How Much Eye Contact Should You Be Making With Your Server?

The service industry is notorious for being a tough one to work in. There's the back of the house, with intense kitchens, sharp knives, open flames, and grueling work hours — case in point: the reaction of chefs towards the Hulu show The Bear as "too real". But then there's also the front of the house, with customers that can be demanding, irrational, picky or just downright rude. In the summer of 2021, restaurant workers were quitting at a record rate because of low pay and abuse from customers screaming at the staff (per NPR), and even more recently, one restaurant in Michigan even closed down after a "day from hell" filled with ill-mannered customers, as reported by Newsweek. In a controversial tipping culture, there is an uncontestable power dynamic at play, especially when there is the prevailing concept of "the concept is always right".

Since servers are at the behest of the whims of the customer to earn a living wage, it's up to the customer to rebalance the power dynamic and play between server and diner. One of the most important ways to do that is to make eye contact with your waiter or waitress.

The appropriate amount of eye contact to make with your server

Though dining culture underwent a massive shake-up since the pandemic, with the advent of click and collect, dark kitchens, and a huge upswing in expected tipping percentages, dining at restaurants is becoming the norm again. Restaurant workers and indoor dining are back in full force, and in the words of Anthony Bourdain, "If you're a cheap tipper or rude to your server, you are dead to me. You are lower than whale feces," per The Bitchy Waiter

Darron Cardosa, blogger, and restaurant server, in a piece for Food & Wine, says that not making any eye contact is rude. Customers that can't be bothered to look up from their phones or menu while ordering can be a bit dehumanizing. However, Cardosa warns diners from overdoing it and smizing "like a crazy" person. To be polite towards one's server, one simply must make solid eye contact at least once and recognize each other as human beings. As Cardosa writes, "a little eye contact goes a long way." So to be polite, make solid eye contact with your server when speaking to them or accepting food.