Thoughts On Etiquette In The Dining World

February 19, 2014

Having work experience in a restaurant atmosphere for the greater part of the past 10 years, I guess you could say that I have, indeed, seen it all.

Crazy customers, poor manners, a million orders for kids’ chocolate milk (you know, the kind where you have to mix the Hershey’s syrup with the white milk because the place doesn’t stock up on real chocolate milk…it’s kind of an art.)

And then there are those people that come in like a gust of fresh air and just seem to know how to properly dine out. They simply make your night.

So, in an era of power lunches, having access to all outlets of communication through our cellular device (that we thoughtlessly keep on the table in case something comes up), and a high expectancy for extraordinary service wherever we may go, let’s go back to the basics and make sure we’re doing our part to be extraordinary guests.

Here are a few thoughts on social etiquette in a restaurant establishment, so that we can have more seamless experiences when we hit the town.

Always make reservations. I can’t tell you how splendid it is when your dining partner took a few moments ahead of time to make sure there would be room for you, and that the staff will be expecting you.

Let your guest order first: This is an old one, but a very courteous, small gesture that will make someone feel like royalty.

cell-picDon’t place your cell phone, purse, or keys on the table. What?! I know. It sounds crazy. But just try it out. You might even feel like you’ve stepped back in time. You’ll be more connected to your guest, the atmosphere, and you might even enjoy your food and drink a bit more, simply because you’re paying attention.

Fix up, look sharp. It has been said that you can never over-dress. So don’t be afraid to flaunt your best jacket or shoes to dinner. It should be a grand affair!

Don’t tell the sommelier how much you want to spend on wine. Talking price points at the table is not the classiest thing you could do. Tell the waiter what you like, and give them an idea by simply pointing to different wines in your price range. They’ll catch the drift. Also, always hold your wine glass by the stem, not by the bowl.

Always (kindly) let the wait staff know if something is unsatisfactory. They’d rather you be happy and be aware of the issue than have a displeased guest.

Did you know there are rules on napkin placement?! Within 30 seconds of ordering your first course, your napkin should be placed in your lap. At the end of the meal, leave the napkin semi-folded at the left side of the place setting. It should not be crumpled or twisted, just laid there gently.

plate-picThere’s also a universal sign for “I’m finished,” according to your silverware placement. Place the knife and fork together at the 10:20 position to let them know you’re through.

Whenever a woman leaves the table or returns to sit, all men seated with her should stand up. This might be another old-fashioned suggestion, but wow, talk about gentlemen!
Remember that the amount you tip reflects the total price before any coupons, gift certificates, etc. Just because you get a discount, does not mean that your server did not serve up the full order.

And while we’re talking about tipping, here are the current suggested amounts for the following folks:

Waiter: 15 to 20 percent of the bill; 25 percent for extraordinary service

Wine steward: 15 percent of wine bill

Bartender: 10 to 15 percent of bar bill

Coat check: $1 per coat

Car attendant: $2 to $5

Dining out is intended to be a smooth, pleasant experience. A treat! If we make a team effort to up the ante with our dining out practices – everyone involved is sure to benefit. And we won’t look too shabby, either!