Food

Restaurant Etiquette 101

Restaurant Etiquette

We’ve written about table manners and how to pour wine, but what about etiquette at a restaurant? Here are a few things we’ve learned over the years (and I’d love to hear others!)…

Restaurant Etiquette

1. Wait to look at the menu until you’ve been at the table for a while, to show that your first priority is your friends’ company, not the food. And then hold the menu low down or flat against the table. Once you’ve decided, close your menu and put it down on the table, so the server will see you’re ready to order.

Restaurant Etiquette

2. When the host leads you to your table, let the oldest woman follow first, then the rest of the women, and then the men. (That way, the oldest woman will also get to choose the best seat.)

Restaurant Etiquette

3. The bread plate will be to your LEFT, and your drinks to your RIGHT. One genius tip from readers: To remember the order of the place setting, think “BMW” — bread, then meal, then water.

Restaurant Etiquette

4. This sounds insane to write out, but here’s the formal way to approach the bread basket: Take a piece of bread and put it on your bread plate. Then take your bread knife and get some butter and put it on the side of your bread plate. Then break off a bite-sized piece of bread, put butter on just that piece, and eat it. Butter each piece individually until you’re done. (Basically: Don’t butter the full piece of bread.)

Restaurant Etiquette

5. Before you refill your water or wine, refill everyone else’s first.

Restaurant Etiquette

6. When the server takes everyone’s order, it’s nice to say “Please may I have the…” (The worst is “Gimme the….”!)

Restaurant Etiquette

7. If you have to go to the bathroom, say “Excuse me, I’ll be right back,” versus saying the word “bathroom.” One good time to duck out is just after everyone has ordered their entrees — it’s a natural break in the flow of the meal. Loosely fold your napkin and leave it to the left of your plate, and leave your utensils slightly crossed on your plate.

Restaurant Etiquette

8. Wait to eat until everyone has been served. (One exception: If the food is warm and at least three people have their meal, you can go for it!)

Did you agree with these? What would you add?

P.S. More table manners, a trick for pouring wine and how to introduce someone.

​(Illustrations by Alessandra Olanow for Cup of Jo.)

  1. Oh that’s good. I always feel awkward when everyone is insisting and yet I know that it’s good etiquette to wait. Don’t want to be rude either way! :-) Love these cute little reminders of etiquette. Thanks for sharing!

  2. These are good to know and I definitely agree with #6! One thing my dad does is let the ladies order and then the men. My husband doesn’t though and it’s funny to see my dad look at him across the table! Haha. It doesn’t matter to me either way since we all usually get our food at the same time anyway.

  3. Marion Benton says...

    We were at a mid-range restaurant (entrees started at $20) last night and the couple next to us opened ipads for their children. I really did not like hearing cartoons as I ate. I felt that they should have gone to a McDonald’s if that is the way they are raising their 5- and 3-year old.

  4. Miss K says...

    In regards to Number 1, unfortunately most wait staff don’t give you enough time to firstly sit down and have time with your companion,they come back within 2 minutes asking if people are ready to order.

    • That’s so true! It’s like, “Hey, sorry. We just got here. Give us 10-15 to catch up!”

  5. This is cool! I’m from So. Florida, but I currently live in Thailand and almost every meal is served with a spoon and a fork (no knives, ever!!!). You eat with the spoon in your left and fork in your right and scoop everything onto your spoon. It’s (oddly) really hard to get used to!!

    Also in TH it’s rude NOT to start eating once your food immediately arrives. Dig right in!!! That felt strange, too, since after college I worked in fine dining for two years where the food HAD to be served all together, with three or four of the waitstaff delievering it with synchronized “open service” (your elbows should NEVER be in the guests face).

    Lastly, one thing that never fails to gross me out, is that Thai’s have adopted the term “toilet” (ew!) from the UK population instead of saying bathroom or restroom. Before I knew how to ask for the restroom in Thai I would have to cringe and say “toilet” because they looked at me like a deer in headlights if I referred to it as anything else.

    Cool post! x

  6. Louise says...

    I am a widow and I have female friends who come from all walks of life. I detest being given the bum’s rush if I have dinner on a Saturday evening with another woman because “a regular customer and his wife” want our table (yes, those were our waiter’s exact words). Yelp was the beneficiary of my negative review for that restaurant, to which I will never return.

