Ask The Salty Waitress: Is It Okay To Snatch Silverware From Other Tables?

Salty, how rude is it to snatch another napkin or silverware from a nearby unoccupied table if a server is nowhere to be seen?

—Stuff stealer

Dear Stickyfingers,

I like a question that gets right to the point. Plus you've given ol' Salty just the opening she needs for her favorite rant called "Let The Experts Handle It!"


When you think about it, a restaurant is a little bit like a hospital room. (Sorry, doll, I don't have a cheerier comparison.) Professionals are running the show, and none of them would be thrilled to see you handling things yourself, whether it's measuring out your dosages or changing your own bandages. Same goes for restaurants. We don't want you reaching your grubby little mitts behind the bar or reseating yourself at a better table or pouring yourself coffee from the service station. There's a method to our madness and we don't like when you mess with it. Just let us handle everything—it's why you're here.

Ideally, you won't reach for another table's stuff, because it just creates a domino effect of no one having what they need. (After all, you're probably missing a silverware roll because someone swiped yours.) If you notice that there aren't enough place settings when you're seated, then just ask for extras when you order your food. That way you won't have to flag the server down twice.


But if you're missing silverware and you only notice after your server walks away and it's a busy night and they're unlikely to show up again until the first "How's everything over here?" check-in, then yep, snatch away. Just make sure that once the server does finally return to ask how everything's tasting, you let them know you grabbed one from a nearby table so they can replace it.

It's one of the few things Salty doesn't mind you taking care of yourself. But for god's sake, if you shatter a glass, walk the hell away and let us deal with it.

Got a question about dining out etiquette? Or are you a server/bartender with a question about how to handle customers? Email us: