Imagine you’ve just sat down to an insanely romantic dinner with prince charming. (Let’s be honest, you totally won him over with your impeccable manners during the first date.) He’s taken you to the nicest joint in town. Just as you get settled in and catch one another’s eye, a loud screech interrupts your gaze: A woman at a nearby table drags her teeth along her fork. The sound is piercing. Next thing you know, the electronic tune to “Baby Got Back” fills the room as a cellphone buzzes against white china. WHAT IS GOING ON? No manners, that’s what.
There are certain do’s and don’ts when dining out. Things that many of us forget to consider. Below is my Ladylike Laws guide to dining out:
Arriving. Greet the host kindly. If there is a wait, don’t make a huge fuss. It’s up to you to decide whether or not it’s worth it. Restaurants get busy and it’s not the host’s fault.
Napkins. Once you are seated, place your napkin onto your lap with the crease facing you. If the napkin is particularly large, you may fold it in half again. Never take your drink or begin eating without placing your napkin on your lap. When you leave the table or get up for the restroom, fold your napkin (try to hide any food stains you may have left) and place the napkin to the left side of your place setting. (You can thank the 18th Edition of Emily Post’s Etiquette for these tips.)
Menu signals. When you’re settled in, it’s time to look over the menu. Once you have decided what you want to order, close your menu and place it in front of you–this will signal to the wait staff that you are ready to order.
The wait staff. I think a lot of people forget their manners when it comes to the wait staff at a restaurant. It’s important to be appreciative of their service. After all, isn’t it nice to be attended to? Look your waiter in the eye when ordering or asking for something and always say your please and thank yous!
Table tools. When selecting which utensil to use for each course, start with the outermost utensil and work your way in.
The bread basket. If a breadbasket graces your tabletop, tear off one piece and place it onto your bread plate. If you want to butter your bread, take a pat of butter and put it onto your bread plate so you have your own personal butter stash. Never butter your bread directly from the shared butter dish. It’s rude. Finally, tear your bread into bite size pieces and butter as you go.
Turn it down. Please turn your phone to silent or vibrate when you arrive. And try your very best not to text or talk on your phone throughout the meal. If a call or text is particularly urgent, kindly excuse yourself from the table and take care of matters in the restroom. Furthermore, it’s especially important not to try and draw attention to yourself in a dining setting. Translation: Turn down your volume and speak in a soft, pleasant voice. No yelling, loud gawking or anything other audible missteps that might turn heads.
Mind the purse. Believe it or not, you’re not supposed to hang your purse over the back of your chair. I was pretty surprised to learn this. Apparently, you should either leave it on your lap or place it at your feet. And never, ever put your purse on the table. As for our male counterparts, wallets, keys and phones should not be piled onto the table either.
Um, you have something in your teeth. According to Lizzie Post, make eye contact with the individual and signal by lightly tapping your teeth or mouth. If all else fails, just let them know. I would definitely rather someone tell me, wouldn’t you?
Fin! When you are finished with your meal, rest your utensils diagonally across the plate. This is another key restaurant signal that will alert the wait staff that you are done.
What’s the worst dining offense you’ve witnessed?
P.S. For more details on the intricacies of restaurant dining, I highly recommend the 18th Edition of Emily Post’s Etiquette.