This coming holiday season many people will dine out more often than they usually do all year round, and some people will need to be reminded of some polite restaurant etiquette tips. Here are a few to remember. 

  1. Wait To Be Seated

When entering a restaurant or someone’s dining room, always wait to be seated. It is possible that some places have already been assigned or tables, so save yourself the  embarrassment of being asked to sit elsewhere.

  1. Meeting Others At A Restaurant

When meeting someone at a restaurant, who has not yet arrived, it is perfectly acceptable to go ahead to your  table and order a drink, rather than wait outside in the lobby or at the entrance, or to just sit there.  Also, if you are seated, and others whom you know are arriving, it is expected that you would rise to greet them, especially if they are senior to you.

  1. Bringing Along Someone

If invited to a meal, never take it for granted that you can bring along a guest. It might be wise to ask in advance, with apologies. However, based on the occasion or the purpose of the meal, it might not be appropriate to even ask, as it also puts your host in an awkward position.   

  1. Napkins

Napkins  are for your lap to catch any food that may fall from your fork or spoon and should also be used to dab at stray food or juices  at the sides of your lips. As soon as you are seated, remove the napkin from its place, unfold and place across your lap. Avoid using as a handkerchief.

  1. Ordering the meal

When you’re not the one paying the bill, be reasonable; don’t choose the most expensive dish, except your host expressly gives you the freedom to select whatever you may desire. Neither should you choose the cheapest. Also, avoid loading up, as it shows ill-discipline.

  1. Personal Items

Do not place bags, purses, or mobile devices on the table. These items belong either on your lap, on your chair behind you (if the chair has a full back), or on the floor beneath your chair. It is not wise to hang your handbag across the back of the chair as this could cause someone else to trip. Ask the restaurant for a portable handbag holder to be attached to the table or carry your own.

  1. Using Your Mobile Phone While Dining

It is considered impolite to talk on your phone or text while dining in the company of others. Cell phones should be turned off as soon as you are seated; and if you forgot, and it rings, quickly apologise and turn it off, or ask your fellow diners permission to take the call: “May I?” Then quickly excuse yourself and make it quick. When you return be sure to turn it off or put on silent.

  1. Servers and Bartenders

We should always recognise and be courteous to those who serve us. Greet them when you enter the restaurant, and if you need to call them while seated, note that there are respectful ways to do so. One of the most courteous ways is to try to catch his / her eyes, then raise your hand. They are trained to pay attention and should come to you immediately. 

  1. Before Beginning To Eat

Even when there’s food is in front of you, it’s proper to wait for all at your table to be served, and then, for an indication from your host, guest of honour or others that you should begin.  It is considered selfish to get your food and begin to eat right away. However, if you are at a buffet, you may start when a few others are seated at your table.

  1. Eating With Knife And Fork

There are two known methods for eating with a knife and fork: the British/ Continental, and the American way.  Using the “British/ Continental” method, the knife and fork are used throughout the meal. The fork remains in the left hand and the knife helps push the food onto the fork, which is lifted to the mouth, with the tines facing downwards. The “American way”, also known as the “zig-zag method” involves sticking the food with the fork in your left hand and cutting with the knife in your right. The knife is then put down and the  fork  transferred to your right hand to eat, with the tines facing upwards.

  1. Which Utensils To Begin With

When a table seems crowded with utensils, a general guide to remember is that utensils are placed in the order that the courses will be served, starting furthest from your plate. Thus, the utensils for the first course will be furthest from your plate. With each new course, the cutlery you use will be removed and you should pick up the next closer to your plate.

  1. Holding Glasses

It is proper that glasses with stems should be held by the stems, as holding the glass around the bowl could change the ideal drinking temperature and consequently the flavour of the drink.

  1. Being Served And Serving Yourself

If you want something that is placed at the centre of the table for all, proper etiquette dictates that you first offer to your dining companions and then serve yourself. If a basket of rolls is placed on the table, it is proper to lift the basket, offer your dining companions, then serve yourself. The same applies for pouring drinks. First offer to pour for your nearest neighbour, then pour for yourself.

  1. Bread and Soup

It is proper to break, not cut your bread when dining out. Break off the piece that you are going to eat, butter if you need to, and put the whole bite sized piece into your mouth. It is in poor taste to bite into bread and leave it on your plate or in your hand with teeth or lipstick marks. If there is a dish of butter for everyone on the table, take some butter with your butter knife, put it on your side plate, and from this, butter the pieces of bread you will eat. For your soup, be sure to spoon the soup away from you then lift to your mouth. If it is hot, stir gently instead of blowing it, and note that  it is not acceptable,  in our western culture, to dip bread into soup. 

  1. Discipline Yourself

Know when you’ve had enough, whether of drinks or food, and discipline yourself, as a formal meal is not the occasion to overindulge or get drunk.

  1. Adding Condiments

Before you think of adding salt, pepper or other seasonings, first taste your food. Reaching first for the salt and pepper, shows that you presume the food is not well seasoned. Doing this could send the wrong message.

  1. Passing Items/ food

If you need an item that is beyond your reach ask the person closest to it to pass to you. In many Western countries, items are passed to the right, that is, anti-clockwise, but Americans pass items to the left. Remember that salt and pepper should be passed together.

  1. Unfamiliar or Undesirable Foods

Try not to show visible distaste for any foods you do not like. To be polite, take at least one or two bites of everything on your plate, unless it is something you already know you are allergic to. If you are allergic to anything, tell your hosts in advance, rather than waiting to get to the table and refusing or ignoring the food item. If something undesirable is in your mouth, be discreet, and remove it with your fork. How it goes in, it should come back out.

For more information on Dining Out, download my ebook, Dining Anywhere With Comfort from


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