  7. Christina says...

    If you ever forget where bread and water go, just make a circle with your index finger and thumb on both hands. The side that makes a “b” (the left) tells you that side is bread and the “d” (right side) is drink :)

    • Gm. says...

      Brilliant!

    • Ashlee says...

      I use this trick all the time and show it off at work events – people are constantly amazed!

    • This comments needs to be an infographic!

  8. Kate says...

    Don’t bathe yourself in perfume or cologne. It’s quite an abuse to the senses, especially in restaurants, to instead of enjoying the delicate aromas of a wine or a lemony garnish on a cocktail or the spice wafting from your meal to be harshly interrupted by someone’s trigger-happy application of their scent.

  9. Janna says...

    I don’t necessarily agree with #6. “Please may I have…” sounds as if you’re asking for permission… which you aren’t. Of course you may! Instead, a good way to order (which I adopted from a true “officer and a gentleman”) is: “I’d like X, please.”

    • jen says...

      Totally. You are begging here. Or you could say, Id like so and so, please. But not starting with Please. Ugh.

  10. Another trick to know which is your bread plate and your drink is to make the letters “b” and “d” with your hands (circles formed by index finger and thumbs, remaining fingers create the bars). Your left hand makes a “b” and your right hand makes a “d” – indicating the sides of your plate on which your bread plate and drink can be found. Okay, that sounds more complicated when I write it out, but I promise it’s saved me a thousand times – especially at conferences and weddings when the tables are so tightly set!

    A second etiquette tip – please, please do not cut up all of your food into a thousand bite size pieces and then eat! What, are you five!?!? Cut one piece off, eat, repeat.

  11. Sophie says...

    Yes! Finally someone else not saying ‘bathroom’. I rarely go out to eat with little ones, however at work I never say that j am going to the bathroom, just ‘excuse me’ or ‘I’ll be back soon’. I can’t believe that people say ‘I’m off to the toilet’ or even ‘ I need to do a wee’ in the workplace!!!

    • NancyLou says...

      Or worst of all, “I’m off to the sandbox.”

  12. karen says...

    uh huh, I would like to add something. Close your pie hole people. Close that mouth when chewing. Were ya raised in a barn.
    Oh no that’s not my pet peeve. Or is it?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahahaha!

  13. Stephanie says...

    I can’t believe we live in a world where people *don’t* abide by these rules. Ugh.

  14. Fiona says...

    My mum has started going to the bathroom right as everyone is getting seated to “wash up” – and takes the opportunity to go to the bathroom while she’s there. This way she minimizes the likelihood of having to excuse herself during the meal. I love that and keep intending to incorporate that, even though I usually still forget…

  15. Heather D says...

    What about when you’re in a group and an appetizer is brought out? I know this sounds silly, but for an example…. I was recently out with a group of 5 and we ordered one of those appetizer samplers. Is it kosher to take one of each thing on the platter? Or do you just sample the wings, then go back for some of the spinach dip later. Help!

  16. Alice Quin says...

    Loved this and the drawings!

  17. Gail says...

    Not sure if this would come under the heading of manners/etiquette but people talk too loud in restaurants, and of course the volume increases as each person tries to be heard. There is such a din I can hardly hear the person next to me, much less the person across from me.

  18. k says...

    Your comment about waiting to eat, unless at least three people have warm food…. I’m pretty positive the actual rule is “eight, wait, nine, fine.” As in, if there are eight or fewer people at your table you need to wait until everyone is served, and if there are at least nine people, you can go ahead and dig in.

    • Allegra says...

      I’ve heard the rule of eight, too.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      how interesting, thank you!

    • Erin M says...

      I’ve also heard that the polite thing to do if you are one of the ones that hasn’t received your food is to suggest that everyone else start eating…

  19. Maria says...

    I was taught as a child to remember how to set the table by making a circle with my thumb and forefinger with each hand. The right hand looks like a “d” for drink. Cute to teach a child

    • Maureen says...

      Yes, me too.! The left hand makes a “b” for butter, and the right hand makes a “d” for drink.

    • Amanda says...

      I love this tip! I’ll be sharing with my children for sure!

