Speed Up Tardy Restaurant Service By Calling The Front Of House

Speed Up Tardy Restaurant Service By Calling The Front Of House

It’s a scenario that every patron is painfully familiar with: you’ve been sitting in a restaurant for close to half an hour and your order still hasn’t been taken. Trying to flag down the wait staff proves futile — it’s as if they have a blind spot when it comes to your table. Instead of stewing in your rapidly dwindling stomach juices, try calling the restaurant’s phone number and politely inquiring what the hold up is. You’ll be surprised by how quickly service picks up.

Snooty patron picture from Shutterstock

I did this entirely by accident on the weekend during a dinner date with the wife. After being summarily ignored by the wait staff for a good 30 minutes, I tried to call a friend on my smartphone and accidentally dialed the last recorded number. This happened to be the restaurant we were sitting in.

Instead of disconnecting the call, I identified myself as a patron in the restaurant and asked why tonight’s service was so slow. Within 30 seconds, our waiter appeared as if by magic, complete with a sincere apology.

Now, I’m not suggesting you do this when a restaurant is clearly run off its feet — that’s just rude and likely to result in brusque, testy service (and maybe some spit in your food). But if you’re being ignored for no good reason, it can be a highly effective strategy. Getting the maĆ®tre d’ involved means that the chain of command has been compromised, and they’ll be sure to let the wait staff know about it.

This is less awkward or confrontational than getting all up in the waiter’s grill — and you don’t even have to leave your chair. If you’re paranoid about retribution, make the call covertly; doubtlessly half the other patrons will also be on their phones, giving you the perfect cover.


  • I think one of the American Lifehacker articles came over, here in Australia we would get up from our table and go ask, instead of being so lazy and making a phone call from the table . What’s next? Advice on driving to your postbox?

    • I agree with this but still, only 30 minutes? Surely at that point you’re still having a good chat with whoever you’re eating with?

      I mean, unless they didn’t even bring out drinks yet. Then I could understand.

  • Ran into this issue when a group of friends and I went to a restaurant some years back. At least 30 minutes, maybe 45 with no luck getting a waiter to take our order. Then we noticed there was a delivery number…

    “Hi we’d like to place an order for delivery.”
    “Sure, what’s your address?”
    “Table 7.”

    I’m not advocating this is a solution to all your woes and I acknowledge the rudeness but in this specific circumstance it was agreed by everyone at the table that it was justified.

    Edit: Meant “delivery” instead of takeaway.

  • There are a few things missing from this article:

    i. Obligatory, ‘don’t you know who I am?’
    ii. Threaten to post the delay to Facebook
    iii. Ask for a free bottle of wine

    Each must be announced to the whole room while the waiter is at your service. It’ particularly important not to look at the waiter during the whole exchange. Just keep scrolling on your phone.

    • Threaten to have them fired, tell them they’ll never work again, demand to see the manager, tell them the waiter was rude, swore and threatened you with violence.

  • Next bit of advice?

    If you do this, just… don’t eat your food… just don’t. Trust me.

  • Much more effective a penalty to just take yourselves elsewhere, and you (probably) won’t get food that’s been … altered, either.

  • Never piss off your hairdresser, tattooist or person serving you food, you don’t want the repercussions.

  • Some time last year my friends and I went to a restaurant to eat.

    A couple at the table next to us where loudly complaining about the lack of service. But they where too busy playing with their phones to notice the Waitresses repeated attempts to take their order.

    Personally I can’t stand phones at the table, it’s rude to the people you’re with and waitstaff just walk by assuming you’re busy with your phone.

  • probably an urban myth but I read about a group of people ordering takeaway pizza from another restaurant to their table and they were asked to leave.

    • Not an urban myth – has been done many times.

      PS – owned a pizza shop for a decade or so, the things people do/try can be amazing and occasionally beyond amusing.

  • Even when the service is bad or they’ve made mistakes – be nice. People make mistakes – and being nice about it will always get you further. My wife and I eat out quite often. You’d be surprised how apologetic they are when you’re apologetic about being a pain.

    There is however a limit. Bad food – send it back and leave. If they totally mess it up and the above strategy doesn’t fix it – leave. We always make sure we pay for what I’ve consumed before we leave though.

    Often we will give a restaurant a second chance. Though commonly we find good restaurants don’t need them – they’re always on their game.

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