Whether you plan to dine at a fancy place like Alinea or someplace more casual, you must never forget these simple etiquette rules. They’re not hard to follow and will make your dining experience more satisfying.
Wear the Right Clothing
If it’s an upscale luxury restaurant in New York then you’d better be dressed for the part, formal suit or dress. Do not overdress for the place, but you don’t want to look too causal if the attire is formal.
Deciding what to wear isn’t as hard as it sounds. You can tell if the restaurant is formal or is a causal diner, and that fact alone tells you a lot about what to wear. If it’s a business meeting with the boss or clients, formal wear is a must. If you’re going to a sports bar to watch the ballgame with friends, then be casual.
Know When to Sit
The unwritten rule in most restaurants is wait to be seated. In some cases you’ll be offered to sit, but it is better to wait until everyone in your group has arrived. This is not a strict rule but only shows courtesy to your friends.
Personal Items and Phone Rules
Whether it’s your phone, car keys or bag, do not put it on the table. If you’re dining with close friends and family, it’s probably all right to reply to a text at the table. If it’s a call, excuse yourself.
Don’t text or call during a formal or business dinner. Don’t even take out your phone. If you have to reply to a message or return a call, excuse yourself first. Do not however, call or text while in a business dinner. That will convey the feeling they’re not as important as the person you’re messaging.
Place Your Napkin on Your Lap
Do that immediately after sitting down. But if it is a business meal or someone takes you out to a meal, put the napkin on after your host has done so. If you have to go to the bathroom place your napkin. Put the napkin on the table when you’re done eating. These rules are often applied to formal restaurants, but you should observe them even in casual diners.
Don’t Eat Until All are Served
This is the rule of thumb for most restaurants, and it’s something you should follow regardless how many companions you have. The exception to this is if you’re not happy with the food – i.e. it wasn’t cooked right – and it has to be sent back. In that case it is acceptable to let your companions resume eating.
And if there is something about the food you don’t like, don’t lose your cool. Just signal the waiter to come over and calmly explain the situation. Don’t yell at the waiter and do not make a scene.
Don’t Shout at the Waiter
That movie and TV cliche where someone yells “Hey waiter!” is best avoided in real life. Instead it’s better to make eye contact so they’ll know you need their services. If that doesn’t get their attention, raise your hand as he comes your way.
Remember, the waiter is there to serve your food and drinks, so be nice to them. They also serve other people so be considerate.
Show Courtesy to the Staff
This one doesn’t need any explanation, but let’s make it clear anyway. The waiter is there to serve food, not be at your beck and call. And if there’s a problem with the food don’t take it out on the waiter since they didn’t cook the food.
Same Course Number for Everyone
Agree with your companions that you’ll order the same number of courses so everyone finishes at around the same time. This might not seem like a big deal but it can be awkward if everyone is done and they can’t leave because you ordered an extra course.
Hold the Wineglass Properly
This means holding the wine by the stem as the waiter pours the drink. If you don’t want to drink, place your hand over the wine glass. The waiter will understand. If it doesn’t register, just politely tell him you don’t want any.
When to Leave After Eating
You can leave right away of course, but some like to chat for a while. But it shouldn’t be more than 15 minutes after everyone’s done eating. Keep in mind that other people are looking forward to eat. Restaurants depend on their customers so don’t deny them.
If dining with others, decide beforehand who pays or how the bill will be split. Inform the waiter in advance if you’ll pay in full. Lastly, leave a good tip. Around 15% to 20% for good service or 25% if service was excellent.