  20. Melissa says...

    I was always taught your napkin goes on your chair when you get up from your seat. It was never to be put on the table unless you were finished and leaving.

    • Ashley says...

      This is what I learned too!

    • Jennifer says...

      Me too, I thought it was rude to put your napkin on the table until you were leaving.

    • Napkin on the chair, i’ve heard that, too!

      And when the napkin is on your legs, just fold it an then when you need to clean your mouth do it INSIDE the folded napkin so the traces are not seen outside!

    • Libby says...

      I grew up with this rule too. I get really irritated when I get up to use the restroom, leaving my napkin carefully on my chair, and then come back to find that a member of the waitstaff has REFOLDED my dirty napkin and placed it next to my plate.

  21. I grew up in the South and my mother was a stickler for etiquette, good grammar, and manners; now that she’s retired, she actually teaches classes in etiquette! I was sent to cotillion, dancing school, and was always encouraged to try new things at the table.

    My mother and grandmother were both caterers and we grew up eating lots of unusual foods– sometimes fancy, sometimes very basic. I’m so thankful for that, as I am now an adventurous, well-rounded eater (unlike many people I know- and don’t even get me started about kids…)

    One of my mother’s pet-peeves, was when anyone would say “Ew, I don’t like that” or “Yuck, that looks gross” or make a face at food that’s served to them. We were taught to try everything at least once and if you didn’t care for it, we said “I’m glad I tried it, but its not for me.” Or if we were served something that we knew we genuinely didn’t like, we said “Thanks, but I haven’t yet learned to appreciate that.”

    I know it probably sounds pretentious, but we grew up in a lot of formal-leaning settings. It never felt pretentious to me and I still say it on occasion. And now I’m SO aware when kids (and adults!) react to foods inappropriately and without tact.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      “I’m glad I tried it, but its not for me.”
      “Thanks, but I haven’t yet learned to appreciate that.”

      = I love that, Dean! Your mom sounds awesome.

    • Ashley says...

      Our kids have to take at least one bite of everything. My daughter says “it’s not my favorite” if she dislikes something. I think I’ll upgrade to these phrases. Many thanks.

    • My grandmother would say, Thank you, but xyz does not agree with me.

    • Amanda says...

      We have a tablespoon rule at our house. You have to eat at least a tablespoon of everything on your plate. My son eat everything, pretty much, but my daughter says, “I’m just not ready for that, yet.”

    • sk says...

      Yes to this!! I really hate when I see people make faces or comment on something saying it is “gross” or “disgusting” when traveling or in a setting where they may be trying food from a country/culture that is not their own. Growing up a minority in the US it made me self-conscious when kids would comment on my food. Now when I see food from my home country being sold in Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods I chuckle to myself and wonder if those same kids are buying overpriced kimchi.

    • Mindi says...

      Yes! I’m an elementary school teacher and when I hear students saying “ew!” to other kids’ food, my phrase is “don’t yuck my/his/her yum!” Then we talk about how impolite it is and how everyone has different tastes. I’m going to give them these phrases to say now! Sometimes teaching manners feels like an uphill battle ;)

    • Louise says...

      A friend was very guilty of this behavior. She had a finicky palate and let everyone know what appealed to her and what did not. She went a little crazy with facial and verbal expressions after I was served my order (grilled octopus…it’s delicious in Greek restaurants). I reached my limit, stopped, put down my fork, and sat quietly. When my friend asked why I wasn’t eating, I simply told her that her reaction to my dish made me lose my appetite. She was horrified. And she never did it again.

    • I fully agree! I once lived with someone who CONSTANTLY said “Ew” or “I hate xyz” when offered or introduced while dining. I wanted to strangle her :)

  22. JDS says...

    I love this! Cute illustrations. One thing that’s been driving me crazy lately is the lack of etiquette on the restaurant’s part! Mainly when they start clearing plates while others at the table are still eating. It makes whoever is done eating feel like they eat fast and makes the person still eating feel pressured to finish. Nice restaurants usually know better but it’s happened to me the last few times in a row that I’ve been out to eat.

    • Stella says...

      I agree!

    • Meghan says...

      YES! I was going to say exactly this. I’m one of those fast eaters that feels awkward sitting there without a plate in front of me.

