Let’s start with the definition of mindfulness because it will be relevant in our discussion of being more at ease in a fine dining restaurant like French Laundry. Mindfulness is defined as being present in the moment, focusing on the people in the moment, and enjoying each moment as it comes. The state of being can also mean being aware of your words and actions since these are a reflection of who you are as a person.
While mindfulness is usually associated with meditation, an ancient eastern practice, it has its applications in modern Western life including fine dining and here’s how.
Be Mindful of Your Appearance
Yes, of course, you can saunter into a fine dining restaurant in your casual clothes – denim jeans, colored shirt, and sneakers – but you shouldn’t expect the restaurant manager to grant entry. No, this isn’t about discrimination based on your gender, religion and status in life but, more importantly, about following the rules and adopting good manners.
First, restaurants have the right to set their own rules for as long as these are within the law, as well as within acceptable standards according to society. Fine dining restaurants have specific dress codes that require all guests to come in their Sunday’s best, in a manner of speaking.
Men, for example, may be required to wear a coat-and-tie outfit while women should be in a dress, such as a little black dress (LBD). Both men and women have to wear the appropriate accessories, too, from their shoes to their jewelry.
Tip: In fining dining, less is more. Keep your makeup and jewelry to a minimum.
Second, your fellow diners took the time and poured in the effort to look their best at dinnertime, too. You should consider respecting their choice by dressing up in your Sunday’s best, too. Plus, there’s also the matter of not standing out like a sore thumb in your casual get-up.
Besides, it isn’t every day that you can enjoy a fine dining experience! You want to look your best when doing so, not to mention that you will look good on your photos.
Be Mindful of Your Punctuality
Fine dining restaurants usually have a reservation system in place, which can either be through their respective official website or through telephone. Most, if not all, have strict policies and practices about reservations, from making to cancelling them (e.g., reservation and cancellation fees).
The bottom line: Make your reservations as early as possible! You cannot just waltz into a fine dining restaurant and expect to be escorted into a table – unless, of course, you’re restaurant royalty or the like.
Once you have made your reservations, you should ensure that you will arrive at the restaurant at least 15 minutes before your appointment! Punctuality is crucial since the restaurant’s schedule will be ruined if you don’t arrive on time – other people may be waiting for your table, for example.
Be Mindful of Your Manners, Always
Now, here’s where mindfulness should be taken up several notches higher. We’re not saying that you should be self-conscious about your every word and action because then you won’t enjoy the fine dining experience as much as you should have.
Instead, you must remember your good manners at the dining table and apply them in the restaurant. You don’t even have to remember which fork or spoon goes with what course – work your way from the outside in, if you forget, and look at the other more experienced diners for your cue. Your primary consideration should be your attitude toward your fellow diners and the restaurant staff.
A few must-remember tips that have always seen us through even with a wide range of faux pas in fine dining restaurants.
- Be courteous and polite, as well as friendly, toward the staff including the waiters assigned to your table. Keep in mind that respect begets respect, as well as the fact that the customer service delivered by the restaurant staff will be half of your dining experience. Say your thanks at appropriate times, make eye contact, and smile at them.
- Be mindful of your table manners! These include avoiding gross actions like picking your nose and ears, using your fingernails to pick at food lodged between your teeth, and farting and belching at the table; using the right eating utensils for every course served; and making pleasant small talk with your fellow diners at the table.
Of course, you have to enjoy each moment that you’re in the restaurant! Keep in mind that it isn’t just about the delicious food – although the excellent dishes are obviously the star attraction – that makes for a great fine dining experience. You must pay attention and enjoy the other details, too, such as the elegant décor, the fantastic smells, and the crisp, white tablecloth with the crystal glasses, sophisticated napkins and placemats, and the hush-hush environment.