Rules at a Restaurant: Navigating Restaurant Etiquette

Dining out is a delightful experience, whether it’s a casual lunch with friends, a dinner party, or a business meeting. However, knowing the ins and outs of restaurant etiquette can elevate your dining experience and make you feel more confident and relaxed. Here are some key rules to ensure you navigate any restaurant setting with grace.

1. The Reservation Rule

If you are the person who made the restaurant reservation, it’s good etiquette to arrive before your dining companion to ensure the table is ready and you have a table that suits the occasion. Always make a reservation if possible, especially for popular spots. It shows respect for the establishment and ensures you won’t have to wait long for a table, especially if you are hosting a guest. If you need to cancel, do so as early as possible to free up the spot for others.

2. Arrival Etiquette

Arrive on time if you are a guest, or ten minutes ahead of the reservation time if you are the host. If you’re running late, call ahead to inform the restaurant and also let your dining companion know you are running behind. This small gesture goes a long way in maintaining a good rapport with the staff as well as whoever you are meeting and also ensures the restaurant can manage their tables efficiently.

3. Seating Savvy: Table Etiquette

Wait to be seated by the host unless the restaurant has a seat-yourself policy. Once at your table, wait for everyone to be seated before you start adjusting your chair or placing your napkin on your lap. If you are a guest at a large restaurant table, it is good table manners to ask the host if there was a seating plan they had in mind.

4. Ordering with Finesse

When ordering, be polite and clear. If you have dietary restrictions or preferences, it is good dining etiquette to express them kindly. And remember, it’s perfectly okay to ask the server for recommendations if you’re unsure about the menu.

5. Napkin Know-How

Place your napkin on your lap as soon as you are seated at the dinner table. If you need to leave the table temporarily, place your napkin on your chair, not the table. At the end of the meal, loosely fold your napkin and place it to the left of your plate.

6. Utensil Usage: Eating Etiquette

Use your silverware, including your knife, forks and spoon from the outside in. This rule of thumb helps you navigate the sometimes daunting array of silverware. If you’re unsure which utensil to use, observe your host or others at the table. It’s important to learn how to correctly hold your knife and fork before attending a meal at a restaurant, which can be learned here.

7. When to Start Eating and other General Manners

Do not start eating until all guests have their meals. Chew with your mouth closed and avoid talking with food in your mouth. Use your inside voice and keep conversations pleasant and non-controversial, especially if you’re in a business setting. If you plan to season your food, make sure you taste it before adding salt and pepper. Avoid putting your cell phone on the table during the meal. Take bit sized pieces throughout the meal to ensure you are able to speak without a full mouth and to ensure great formal dinner conversation. Practicing good table habits, exhibiting good eating manners and polite dinner etiquette will surely be noticed by all.

Pro Tip: It’s important for good table manners NOT to put your elbows on the table- find out the exact reason why here.

8. Handling the Bill

If you’re the host, discreetly handle the bill. If you’re a guest, offer to contribute, but graciously accept if the host insists on paying. When splitting the bill, ensure it’s done fairly and promptly to avoid any awkwardness.

9. Gratuity Grace

In most places, tipping is customary. Aim to leave a tip that reflects the quality of service, generally around 15-20%. If the service charge is included in the bill, additional tipping is not necessary but appreciated for exceptional service.

10. Exiting Elegantly

When you’re ready to leave, ensure you have all your belongings. Push your chair in once you get up from the table and ensure that you thank your server and the host as you exit. A polite word of appreciation leaves a lasting positive impression.

Dining out should be an enjoyable and relaxing experience. No matter if you are using these tips for business meals, or social meals, following proper etiquette will help ensure that you, your dining companions, and the restaurant staff all have a pleasant time. So go ahead, make that reservation, and dine out with confidence!