waitstaff DEFINITELY need dress codes!
tank tops, band-aids, and too much perfume/cologne I agree with. The others....? who cares
There was a local diner nearby and my parents used to visit regularly. However, a waiter there insisted on growing his pinky fingernail out and it was at least 3 inches long. Gross!!! Add personal hygiene to the list, please.
HA-this fingernail is used for scooping up and snorting cocaine or to get that big Booger at the end of your nasal cavity.
Or to clean out the ears!
"...it might be more comfortable to wear a thong." Really? WeI'd like some feedback from the ladies. I've never worn a thong but I would assume it's less comfortable having a strap wedged in your backside than wearing conventional underwear (or nothing).
The only "panties" I own are T-backs. It's either them or nothing at all.
I am sensing a commando raid in the imminent future...
My kind of girl!
As s flossers.
I feel dumber for having wasted 2 mins of my life on this.
Heavily tatood is also a reason for me to walk away, tatoos just look dirty to me and the more there are the dirtier it seems. People have a right to ink up their body all they want but I also have a right to reject service from that person. Dirty hair and long hair that is not tied tightly behind the person is another reason I refuse service, those dreadlocks on any 1 just look filthy to me
stick to vending machines
I agree – tattoos do make a person look dirty, especially when seen from afar or if not clearly inspected by the person viewing them. This doesn't mean they're dirty. This doesn't mean they shouldn't be hired. But the truth is, it's natural to be apprehensive on first glance about something on the skin that doesn't look like skin. And most waiters rarely get more than two glances from their patrons.
Tattoos make me think of hepatitis. Hepatitis makes me think I want to eat somewhere else.
Note to those considering tattoos: think long and hard about participating in what is nothing but a fad, whose results will last for decades and look worse with time. And make sure you get them, if you must, in a place that can be covered: your chest, upper shoulders or as s are probably fine, because then no one else has to look at them under most circumstances, and both office and restaurant dress codes can (or should) ensure that they are normally covered.
Speaking from foodservice, we have blue bandages that are waterproof and metal detectable. The reason we're not wearing clear bandages is that, so in the event that it does fall off, it's easily visible in the food so that we can dump that batch before it ever gets to you and make something else. Food safety and health code rules prevent us from wearing clear bandaids, so "discretion" is moot. Either you deal with the fact that service is slow because we have to send someone home every time they scrape their finger, or you just have to deal.
These are often mandatory for prep, but not for service or other front of the house jobs.
For wait staff, band-aids really don't bother me. I'd rather glimpse that than an open wound.
I agree with all of them, except number 6. I'd like to see more of that.
Ear gauges and other grotesquely large piercings are also disgusting. White people with dreadlocks really take gross to a new level.
I totally agree with #6. Perfume and cologne are offensive. They make my throat close up and give me an instant headache.
Especially patchouli. That stuff's nasty.
BO! Add BO to the list. We went to this highly praised hippie place in Portland right near Reed college...our waitress aside from wearing a take top and show off her underarm hair (a little gross) smelled bad. I mean my wife and I held our breath every time she came by which was often. She was offensive and it ruined the meal. I don't care how hippie you are, ya can't stink serving food!
Er... You went to a hippie place in Portland... Are you trying to be funny and failed, or are you a complete moron? Everything you described is 100% what you'd expect if you say hippie.
What about unkept fingernails. I had a water in Charleston, SC that looked liked he'd been digging in a garden. YUCK! Touching my plate!
#5 bothers me because body piercing makes me feel nauseated. I consider it self-mutilation. Add tattoos to the list of what I don't want to see on wait staff, and for the same reason.
I'm significantly tatted and have been turned down from two jobs because of my tats. I think that's ridiculous for anyone to judge or predict whether people will be offended by my ink. If you are offended by ink or piercings, then choose businesses where the staff meet your lily-white discriminatory purist standards.
Have you tried applying at Chick-fil-A ?
And as you've already pointed out, you're not getting hired so the majority of places prefer to not have to deal with it. Even the Japanese gangsters would tattoo discreetly. Full body work but not arms, neck, or head. What you do in private, keep private. If you want to make a statement, expect to be judged. Nothing wrong with making choices, just don't expect preferential treatment because of it.
I'm not sure where you got that anyone was looking for preferential treatment. Looks like people just want to be treated the same as everyone else despite choices that have no effect on anyone else. Also, no one is forcing anyone to watch a person get their tattoos, so it is done in private. But a tattoo is not lingerie. So long as it's not offensive, what's the difference between a tattoo and a poster or a bumper sticker?
Though it does get annoying to hear tattooed people complain about not getting jobs. As unfair is it is to be judged for something that absolutely has nothing to do with their ability to perform on the job, they know what expect and should be prepared. This isn't a new concept, life isn't fair, and we have to live with our choices.
I'm paying for the food and, as the customer, I get to dictate certain conditions of the service. And I don't want someone who looks like an escapee from the circus sideshow serving me.
You should have thought about the limitations all that ink would impose on your future life before making your face look like a checkerboard. Go try applying at a fortune 500 company and see if you get any job other than janitorial, mail room, or warehouse. If you get hired at all.
People who decide to have visible tattoos need to realize that there are some professions they it wont matter, but some professions that it will matter. Style industry its more trendy and acceptable for piercings- business and customer service industries – like restaurants – not so much. Do what you want, but i get to do what i want with my money as well. Your rights to have them do not supercede my rights
That's exactly what a lot of people do.