    • Louise says...

      I always tell the waiter that dishes are to be removed when all the diners at my table are finished. Occasionally, I get attitude, but most of the time the busboy simply fades away. One time the busboy made a total nuisance of himself and I flagged the waiter. That solved the problem.

    • I worked in fine dining for two years post college (side note: best money I have ever made!) and we were trained to clear the guests plate when they were finished eating (you never ask the guest–you politely extend your hand and make eye contact–if they don’t acknowledge you, you walk away). The reason we do this is to allow the guest ample room and a clean space to sit and chat. Also, isn’t it gross to look at a dirty plate in front of you?

      Proper fine dining will always remove dirty dishes (empahsis on dirty) as it is not appealing to the person sitting in front of it.

      In terms of feeling rushed I think that’s a personal (problem???) thing because your friends or family will never want to make you feel rushed (and they shouldn’t).

  23. Jill says...

    I hate it when men do not take off their hats or caps when they enter a restaurant for their meals and wear it throughout the entire meal. We were always taught to remove your hat when you enter a restaurant. I see it every time I go out for a meal and I just want to go over and take it off their head!

    • Erica says...

      Yes! This drives my husband crazy, too 😊

    • Jennyg says...

      Yes!!! This is incredibly rude! Take the hats off unless it’s on a lady and it has feathers, a bird, or is pretty!!!

  24. yael steren says...

    oh gosh! i don’t think i could really worry about all these rules. When I’m out with friends I prefer everyone just has a good time and doesn’t worry about the bread basket etiquette! But I suppose these are good to know for a work dinner! xx yael

    http://www.yaelsteren.com/blog/

  25. On a side note, it seems silly to have to say some things but I actually had to write a flow chart and give a training on how to throw out a piece of paper at work the other day. talk about feeling ridiculous! and what i thought would be a 10 minute training turned into 30 minutes and then two hours in the office with everyone literally looking at every paper on their desk and explaining how to get rid of it. as well as a 1.5 hour meeting the next week with the person who wasn’t there and couldn’t accept what they told her about my instructions.

    • Natash says...

      You’ve piqued my interest. I’m very curious to know how there are different ways to throw paper away…can you explain?

      Thanks!

  26. I do most of these but I have my child walk ahead of me in a restaurant. I would be unsure he would follow and want to make sure he walks right to our table and doesn’t get distracted by others on the way…or distract them!

  27. thanks for these amazing tips

  28. Laura says...

    Love these! For anyone looking for a more exhaustive (and very entertaining) read on etiquette should Google an old 2010 article from the New York Times – “100 Things Restaurant Patrons Should Never Do”, which I believe is the companion piece to “100 Things Restaurant Staffers Should Never Do”. Happy reading!

  29. Sandhya Subramanian says...

    A genius trick for distinguishing between bread plates and glasses for you and for your neighbor when you’re seated in a circle: make a lower-case “b” with your left hand and a lower-case “d” with your right hand, which reminds you that your bread plate is to the left of your place setting, and your glass is to the right. I’ve used this for years after hearing about it from a friend.

  30. Monica says...

    Loved the Bmw trick, i always get mixed up with the bread on my left or on my right!

  31. Meredith says...

    Nobody has mentioned being mindful about making noise. Making smacking sounds while eating, chewing with mouth open, chewing loudly, making ‘mmmm’ noises, scraping silverware on the plate, scraping silverware on teeth….all things I routinely witness and am freaked out by. I always thought it was mannerly not to do those things but I’ve encountered people that obviously did not get that manners memo and think I’m weird because it bothers me. I literally cannot focus on anything but the offending noise and just want to leave the table. Also, I’ve recently read about a condition called ‘misophonia’ where sounds of these kinds drive about 10% of the population almost insane. Never knew that was a thing, but I guess I have it!

    • Julia says...

      I also hate the noise of silverware touching teeth!

    • Frank R says...

      Speaking with food in your mouth is my pet peeve.

    • Ashley says...

      I agree! I hate food noises. However, in some cultures, notably Japan, slurping, smacking, and belching are all appreciated signals to the host that the meal is tops.
      Global ettiquette differences are so interesting to me.

