restaurant etiquette

Table for Two? Your Ultimate Guide to Restaurant Etiquette

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You have a dinner coming up which is a huge opportunity for you. Perhaps you’re meeting someone about a new job or partnership, or maybe you have a date with someone you have strong feelings for.

You had that rush of adrenaline and excitement when you made the plans, but then the anxiety sets in. What if you do something rude by accident? Are you really confident enough in the rules of etiquette to bet your future on them?

If the answer is “no,” we’re here to help. Brush up on these restaurant etiquette rules.

7 Essential Restaurant Etiquette Tips

You can be as careful as can be with your words and your behavior, but if you don’t know what faux pas to avoid, it won’t be enough. Read up on these helpful tips:

1. Look the Part

Your etiquette begins before you even head to the restaurant. It’s important to dress appropriately for the situation so you don’t offend or embarrass your dinner companion.

There are a few factors which affect your outfit choice. First, it depends on the restaurant. If you’ve never been to the restaurant before, it’s crucial to find out the dress code before you go.

Some restaurants have attire rules guests must follow, so make sure you find out if your restaurant of choice has any. If not, you still need to find out the expected dress at the restaurant.

Some restaurants will state the attire expectations on their website. If they don’t, it can help to look at photos from the restaurant to see what other guests are wearing. When in doubt, you can always call and ask the host or hostess.

The other key factor that affects your dress choice is the occasion. For a business meeting, even if it seems informal because it’s in a restaurant, you need professional attire. For a date, you can wear something that reflects your personality a bit more.

2. Show Up On Time

One of the fastest ways to start your evening on the wrong foot is to be late. If it’s a group dinner, most restaurants won’t seat the group until everyone has arrived. If you’re running late, you’ll keep your group waiting in the lobby.

If you have reservations, it’s also not a good idea to show up more than fifteen minutes early. You don’t want to make the host or hostess feel like they need to scramble to find you a table.

3. Napkin Handling

After you sit down, unfold your napkin and put it on your lap. It’s not appropriate to tuck your napkin into your shirt. As much as you want to protect your expensive tie or high-end dress, it’s important to keep the napkin on your lap.

If someone else is hosting the dinner, you should wait until they place their napkin on their lap first. Throughout the dinner, any time you need to use your napkin, be sure to dab rather than wipe.

If you need to get up from the table at any time, fold your napkin loosely and place it next to your plate. You should do the same when the dinner is finished.

4. The Fine Art of Server-Calling

It’s never appropriate to call out to your server to get their attention. If you need them, make eye contact with them wherever they are.

If you’re having a hard time catching their eye, you can raise your hand for a brief moment. You’re not in class, though, so don’t leave your hand in the air until the server sees you.

5. Cracking the Silverware Code

One of the most intimidating issues for some dinner guests at a high-end restaurant like Roka Akor is figuring out which silverware to use for any given dish. An easy way to remember it is to start from the outside and work your way in.

In other words, your soup spoon and your salad fork will be the farthest spoon and fork from your plate. With each course, you’ll switch to the next piece in the lineup.

6. Know When Chivalry is Appropriate and When It’s Not

Some people assume the more formal an occasion is, the more traditional their actions should be. That’s not always true when it comes to interactions between men and women.

If you’re on a date or at a formal group dinner, it may be fine for a man to pull out a woman’s chair for her. The same goes for a man paying for the dinner, though it’s perfectly appropriate for a woman to offer to pay or to ask to split the check.

If you’re at a business dinner, however, it’s important to treat men and women as equal professionals.

7. Ordering Wine

Choosing wine is another part of a formal dinner which can be intimidating. Don’t feel like you need to order something you aren’t familiar with. It’s fine to stay within your comfort zone.

In most cases, you should order red wine if you’ll be eating beef or pork. White wine goes best with fish or chicken. If you’re planning to order a vegetarian dish, any wine may complement it well.

After you order, the server will bring the bottle and show it to you. You should check the label and make sure it’s what you ordered.

The server will then pour a small amount for you to taste. The purpose of this is for you to make sure the wine isn’t “corked”: containing a mold that grows on corks. Let your server know if you detect a mold-like taste.

Brushing Up on Your Restaurant Etiquette

Some of the tips above may be news to you, while others might be reminders of old information you had forgotten. Regardless of how often you’re in formal situations and high-end restaurants, handling yourself in that environment is a simple matter of knowing your restaurant etiquette rules.

Know that you know how to maintain your decorum at your next business dinner, check out more business tips on our blog.

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