A GUIDE for Taiwan's Food Service Workers

It’s obvious, the waiters and waitresses in Taiwan (as well as restaurant owners) haven’t been trained to handle customers the way they are in the west, so here’s my list of Dos and Don’ts for ANYONE who happens to work in the food service industry in Taiwan. Please heed this advice, and you’ll never have red-faced foreigners screaming at you. And your Taiwanese customers may learn to see your fine service as a standard to judge other restaurants by…

If you’re good, you may even get a real TIP. :wink:


  1. Periodically check to see if your customers need anything. Water, drinks, napkins, utensils, etc.

  2. Bring the diners their food at the SAME time, not thirty minutes apart, so one person has finished eating their meal when their companion has just got theirs. You may need to discuss this with the kitchen help.

  3. Acknowledge customers when they’re straining their heads towards you or waving their arms. It’s not necessary that they clap and shout “garcon”, as they do in Latin American countries, but sometimes the urge is strong to do just that when they have been ignored.

  4. Often, ask your customers if they’re ok.
    You could even use this simple phrase, “Can I get you anything else?” If you’re on top of it, the customers will be much obliged, and become happy and frequent guests.

  5. Wash your hands after using the restroom, smoking or eating.

  6. If you’ve screwed something up, or the food is not well prepared, DO offer to compensate your guest by offering a coffee, a drink, etc to make up for it.


  1. Handle the top of your customers’ glasses or cups. Always hold them from the bottom. It is very rude to touch the part of the glass which the mouth contacts.

  2. Reach over in front of diners to pick up or put down dishes. Come around the back, to the right side of each guest and place dishes.

  3. Ignore your customers or pretend to ignore them.

  4. Take away dishes before they’re finished. Ask first, “Are you finished?”

  5. Run away giggling if a foreigner is seated in your section. Some foreign people can even speak Mandarin, so there’s nothing to be ashamed about.
    If not, it is a good time for you to practice the English you’ve been learning for so long.

There are many more hints to add to this list, but these are some basics.

Here’s another “don’t”:
Don’t allow children to ruin the dining experience of others. Sunday morning I was plagued by a 5 year old who was running around yelling loudly. This was not youthfully exuberant chatter, mind you, but top-of-the-lungs yelling. My gf mentioned something to the waitress, and she just said “Xiao pengyou la!”, as if that explained everything. The father was doing nothing to restrain the noisy little runt, which didn’t really surprise me. What bothered me is that I paid $700 for what was supposed to be a nice, quiet start to our Sunday. Restaurant staff could have intervened and shushed the kid, but they didn’t. They just sort of looked on helplessly and grimaced when the yelling hit higher frequencies.~sigh~

In my book, that’s a DON’T. A good waiter keeps an eye on the tables he/she’s responsible for, seeing when the customer needs anything, or makes a sign that something is amiss. That waiter is sure to get a fatter tip from me than a waiter coming by every 5-10 minutes asking if everything is OK when I’m having my dinner and am in the middle of conversation, which just becomes annoying.

That bugs me too, especially waiters saying “Excuse me”. Why should I excuse you ? I’m in the middle of a conversation here. A waiter should not draw attention to himself. He will know soon enough if the table needs something because one of the diners will look around for a waiter, and an attentive waiter will notice.

When I first went to HK I noticed the habit of tapping the table to thank a waiter for his attention as he went about his business. I thought this was an excellent idea, as the waiter knew his service was acknowledged and the diner did not have to interrupt himself to show his appreciation. Top marks to the waiters in the Police Officers’ Club.

Those were the days…

i thought tapping the table was purely in response to ‘thats enough’. when pouring drinks, serving food etc??

Perhaps shoddy service in Taiwan is due to the fact that a 10% service charge is included in the bill at most places, so the majority of servers aren’t expecting a tip since most Taiwaneses never leave one. Therefore there is no extra incentive to provide better service as opposed to other countries. Incidentally, I learned from a Taiwanese friend of mine that servers never get to see this 10%.

Well, no chance of that in Taiwan, is there? But you must admit, it’s a helluva lot better than watching your waitress sit there eating a bowl of noodles and not even looking over at you while you’re gaggin for something to drink!

I know. That’s the reason you put in your suggested DO list, right? If it became a trend here in Taiwan as well, though, it would keep some of us from going out for dinner as often as we’d like.