More than simple table manners, there are a number of courtesies and etiquette rules to follow when dining in a restaurant.
1. Honor your reservation.
A no-show or late arrival cost the restaurant and staff money in lost revenue and tips. If you make a dinner reservation, be sure to honor it. If for any reason you can no longer attend, let the restaurant know as soon as possible so they can fill the table.
2. Dress appropriately.
When dining in a high-end establishment, dress the part! Did you know that a number of restaurants are considering bringing back dress codes? I am all for it!
3. Wait for your server to come to you.
Snapping, waving, or yelling to your server is simply not appropriate. Wait for them to come to you. If you desperately need their attention, try to catch their eye line but nothing more.
4. Keep the table clear of personal items.
Cell phones, purses, wallets, sunglasses, and the like should not be placed on the table. Leaving your phone on the table in particular is a distraction and shows that you are not fully present with your dining companions. You should not use your phone for the duration of the meal. Pro Tip: if you are waiting for an important call, place your phone beneath your leg on your seat.
5. Treat your server with the utmost respect.
Look at your server when they are speaking and when you are ordering, say “please” and “thank you.” If something is wrong with your meal, communicate this politely and discreetly.
6. Wait for everyone to be served before you begin eating.
If the food is hot and everyone else has been served, be sure to tell your companions they may begin without you.
7. Use non-verbal etiquette cues to communicate with your server.
Non-verbal cues in the form of cutlery positions can tell your server whether you have finished or are still working on your dish. Use the open position to indicate you have not yet finished, and the closed position to indicate they may take your plate (explained in more detail here). Similarly, a napkin placed upon your seat means you have only left the table temporarily.
8. There is no need to explain when leaving the table temporarily.
If you need to use the restroom, there is no need to explain where you are going. Simply say, “please excuse me,” when leaving the table.
9. When a woman approaches the table, a man should stand up.
This also goes for when she gets up to leave the table. This is a traditional etiquette rule but I believe we should continue to honor it. Note: this practice applies to social situations, in a business setting this is not done.
10. If you require separate checks, tell your server in advance.
It is far easier for a server to split the bill if they are aware in advance. They can keep track of what each person orders and keep them on separate checks. However, it is important to note that this is a courtesy, not a right. Many restaurants limit the number of separate checks and/or how many cards can be used to split a bill. Large parties should plan ahead when it comes to how they will pay.
11. Tip fairly and generously.
Basic restaurant etiquette and standard practice in the United States is to tip 20% for good service. Even if you felt your service was not up to par, you still must tip. Restaurant staff are paid significantly below minimum wage, as tips are intended to make up the bulk of their income. Whether you agree with the practice of tipping or not, cutting into someone’s wages because they made a simple mistake is unfair and unkind.
12. Push your chair in when leaving the table.
Pushing your chair back into its proper position is simply good manners. It helps keep aisles clear in tight spaces and looks much tidier.
I hope you have found these restaurant etiquette tips helpful! If you are interested in polishing your poise and learning more about social, business, and dining etiquette, follow my Instagram for everyday tips or reach out to book a one-to-one training.