  32. Donna says...

    Please keep the cell phones out of sight unless someone has a crisis brewing and may get a phone call.

  33. Tricia says...

    I’ll put in another vote for it not making sense to gender the seating-proceeding. For a slightly younger generation (though I can’t speak for all 30-year-olds), it feels outdated. I actually feel a bit offended when I am with a male that makes a show of having me go first, and I try to kindly explain that though it might seem like a kindness to women, elevating females (e.g. you are so special because you are a woman, that your door should be held open or you should go first in line) is just another way of perpetuating inequality.

    That said, I had never heard of letting grandparents go first, and that seems very thoughtful, since they are often moving more slowly and can easily get left at the back of the proceeding. A sweet gesture I intend to adopt!

    • Hannah says...

      It is polite to let a woman go first. My SO and I were discussing this as he had women tell him it was rude to open the door, pay for the meal, pull out chairs, etc. I explained that until women are paid equally to men for the same work, we should be treated with respect. I also open doors for him on occasion just to show respect as I do for anyone following close behind me. It’s not dated to show people you’re kind.

  34. Sarah says...

    I’ll add one that I believe is helpful: If a meal or course is served family style, the person closest to a dish should take it and pass it to the left (without helping themselves first). I was at a luncheon a while back and this delectable plate of mini-tarts was laid down opposite of me, and NOONE had the guts to start circulating it! Get those plates moving people! :)

  35. Talia says...

    As someone who teaches dining etiquette (as well as a dress to impress class), I certainly appreciate this post!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      what a cool job, talia!

  36. molly says...

    Great post! I also think there is an etiquette on how to properly use cutlery. My mom and grandmother were sticklers about using the fork and knife properly and I now notice other people’s cutlery habits. Especially when they make a fist with their fork when cutting meat – makes me cringe. See: http://bit.ly/2axDwTV.

    found this video too – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sNE2DhQ1AZ4

    • YES! I look at so many people in restaurants these days and am shocked at how they hold their cutlery, as if they were hacking that steak into pieces with a camping axe…

  37. Jessica says...

    It’s interesting to read all the comments about kids and dining. We have a four year old and one year old and have only taken them to restaurants together a few times…and definitely the spots we chose were super casual. However, I do feel bad about the mess that inevitably results from kids eating, so what I’ve tried to do on these few occasions is to stack up the plates and use a baby wipe to clean the table and seats after we are done to help out the server. This probably violates a ton of etiquette rules but I’m hoping the casual American dining establishments we’ve been to appreciate the extra help/and less mess! Of course when it’s just my husband and I we follow a lot of what Joanna’s article mentions.

  38. It may have already been mentioned, but to another version of the “BMW” trick is to look at your hands. Touch your thumbs to your index fingers and you will see that your left hand makes a little ‘b’ (bread plate on the left) and your right hand makes a little ‘d’ (drink on the right). I learned this in a dining etiquette class in college probably 12 years ago, and I still make the hand gestures under the table to myself before I reach for things!

  39. Deborah says...

    We have been on several cruises. It is really awesome to know the nicest ways to do things. You can see all kinds of etiquette and non-etiquette on the formal nights. Or elegant nights, depending on which cruise line. It is aweful to see someone all dressed up and then be a slob in how they eat. Some are just gross. Love etiquette!

  40. Katrina says...

    I learned to unroll your napkin and utensils under the table- leave the napkin on your lap and place your utensils by your plate. It seems harmless until you date a guy who shakes his utensils out onto the table and proceeds to wipe his face with the napkin… often at the end of the meal…after eating it with his hands. (BYE!)

    • Stephanie says...

      Laughing

  41. China Hoffman says...

    I once got to interview Anna Post, great-great-grand-daughter of Emily Post for a story about etiquette and I still remember her talking about how the purpose of etiquette (good manners) is to make everyone feel more comfortable and happier, and that if doing the “right” thing is going to make someone uncomfortable, it’s not good manners. And, to make someone feel bad for not knowing a rule or “proper” behavior is the height of bad manners. I love etiquette and often turn to Emily Post Etiquette for advice, but I think it’s so, so important to keep the big picture in mind: Be nice, think of others and remember your server is a person too!

