Haute Etiquette: How to Act When Dining Out

It’s always refreshing to see people behaving properly. Unfortunately, it shouldn’t have to be a surprise, and yet these days, no matter where I go, I am pleasantly stunned when I catch glimpses of good etiquette. Today, I was having lunch at my favorite restaurant, La Grenouille, and I took note of various types of conduct. I was pleased to see that most people blended well with the beautiful atmosphere, however, there were a few exceptions that distracted me with their impolite comportment.

For those of you who could use some enlightenment on restaurant etiquette, here are a few notes:

  • Unless you’re in a rowdy bar atmosphere, keep your voice down
  • Say “please” and “thank you” to your server
  • Instead of saying “I want,” say “I would like…”
  • Don’t arrive at your table with large shopping bags, check them with your coat
  • If you’re splitting something with your friends, don’t make a mess by passing plates and food around; ask your server if the kitchen can divide the meal for you
  • Gentlemen, always make sure that your date sits at the banquette. If the restaurant doesn’t have banquettes, give your date the seat with the best view
  • Don’t put your elbows on the table
  • Sit up straight, there’s no reason to slouch
  • When eating your bread, don’t butter up the whole thing and eat it like a sandwich. Tear off a piece first; it’s barbaric to directly bite your roll of bread
  • If you know that the restaurant you’re going to is not the most casual setting, then honor it by dressing up. It’s always better to be overdressed than underdressed!
  • Don’t snap at, or call out to, the staff
  • When you’re not using your knife, don’t let it hang out by the side of your plate; place it horizontally on the top of your plate
  • When you are done eating, place your fork and knife next to each other on the plate in a vertical position
  • Don’t talk with your utensils in hand
  • If you’re a large party (more than 4), don’t split the bill between all of you, have one or two people from your group take care of it, and then the next time you are all out, it will be someone else’s turn

These tips should suffice for now, and they are the very least people can do in order to be a good guest at a restaurant. A polite patron is always well accommodated at a restaurant, and sets a good example for other guests. Ideally, this all results in a civilized and delightful environment so spread the word!