Do you consider yourself a polite, sophisticated diner? Of course you do. You say "please" and "thank you." You know how to use chopsticks. You can define the word "Burrata." But if you're one of the millions of people who have never waited tables, there are a few subtle breaches of dining behavior you might (unwittingly) be guilty of ― ones that are causing your server financial and emotional harm.
You're more interested in your Smartphone than you are in your dinner.
Or your fellow diners. Or your waiter. Here's a tip: When you sit at the table with other humans, they might be offended that you find what's on your iPhone more fascinating than you find them. And your waiter will hate you because you're going to ask him to repeat the litany of specials he just described to everyone else for the second (or third) time because you weren't paying attention. Put the phone down. Better yet, turn it off and put it away. And please take that damned Bluetooth thing out of your ear. Your server might not be as technologically savvy as you think. He might mistake it for a hearing aid and yell directly into it.
You sniff corks.
Tasting wine should be a relatively simple ― and ideally a painless ― procedure. The waiter shows you the bottle you've ordered, citing the pertinent information (maker, vineyard, vintage, etc.); you accept the bottle; waiter opens said bottle and pours a little of the wine into your glass after placing the cork in front of you. The sole purpose of cork inspection is to determine whether or not the bottle has been stored properly. When you sniff the cork, it is a clear sign to your waiter that you have no idea what you're doing. A true cork will invariably smell as God intended it to smell: Like cork. Take a whiff of the wine instead. And, whatever happens, never dramatically wave a screw cap under your nose, even as a joke. That particular move has led to blood loss on more than one occasion.
You stay all night.
Don't be a "camper." Lingering over a romantic dinner is one thing, but hogging a table in a busy restaurant for the entire evening is a surefire way to bring on the ire of your server, the hostess, management, and the nice people who have been patiently (or not so patiently) waiting for their turn to dine. If someone came into your place of business for an appointment in the morning and then decided to hang out until closing time, making it impossible for you to see other clients and earn money, you'd probably hate them, too.
You're a crappy tipper.
There are few things that can match the sense of betrayal a good server feels when he or she has been stiffed on a gratuity ― especially after her guests have just finished telling her what a marvelous dinner they had and how great she was. The last time we checked, landlords and student loan officers do not accept good wishes as legal tender. Don't think you need to tip on that $200 bottle of wine? Think again: Not only is your server taxed on that sale, but she has to pay her support staff (hostess, busser, food runner, etc.) on it, whether you tip or not. If you can afford to eat well, you can afford to tip well. Otherwise, just do takeout. That way, you can check e-mail to your heart's content, sniff anything you like, stuff a dollar in the tip jar, and hang out all night in the place where you truly belong anyway ― at home.