Kathleen, I agree that it's ridiculous how many people still hold on to the old idea that tattoos are a taboo thing. But the fact remains that this stigma is still alive. Therefore, anyone who chooses to get visible tattoos is acknowledging the fact that they don't care if they are judged because of it.
I have several tats myself, but they are all covered by normal office attire. I believe the stigma is going away as the older generation dies off. We just need to be patient.
At Chick-fil-A they're usually missing most of their teeth.
And brain cells
...but funnier and more up to date political humor, so I will still eat there
Hold on a second... I agree with most of the above, but first of all, a bandaid is not a fashion statement, its to keep a cut from bleeding... the alternative is a server bleeding on a customers food, which is far worse than a diner seeing a bandaid on ones hand! #2 If a server wants to wear a piercing anywhere on their face, more power to them. The odds of a lip/eyebrow/tongue ring falling out into food are extremely low... Maybe in 1980 this would seem too "edgy" for some... but its 2013, pierce away!
Exactly. These people seem to think they're going to catch something from a tattoo or piercing.
#6 gets them better tips
if #5 bothers you, you need to get out of the 1950s and join us in the year 2013.
#5? REALLY??? welcome to the 21st century!! if you have a problem with your waiter having a piercing or any other BODY ART EXPRESSION, then you need to move to an island... I think #5 is discrimination....
1. The unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people or things, esp. on the grounds of race, age, or sex.
2. Recognition and understanding of the difference between one thing and another.
*buzz* Wrong answer. It's not prejudicial, it's company policy. Don't like it, go find another sandbox to play in. If you have body art, how can I tell if you've bathed recently (barring obvious B.O.)? While I encourage self expression, if you're covered in tats, you look dirty and there's no place for that in the restaurant serving industry.
What the hell does body art have to with bathing? That's the most phobic thing I've ever heard.
Yeah-sorry about the hyperbole....
Discrimination – nope – not at all – they made the choice to pierce or tattoo – they must realize there are consequences to actions – – If i was a business owner – especially if I had a restaurant – You can apply but I have every legal right to say no- not going to hire you.
Remember 99% – your rights dont trump the rights of the 1%.
Bandages are supposed to be bright and attention grabbing. That way if they do somehow end up in the food, they are seen and the food is discarded, hopefully before the customer ever gets it. A bandage is supposed to be covered with a little finger condom.
I'm not sure about every state, but in GA it is a healthcode requirement that the bandage be bright and visible (usually a bright blue color) and covered in a "finger condom" if possible. If the server had a clear bandage how would you see it when it falls off into your salad?
very good point!!
Stupid article! Waste of space!
I'd never ever complain at # 6.
Someone needs to manscape more than his neck. Nasty.
Howabout he manscapes if you loose some damn weight.
Even if you lose some weight.
Photo # 2 is repulsive.
What about the waiter who has sweat dripping off his forehead? Gross!
To be honest, waiters try really hard to look like they're not breaking a sweat, but as they are in the kitchen/food pick-up area that is pouring out heat and running around filling customers obnoxiously complicated orders, one sometimes can't help the fact that they've broken a sweat. And most people will freak out at you if you take the two minutes to wipe off and freshen up, because you weren't at their table doing their next unrealistic request.
I sense no biasness in your comments.... ;)
Mentioning "unrealstic" twice in terms of customers doesn't demonstrate any bitterness
I agree with all of them EXCEPT, of course, #6.
Let's face it: dress standards have fallen over the decades. It was once common for everyone to wear a suit and tie to work. Casual Fridays changed all that; one could then show up in a sport coat and loafers once a week, but that trend slowly spread throughout the rest of the week, with Fridays now allowing jean and polo shirts. The trend continued, to the point where today even the most professional offices sport employees decked out in cargo shorts and AC/DC T-shirts all week long; I suppose Fridays will soon become "Pants Optional" day.
One way to combat this would be to begin a reverse trend of "Dress-up Fridays", where people wear, for instance, jeans without holes in them or shirts with a semblance of a collar.
As far as restaurants go, however – that shouldn't be the server's decision, and therein lies the problem. Dress codes are set by restaurant management, which should be taking steps to ensure that everyone is in compliance with whatever standards the establishment has.
I agree. Nothing sharper than a waiter, even waitresses, dressed up in a shirt and tie.
However, I think it should be perfectly OK in any "office environment" to remove your tie if you are hot. Nothing worse than a tie when it's 100 degrees. For example, I am constantly fighting with a co-worker (a 50 year old lady that weighs 109 pounds by choice) over the thermostat. She'd have it at 76 degrees in the office if she could (which I've come back from lunch to find), to which I turn it back down to 71 or 72. Then she complains about being cold.
I'm in pants, long sleeve collared shirt, and a tie. I can't take any of this off. She can put a sweater on or wear pants instead of a flimsy skirt – or both. Or stop your liquid diet, get some meat on your bones, and improve your circulation. She's a weight freak.
HA!! Nice visual. reminds me of something my Dad used to say growing up.
"Don't touch the thermostat! If you're cold, put a sweater on!"
I have this battle with hubby all the time. If I'm too hot and take off all my clothes and still am hot, the temp gets turned down. He can put on a parka to warm up. It's why I do nekkid housekeeping. [lick finger, touch hip "Tssssssss!"]
In short, nothing to distract the customer.
How come the "pits" picture, it is showing off, instead, chest hair.
Though, I would think that chest hair would be the man equivalent to boobs, and should fall into a uni-sex variant of the "In-Yo-Face Cleavage" rule.
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