From Dinnerware to Flatware; Dining Etiquette

Every nation around the world utilizes a set of rules known as dining etiquette or table manners while eating. Some of these rules may include the appropriate use of flat ware, dinnerware, napkins, the proper time to start eating, general social rules, and dividing the bill and tipping if eating out at a high-end restaurant. Learning table manners may impress those around you, including any accompanying guests. The appropriate dinner etiquette may impress a first date, business prospect, or friends and family on special occasions.

How to Make Restaurant Reservations

The hustle of today's society may require a reservation for most moderate to high-end restaurants. The demand of these restaurants overwhelm the capacity for walk-in customers, especially during peak dining times, such as weekends, nights, and holidays. Gaining a little foreknowledge before calling the restaurant may leave a lasting impression on both the staff and accompanying guests.

A respectful customer should call a restaurant just before dinner service begins when reserving a table at a moderate to high-end restaurant. Be sure to state all accompanying guests that will attend. Never show up with more people than what the reservation specifically stated at the time of scheduling because the restaurant may not have the room to squeeze them in at the reserved table. Call the host or hostess to inform them of any circumstances that may cause tardiness, including outright cancellation if an emergency prevents the meeting from occurring. Canceling a reservation at the last-minute may be misconstrued as inconsiderate of the restaurant and other patrons waiting for a table.

How to Use a Dinner Napkin

One of the most fundamental basics to table manner etiquette involves the appropriate use of dinner napkins. Implementing the appropriate use of dinner napkins will assure positive attention, and may even present pleasant rewards to those who adhere to the rules, especially in a restaurant setting. The first step involves placing a dinner napkin in your lap by picking the napkin up at the corner and allowing it to fall open. Gently dabbing the mouth with a dinner napkin before taking a drink prevents crumbs from falling into the glass. Place the dinner napkin to the left of the dinner plate before leaving the table. Do not forget to push the chair in before leaving the table. Cover your mouth with the napkin before burping, and quietly excuse yourself. Pick up the dinner napkin at the center and place it loosely on the table near the dinner plate before ending the meal and checking out.

Employing the right napkin etiquette at a private dinner party involves a bit of foreknowledge before attending. The first signal to look for while at a private dinner party involves spotting the host or hostess as he or she unfolds a napkin. Next, place the napkin on your lap completely unfolded if it's a small luncheon napkin. Unfold a large dinner napkin in half lengthwise. Never shake any size of napkin until it fully opens. Always rest the napkin on your lap until the end of the meal. The host or hostess will place the original napkin on to the table as a signal to you that the meal is officially over. Never re-fold or wad up the napkin, instead neatly place it to the left of your dinner plate.

When to Start Eating

Dining etiquette has fallen short since the advent of fast food restaurants; however, some jobs require a professional demeanor even while eating. Corporate meetings may also include lunch or dinner, such as dinner parties, conventions, and company banquets. An aspirational individual desiring to climb the corporate ladder may need to attend one of the aforementioned events to leave a lasting impression on the executives above him or her. A word of warning and the proper foreknowledge of dining etiquette, including when to start eating, will help eliminate embarrassment, and perhaps be the deciding factor behind an occupational promotion.

After seating at the appropriate table, wait until all of the guests arrive before eating. This common rule applies to corporate banquets, weddings, or other social occasions, including restaurants. Inform the other members in the party to begin eating if your personal dish faces delay. Most etiquette experts agree that an individual can begin eating once half of the people have been served their entrée. Always pass the food to your right if eating in a family arrangement, regardless of the environment. If you've changed your mind after passing the dish, then you can either wait until the dish comes back around or politely ask the person next to you for a serving. The host or hostess must wait until all guests have been served before eating.

 General Social Rules and Dining Etiquette

For every event requiring a meeting that creates lasting impressions, there are certain social rules to apply to meet the expectations of those who practice proper dining etiquette. For instance, following the appropriate dress code normally requested on the invitation will automatically lend credibility toward its attendees. Try to arrive at least ten minutes prior to the engagement unless otherwise specified by the host or hostess. Never arrive late without contacting the host or hostess to explain the circumstances. Bring a small hostess gift that will be used after the engagement. Stay away from flowers, candy, wine, or dessert as these gifts detract from the engagement.