  42. Tiffanie Stasiak says...

    We sent our kids to Cotillion. It was a nice way to capture our social “rules” in one setting, without having to be on the hot seat for promoting what they consider to be arbitrary and old fashioned rules. Bonus if they go with their friends–then they can all “suffer” together and just accept that there are ways of doing things that may defy logic. It’s quite magical when they realize that YOU (as the parent) didn’t make up the rules :)

  43. Tracy says...

    I work in a fairly fancy non profit and actually took an etiquette course when I began. It was great! It was all about being comfortable by knowing what to do in situations, but more importantly using this knowledge to make others comfortable. The most important thing I ever learned: the worst etiquette is for you to point out someone’s bad etiquette. By all means gently tell a friend they have something in their teeth. But never ever shame someone else for not knowing how to do things in a situation, especially in our world today, which crosses cultures and classes. Etiquette isn’t for making other people feel bad, and if one does, then that’s just elitism.

  44. I’m missing the ‘no elbows on the table’ rule and possibly an explanation on why not? My mother (Swiss/British) was a stickler for manners, and I was trained early, but my Norwegian husband and my children always ask me why when I remind them, and I’ve never been able to give them a good reason – apart from elbows on the table looking sloppy… Also, I was always taught that one should not start eating until everyone was served, unless there were more than 8 (!) people dining together, and then it was ok to start before, so as to not risk the food getting cold. As for the the breaking off pieces of bread and buttering each piece – makes total sense, but I cannot recall ever having been taught it. I agree with the commenters above who said it would be fun to have blog post about regional or even international etiquette differences.

    • Growing up in Switzerland we kept our elbows off the table, but both hand up holding cutlery. I noticed that in Canada where I now live and the US it is often the case that one hand is kept on your lap and that this is acceptable. My Swiss dad would say that we kept both hands up as we were not planning to shoot someone under the table.

  45. Viviana says...

    I always found table manners so obvious that I’m surprised they have to be written down. But then I met my husband’s family and realized not everyone was brought up the same way (he learned on his own before I met him, but his family didn’t). Lack of manners is the worst. Thanks for the post!!
    To the list I would add: please, dry your lips with the napkin before and after drinking. Otherwise the glasses will end up dirty with food grease lip prints. Gross!!
    A GENIUS TIP: If you’re wearing lipstick, quickly stick out the tip of your tongue and very quickly “lick” the glass (sounds bad but try it, noone will notice) and then drink normally. Your lower lip on the wet surface won’t leave a print.

  46. Tiia says...

    In Europe, if you are finished with your meal, point the handle ends of both your fork and knife at 5 o’clock on your plate. If you are not finished, point your fork at 7 o’clock and knife at 5 o’clock. This seems to be different in America.

    • Anna says...

      Yes! My mother taught me this! It lets the server know if you are finished or not, and it certainly helps them remove plates without dropping cutlery when everyone is finished.

  47. Emilia says...

    After almost ten years of waiting tables, I personally hate it when people say “Please may I have …” It just makes the interaction more awkward for everyone. If you say “I’ll have the steak” or “Could I get some ketchup please?” that’s still plenty polite. Many of these rules seem pretty formal for our modern age! Then again, I live in Seattle where rarely dress up for anything …

    • Faith says...

      I agree! As a long time server the other rudest thing people do while dining out is ignore their server when they come to the table. Nothing makes you feel like less of a human being. Stop your conversatioun, acknowledge them and listen. They’re trying to HELP you after…

    • KW says...

      YES! I’ve been scrolling through the comments waiting for some fellow waitresses to speak up. Do acknowledge your server and above all else remember that we are people with feelings too – it isn’t always an easy job! ;)

  48. Stefanie says...

    I think all These rules should be common sense in a high class Restaurant. My greatgrandmother was very traditional and judging at the table…. She demanded all that with every simple at home dinner. May she Rest in peace.

    To rule 7: i love the english saying: “i’m off to spend a penny!” Sounds sweet on such a topic!

