Whether you’re going out with a colleague or on a date, it’s essential to understand acceptable dining etiquette. From when to start eating to when to reach for the check, this guide will help you master table manners.
Some restaurant etiquette rules are obvious, like making eye contact when talking and not using your cell phone at the table. Others are less intuitive, such as when to place the napkin on your lap or how to hold your drink.
Many rules of acceptable dining etiquette may seem like common sense (don’t chew with your mouth open, don’t reach across the table). Still, they exist to ensure a particular atmosphere and behavior around a dinner. These rules can even impact the experience of other diners.
When passing food or condiments around the table, remember that it’s always best to pass them counterclockwise. Also, any items that work together, such as salt and pepper, should be passed off together, not one at a time.
As you eat, keep your napkin in your lap (unless you are seated at the end of a long table). If you need to call over a server, do so quietly and discreetly.
When you are finished, place your napkin gently on the table or chair. Never tuck it in your shirt. If you need to leave the table for a moment, push your chair back in rather than leaving it standing up.
Waiting for the Server
A waiter needs to know when it’s appropriate to approach a table. Generally, it’s best to wait until everyone has their napkins and have a few minutes of conversation before asking if they are ready for the menu.
Guests will often respond to this request with a nod or eye contact, and the server can move on to other tables without interrupting everyone. It is also a good idea to avoid personal conversations with your guests while eating, as this can feel intrusive and make them uncomfortable.
Having a written set of guidelines for restaurant etiquette and training servers in these rules can help them understand how to make their customers’ dining experience enjoyable and memorable. These tips might seem small, but they can make a big difference in customer satisfaction.
In many restaurants, among them Jack London square restaurants, the traditional in-person ordering process requires that servers take orders from each table — checking in, recording choices on paper or smart devices, and then walking the order to the kitchen.
Typically, a server will take the order of female diners first, then children, and then men. This makes sense as it allows women unsure what to order a chance to think about it before making a decision.
It is also essential for servers to know the menu items and their prices. If a guest has questions, it is appropriate to answer them and offer suggestions for the best choice.
When guests are ready to order, they should call the server over using the phrase, “Can I have a table for (number) please?”. If the restaurant is crowded and no tables are available, guests should try eating at the bar. This way, they can taste the restaurant’s food and build relationships with the staff.
Paying the Bill
It’s not as apparent as table manners, but it is the one part of restaurant etiquette that has the most profound effect on whether or not you and your dining companions leave satisfied.
When the bill arrives, you can either discreetly hand it to your host (or place it in front of them if they reach for it first) or take it to a register to pay. The person who pays the bill should also thank the server and other staff members and give tips.
Some people prefer to split the check equally, but if that doesn’t work with your dining group, it’s best to communicate it initially. That way, everyone can agree to a solution before the food is ordered and avoid hurting anyone’s feelings — or finances. Besides, it’s just good etiquette!