Remain standing and wait patiently for the host or hostess to sit down first before taking a seat, unless the host or hostess asks you to take a seat. The seating arrangements usually alternate between man and woman with the woman seated to the right of the man. Remain respectfully silent during any group prayer. If a host offers a toast, then join in with the toast, including standing up if the host or hostess demands it. Serving tea or coffee sends a signal that the formal part of the evening is over, which means guests are free to leave, unless the host encourages them to stay. A thank-you note should be addressed to the host or hostess after the engagement.

Dining Etiquette Rules

After scheduling and keeping a reservation, properly preparing the table napkin, assessing the appropriate time to eat, and applying some basic social rules while dining, it's imperative to understand the core fundamentals behind eating etiquette. For instance, a host will serve food from the left while removing dishes from the right. Remember to always say please and thank you when asking for something. Transfer all butter, spreads, and dips from the serving dish to your plate before spreading or eating directly. Pass all food dishes from left to right, and do not stretch across the table, or cross over other guests in order to reach food or table condiments. Pass the salt and pepper together, even if a guest asks for one of them. Place all passed items directly on the table, instead of passing bread baskets or butter plates from hand-to-hand. Never snag rolls or shakers from someone's hands when it's meant for someone else. Locate and use the serving utensils and not your personal silverware to serve food to yourself or others.

Do not talk with food in your mouth. Most people find this practice very rude and distasteful to watch. Taste the dish before adding seasoning because the hostess may find it rude after hours of preparation before tasting the food. Do not blow directly on your food in attempt to cool it off. Always use the proper utensil to scoop food away from you. Eat in small bites, and slowly chew your food. Try to eat a little of everything on your plate, even if you don't finish the dish completely. Do not play with your food or utensils. In fact, place your silverware on the plate while speaking. Keep pace with how others are eating their food. Rest all utensils on the sides of the plate or bowl. Forewarn your hostess in advance of food allergies for better accommodation.

Apply napkin etiquette by unfolding and placing it on your lap. Always remember to place the napkin loosely on the table, and never on the plate or chair. Refrain from touching your elbows on the table. In fact, keep your left hand in your lap while not eating. Do not clean up spills with personal napkins, and never touch items that have touched the floor. Never blow your nose at the dinner table, and refrain from making loud noises, such as slurping and chewing loudly. Turn off your cell phone, and do not remove it from your pocket or purse until after the engagement. Never use a toothpick or apply make-up in a restaurant setting. All men should stand up if a woman needs to leave the table. Never stack dishes or push them away from you for the waiter. In fact, leave the plates and glasses exactly where they are at the end of the meal. Do not turn a wine glass upside down to decline wine. Hold the wine glass by the stem and not the rim.

Dividing or Sharing the Restaurant Bill

One of the most awkward moments after having a group dinner party or lunch get-together happens to be when the server places the tab on the table. Eyes will glance and wonder who will pay the bill. In fact, some might even insist on paying the bill to the point of enacting a bitter personal war. Regardless of the situation, there are a few dining etiquette guidelines to consider before attending your next lunch meeting. In fact, a general rule implies that if there are more than six people in a group, then the check is divided evenly among the group. Tell the server immediately if the group plans on splitting the bill to help simplify the process later. Make sure that everyone orders within the same price range to ensure fairness when splitting the costs. Separate beverage costs if alcohol is included.

Proper Tipping Etiquette in a Restaurant

Restaurant servers receive a base hourly salary with the assumption of customary tipping. There are other forms of tipping for various services, such as a wine steward, bartender, coat checker, hair stylist, and car attendant. As a general rule of thumb when eating out, at least leave a tip totaling 18 to 20% of the overall bill. Some customers feel that exceptional service demands higher payment, which typically means a higher percentage off the overall cost of the bill before discounts, including coupons and gift certificates. Always tip your server, even if the owner of the restaurant personally serves you because he will divide the tip among the kitchen and waiting staff.