  49. Katherine says...

    We used to have formal dinners once a week at my res hall at uni. As a senior we would share the high table with our principal. (All very British traditions we’ve adopted!) She used to tell us the Royal protocol was to always wait for everyone to be served if the meal was cold, but hot meals spoil so they should be eaten as soon as they’re served. We still spoke about that every week before insisting people did start, because the waiting rule is so ingrained! I do appreciate being taught this as a child though, because often mum or dad would be last to sit down after bringing out all the plates, and being taught to wait was being taught respect and thoughtfulness-that last person had been working hard and shouldn’t be left out as we enjoy their labors! In that way I think it’s almost more important at home and at a restaurant you go with the ‘Oh, please start!’ rule.

  50. One good trick for remembering which are your bread plate and glasses is making a “b” with your left hand and a “d” with your right hand using your thumb and index fingers – bread and drinks! If someone messed this up, instead of telling them, you should just use the plate or glasses available. I also learned that you can begin eating as long as the two people on either side of you also have their meals in front of them.

  51. Adriana says...

    The logic behind buttering bread piece by piece is that you are only supposed to break of what you are going to put in your mouth with your hands, not bite into it. If the whole piece of bread is buttered, how are you supposed to take a small bite-sized piece? In the end, etiquette always comes down to logic and respect.

  52. I’m good with everything in this list except one…I always keep putting my glass down on the left side. I don’t know why but i just got used to it. Lol. But I think, in reality, most other people either don’t really notice little “mistakes” like that or they just don’t care.

  53. Sarah says...

    I always thought it was impolite to put your napkin on the table. I was always taught to put it on my seat when I excuses myself.

  54. You’re right, some of these I didn’t know! Especially the BMW one – I always have my water on the left side on me while bread and such on my right. I’ll definitely be changing that up on the future.

    http://oursummary.com

  55. i love this! i always naturally did that with bread, because it made sense to me.

  56. These are all so interesting. After 10 years in the service industry (all west coast, California, to be exact), the crossing of silverware on the plate definitely let me know everyone was ready.

    I think adding to this with etiquette for the server would be a nice touch. Don’t flag me over unless everyone is ready to order. I can’t tell you how many times I was flagged over only to hear, “ok, hmmm, what should I have, ok, hold on.” Or my biggest pet peeve . . . When theres a large party and I bring the check and one person say, “put —- on my card,” and they include the tip. There’s no way for me to know that and in the end I get stiffed. 4 people. $100 check. one says, “$30 on mine.” when they mean to say 25, plus a 5 dollar tip. Then by the end of the meal I get stuck with maybe $7-10. Just a little server etiquette!

    • Verena says...

      Good Point! Thank you!!

    • I wholeheartedly agree and have one more addition: If you are going to be a group of ten people and you’re all splitting the check, bring cash! don”t give your server ten credit cards and ask them to put a different amount on each card. it really holds everyone up, but it happens all the time.

  57. Joanna, believe it or not…when I moved here in US.. I felt it was rude that server just put dishes on the table and go away…I was used to service where waiter serve the food in my plate…. but I love this blogpost.

    http://www.thedailyweeklyblog.com

  58. eleanore frank-cisneros says...

    My mother had me take etiquette courses from a fancy restaurant where I lived (in Florida) when I was 10 or so, and I actually still use many of the things that I learned. They did say to leave the napkin on your seat, or neatly on the back of your chair if you were to go to the restroom– to only put it on the table if you were finished eating! Others that I remember distinctly were to gently place your knife and fork at the “5:00” position on the plate, this *always* signals that you are finished with the meal (to those initiated! it works!), working from the outside in when choosing your silverware, when cleaning your mouth with a napkin you are to “dab and pat”, and not “wipe”— so many things like that come up—oh– also leave your silverware on the plate with each course because they would be replaced each time. I feel like as a feminist, a lot of rules of “etiquette” are outmoded and somewhat sexist— but there are a few that are common sense and actually helpful. I also had an incredibly stylish/wonderful older woman tell me there was no such thing as etiquette– it was just behaving with confidence and elegance, and told me she had never once eaten asparagus with a fork and that no one had ever batted an eyelash! hah. <3

    • Love this! Confidence, elegance (and friendliness) are everything!

  59. Joanie says...

    I was taught that when I finished my meal to criss cross my fork and knife across plate. This would indicate that my plate could be cleared to the service person. Not sure service people know this anymore, but they did in my grandma’s day.

    • Marion says...

      I was actually taught the exact opposite!! I was told you had to put your fork and knife on the same side to signal you were done eating!

