Dining out is one of the joys of life, and can present you with some of the most amazing culinary experiences in the world. But whether you're a host or a guest, there are defined ways to behave. From what to wear to how to order here are the basics to keep your restaurant etiquette intact, and your invite to the next outing a certainty...
(Drakes S/S15' by Akira Sorimachi)
It should go without saying that when you step out, your outfit will be worth sending us a photo of. But when it comes to dining, your physical appearance reflects your understanding of etiquette, and signifies how much respect you have for the restaurant.
Wear a sport coat or blazer at a minimum, coupled with fine denim and a plain v neck tee or buttoned shirt. If you feel like setting the sartorial standard, sport a more stylish suit with a crisp dress shirt and even a silk knit tie. Avoid black at all costs (unless the dress code calls for it), and instead look to autumnal hues and classic patterns to spice up your outfit.
But remember to leave your jacket on until you've sat down and the host has removed theirs. But if you do choose to keep yours on, make sure that you unbutton it while seated.
Seating is an important part of dining, and the responsibility of designating who sits where should fall to the host. Many dining affairs have an agenda, and to interfere with the intended seating plan can interfere with that purpose, so allow the host to establish the guest layout.
And when taking your seat, place for napkin on your lap immediately in informal settings, and only after the host has if things are a little more formal.
Nothing says that you're only semi-interested in your company like leaving your phone on the table. If you're expecting an important call let your dining party know, but keep it in your jacket pocket where you'll hear and feel it.
How you treat your waiters and waitresses portrays much of your character, so never yell. Ever. Patience is indeed a virtue, as is the pride to persist in gaining the attention of a busy waiter or waitress.
Eye contact is your best approach. But if this fails, you can raise your right hand with your index finger extended slightly to gain attention and make eye contact. Or a simple 'Excuse Me' as they pass your table.
As a host, your guest is your responsibility. Let them order first. But quickly establish your position as the host to your wait staff so that they will use you as a point of contact when dealing with the table. Simple phrases like 'my guests' will be enough to get the message through, and this is often best done when you first arrive.
After your guests have ordered, ensure that you choose the same number of courses as your dining partner (and eat at the same pace as they do). This will avoid any time pressures on them, or have them feeling uncomfortable or rude whilst eating alone.
Ordering wine is a defining moment in your hosting performance. If done poorly, it will reflect upon your etiquette greatly. You do not want to appear constrained by price, nor be so vulgar as to mention a price.
Instead, tell the sommelier (wine steward) the kind of wine that you like, what you're ordering, and indicate your desired price by pointing to a wine in your price range. They'll know to stick within that bracket.
And when it arrives, remember that humility is always best. Don't pretend to be a wine connoisseur, but do taste the poured sample and see how it is. Almost always it will be fine, but bear in mind that you can almost never send it back, especially if the problem is merely that you don't like it.
But if you do think that it may be off, or it really is a terribly drop, discreetly discuss the problem with the waiter and have them assess it too. But always remember to be polite, for how you treat the staff will affect more than their opinion of you.
If you want to know more about choosing wine, see our article on how to navigate the wine list.
Just don't. It is better to suffer in silence and eat a meal that isn't cooked how you want it to be than to disturb the peace of the dining experience. But if you absolutely must (for example the presence of an allergen) then remember that it is your responsibility to tell your dining partners to eat without you, and to smile while you wait.
How you place your cutlery will send silent messages to your wait staff. When you are resting during your meal, place your knife and fork on your plate but never together. And when you're done, align the knife on the right (blade inward) and fork on the left (tines up for American and down for European) diagonally on your plate.
As in so much of life, money at a restaurant can often be an issue. To avoid this, restaurant etiquette states that the host is the one to pay. A prepared host knows to subtly give their credit card to their wait staff before they sit, making the bringing of the bill a certainty, not a point of contention between proud guests after a few too many drinks.
So there you have it, a quick guide to the etiquette that you need to dine with tradition, dress with style and have your staff on your side.