Restaurant and Dining Etiquette

Updated by Jim Deckebach

Eating out in a restaurant may be a common experience, but there are rules of etiquette that are easy to break if you don't know them. Knowing the rules of fine dining ensures that everyone at your table and at the tables around you has a positive experience. Some of these standards are common-sense rules that most people know. Other rules of conduct may surprise you.

Dining Etiquette

Dress Appropriately

Choose your dining attire carefully to fit the restaurant. While jeans and athletic shoes may be suitable for casual establishments, you should opt for nicer clothing if you're dining at a fancy, upscale restaurant. If you aren't sure about the dress code, call ahead and ask.

Stash Your Phone

Put your phone away in your purse or pocket. Never leave your personal belongings on the table, including your phone and keys. Resist the urge to take calls or texts while you're seated. If an emergency comes up and you must take a call, apologize, and excuse yourself before you take out your phone.

Wait for Everyone to Arrive

If you're meeting others to dine, don't be seated until everyone gets there. Even if a host offers to seat you, choose to wait for your entire party to arrive. You might wait in the bar if there's an adjoining bar to the restaurant.

Know Where Your Napkin Goes

After being seated, it's fine to place your napkin in your lap. Some people like to wait until after the host does this. If you need to get up, place your napkin on your chair. When you finish eating, place your napkin on the table to the left of your plate. It's not necessary to fold your napkin at this point, just place it neatly on the table.

Never Call Your Server

Calling out to your server in a restaurant is considered rude. Instead, try to get eye contact with your server if you need something. If you can't get your server's eye, raise your hand slightly.

Ordering the Meal

Establish yourself as the host of the gathering so the server knows. You can also set up payment prior to the dinner if you wish by calling ahead and giving your credit card details. Don't lift the menu off the table. If you want to order wine for the table from the restaurant's wine cellar, ask for the wine list right after sitting down. Check the list and narrow your choices down to two or three options that fit your budget. White wines go with lighter dishes and red wines generally go with heavier dishes. If you need help choosing, ask if there's a wine specialist or sommelier to consult. Allow your guests to order food first. Ideally, everyone should order the same number of courses so that everyone is eating at the same time and finishing together.

Photos of Meals

Some restaurants encourage patrons to take photos of their plates, while others have specific bans on this practice. Find out an establishment's rules prior to taking any photos of meals. If you do take a photo, make it quick and turn off the flash so you don't bother those at surrounding tables.

Eating the Meal

Wait until everyone has been served, and then allow the host to take the first bite. If dishes are passed, pass them from left to right. Always pass the salt and pepper together. Wipe your mouth and fingers often while eating. Chew with your mouth closed, and don't talk with your mouth full. Sit up straight, and keep your arms off the table. If there are issues with a meal and it has to be sent back, the other guests should continue to eat. Always place used silverware on the plate to signal your server that you're finished.

Visit these websites to learn more about dining etiquette:



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