A Server’s Guide to Dining Out During the Pandemic

Just a few simple things to remember so I don’t stab you in the eye with a fork.

Denise Vitola


I have been a restaurant server for more than four decades. On most days I really enjoy my job. I love my coworkers and our manager, and I’m proud to serve at one of the best, most popular restaurants in the city. Our guests are a mix of locals and tourists, and in normal times serving them is (usually) a pleasure.

These are not normal times.

Any server can tell you horror stories of the occasional entitled, miserable guest. It comes with the territory, and we veterans have learned to just let it roll off our backs. Usually those guests are few and far between, and the rest are lovely.

But this pandemic has brought out the absolute worst in people. In the last nine months, since our restaurant reopened for dine-in after two months of lockdown, I have witnessed some reprehensible behavior from people who should really know better. At a time when we should all be a little more tolerant, a little more understanding, people are more entitled than ever before.

Not only have they forgotten that we servers are fellow human beings, they’ve forgotten that we are risking our lives so they can have some fried chicken.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m happy to have a job when so many don’t. I’m happy to get out and socialize when so many are housebound. I’m happy my restaurant is still doing well when so many have closed. I’m grateful for all of this. But that doesn’t mean that I’m willing to be treated badly by the people I’m serving. That’s never okay, but especially not now, when the stakes are so much higher for all of us.

So I’ve compiled some simple guidelines to remind restaurant-goers how to behave when dining out during a global pandemic.

Wear the damn mask.

We servers wear our masks for your protection the entire shift — six, seven, eight solid hours in a row. We are asking you to wear yours for the ten seconds it takes to walk from the front door to your table. As soon as you sit down you can take it off. (Although I very much appreciate those few who leave it on while you order. I see you, and I…



Denise Vitola

Writer, reader, lifelong rebel. Learning things the hard way since 1963.