10 Restaurant Etiquette Tips for the Modern Bon Viveur
Table manners are the one element of etiquette that children learn from a young age. We’re taught to sit upright, engage in polite conversation, say “please” and “thank you”, and chew with our mouth closed.
Later on in life, we find ourselves sharing a meal in a variety of settings: formal receptions, business lunches and dinner parties. Although the lessons we learned as children laid the groundwork, they’re not enough. This is why we collected the most important restaurant etiquette tips so you can face any challenge with confidence.
Dine like a gentleman
All invitations warrant a response but this is even more important when a meal is involved, as the host will need to make a reservation. A gentleman will always RSVP and never cancel without a good reason.
2. Dress for the occasion
Some restaurants still apply a dress code and it’s wise to check before going. However, even if there isn’t one, it’s polite to make an effort, more so when the dinner is intended to celebrate a special occasion. If you are looking for inspiration, check our collection of limited edition men’s suits.
3. Be prepared
Any special requirements, e.g. a severe allergy or a specific table, should be made at the point of reservation as opposed to ambushing staff on arrival. Be on time for your booking and, if you haven’t made one, gracefully accept that a table may not be available.
4. Seating arrangements
If you’re a guest, adapt to any arrangements made by your host which may include splitting couples or good friends to encourage mingling. If no arrangements are in place, take your pick but try to engage in conversation with everyone around you. If you have children, keep them close as they may need help with their meal or get bored.
5. Off the table
Remember how you were told to keep your elbows off the table? The same applies to mobile phones, keys, wallets etc. If you need to check your phone, apologise to those sitting around you.
6. Time to order
If there’s a host, let them take the lead and, if asked what you prefer, avoid the most expensive item on the menu. Let ladies order first and, if you have any dietary requirements, briefly explain them to the waiter without unnecessary details.
In formal settings, guests wait for the host to place the napkin on his/her lap before following suit. Otherwise, unfold the napkin on your lap as soon as the food arrives. If you leave the table temporarily, leave the napkin on your chair. Leaving the napkin on the table indicates that you’ve finished with your meal.
It could be because of that scene in “Pretty Woman” where Julia Roberts has no idea which fork to eat with, but now everyone dreads cutlery. It’s all very simple: forks on the left, knives and spoons on the right, start from the outside and make your way in. Dessert spoons may be above the plate or only come with your order. If you take a break, think of your plate as a clock and place your knife and fork in the 4:40 position. If you place your fork and knife parallel to each other, you signal that you’ve finished and the waiter may collect your plate.
9. Which glass is mine
Another dreaded mistake is picking up someone else’s bread roll or glass. If you suffer from bread roll anxiety, we have a little trick for you! Touch your thumbs with your index fingers and you will see a “b” forming on your left hand and a “d” on your right hand. There you go, “b” stands for bread and your roll will be to the left of your plate whereas “d” stands for drink and your glasses will be to the right of your plate. If you need to choose between wine glasses, the white wine glass has a longer stem.
10. Toilet breaks
Although it’s impolite to make a public spectacle of your decision to visit the loo, do say something like “excuse me” to the people sitting close to you. In the past, it was imperative to stand up when a lady left the table but this is a dying habit.
You may have noticed that settling the bill is missing from this list. This is because we dedicated a separate blog to The Fine Art Of Settling A Restaurant Bill. Bon Appétit!