#TumpukDiTengah: Conscientious Indonesian netizens join movement to stack used plates in restaurants to help wait staff

Photo: Twitter/@edwardsuhadi
Photo: Twitter/@edwardsuhadi

Diners leaving dirty dishes scattered across their tables is the norm in Indonesian restaurants and food courts, justified by the expectation that the wait staff is employed to clean up after their mess (it’s a habit that has been, embarrassingly, exported by Indonesian tourists abroad to places like notoriously clean Tokyo).

To employ a phrase often used by President Joko Widodo, it would take a “mental revolution” to make Indonesians more respectful towards wait staff and cleaners, as well as other restaurant patrons who may use their table afterwards. And that’s what some conscientious Indonesian netizens are aiming for with the recent popularization of the hashtag #TumpukDiTengah.

The hashtag translates to “stack them in the middle”. It’s an online campaign that was started by creative agency Ceritera.id founder Edward Suhadi appealing to others to do the effortless task of, at the very least, stacking their used plates in the middle of their table to make it easier for the wait staff to take the plates away and clean the table for the next user.

Over the weekend, the campaign picked up some steam as netizens posted their own #TumpukDiTengah photos.


Speaking to Coconuts today, Edward said stacking plates at the end of meals is a habit that was instilled in him by his mother since childhood. At work, Edward realized that his habit rubbed off on his coworkers, who also stacked their plates after every meal. This gave him the idea to spread the habit into a larger scope with the help of social media.

“I feel a lot of empathy towards the working class. Life as it is, we might not be able to do great/life-changing things all the time. But we can make life easier for [the waiters], even if just a little bit,” he said.

Despite already getting thousands of retweets, the campaign is not immune to cynicism from some.

“Deep inside people want to do good. It’s just they don’t want to be the weird guy who’s doing it for the first time. That’s why I get so many responses like, ‘might as well take the plates to the kitchen’; ‘that’s your server mentality’; ‘why don’t you wash the plates while you’re at it?’; ‘but we’ve already paid service tax’,” Edward said.

“But that’s okay. This thing here is not about judging people. Some of us are better handling judgement – so just shut up, put on a smile, and just stack the damn plates. And someday, when the weird thing has become the norm, the judgment will stop.”

Edward added that #TumpukDiTengah is just the beginning of a very long campaign to raise awareness for this particular aspect of restaurant etiquette in Indonesia. He’s hoping that influencers and celebs will jump on board to boost the campaign, as well as releasing more videos and social media posts to raise awareness, so that in the future there will no longer be a need for hashtags to get people to realize that making others’ lives easier is a fan-stack-tic habit.

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