  60. Alex says...

    Manners are so hard to teach kids… because they make no sense but you want your kids to not be thought less of for not having them. So I say things like, “in our culture we butter the bread piece by piece, never at once” – but it is a struggle. I love the “in our culture” phrase because then it doesn’t state its right or wrong to do it one way, but rather, its just the way it is here and it makes no sense but we do it anyway.

    I also as mentioned above hate when plates are cleared before everyone is done.

    In New Orleans, where I live, the wait staff typically, even at mid-range restaurants, serve everyone at once – even if it requires for that moment 4 or 5 waiters. And it is lovely to share that “ahhh” moment with anyone rather than having to sit on your hands waiting for alls food to arrive.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      “in our culture” is such a great way to put it. thank you so much, alex. i’m going to use that now, too.

  61. We were taught to cut our food with books under our arms so we wouldn’t stick out our elbows. It drove me nuts to have to do that, and now it drives me nuts when I get elbowed by someone who did not have to do that.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that is so interesting! your parents sound awesome :)

    • olma says...

      Can you imagine making Toby and Anton cut their food with books under their arms?

  62. Beth says...

    Per others, I’ve always been taught to leave your napkin on your chair when leaving for the restroom. The waiter at an upscale restaurant should fold it neatly for you and put it on the table before you return – as opposed to simply leaving a crumpled napkin on the table.

    I hate clearing of plates before everyone is finished.

    I also find that restaurants often put water on the incorrect side (left hand side). Or, maybe it’s just their placement relative to the plates that makes it look that way. It’s annoying.

  63. Erin says...

    As a children my sister and I were not allowed to leave the table at a restaurant without a patent. Nor were we allowed to pitch a fit. I do remember a nice man seated at a table next to ours talking with my dad after our family had eaten. All the sudden my sister and I had surprise desserts. The table next to ours was so impressed with our behavior they asked if they could treat my sister and I. Working as a waitress in college I would return wandering children to their parents and place then in their chairs. I would then explain to the parents that it was dangerous for their children with wait staff walking around with hot coffee. Most of the time that got their attention. I was always amazed at the lack of respect parents show their children by not teaching them manners. I’m grateful to my parents.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      how sweet about the surprise desserts!

  64. Amy says...

    I think all etiquette should simply be common sense about being gracious and making others around you comfortable. Waiting until everyone is served before eating and refilling others’ drinks would fall under that category.

    But stuff like #4- butter one bite of bread at a time- sound completely elitist to me! It is not how any normal person would eat, so it seems like a rule designed to see who else knows the rule instead of a practice that became a rule because it served a purpose.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that’s a really interesting point, amy — i see what you’re saying.

    • Sara says...

      Agreed! How can it be rude to butter an entire piece of bread? It just seems like such an uptight thing to be worrying about!

    • I agree, Amy! I think I’ve only been to a nice enough restaurant once or twice, and certainly had never heard this rule. While I love knowing etiquette and the surrounding traditions, I still get the same feeling.

    • Liza says...

      The piece by piece bread eating applies to toast, pastries, and bagels as well. If you’re at a breakfast meeting, please do not slather a bagel in cream cheese and then take a bite out of it. It drives me crazy. It looks awful. In formal dining you don’t pick things up, put them in your mouth and then return them to the plate. You wouldn’t cut a piece of steak, bite half of it off the fork, and then put the fork down on the plate while you chew. Same concept.

    • Cheryl says...

      I always assumed that it was so there was no cross contamination of the shared butter. You can always take more butter but if you’re using your knife or the passed knife and putting it on your plate, it limits the butter going directly onto your half eaten bread.

    • I agree…this one is a bit over the top. The thought behind it is that it’s more hygienic. You technically don’t want the knife going back into the communal butter after it has touched bread that you have bit off of or touched with your fingers.

    • toto says...

      Reading all the replies to your comment made me think that maybe the buttering each bite was not exactly for etiquette but for eating cleanly, which is still elitist I suppose.

    • Gem says...

      Liza: I can honestly say that I’ve never once seen anyone put cream cheese on a bagel bite-by-bite! Do people really do that and I’m just missing it?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      I think a bagel might be a different thing because it’s like a sandwich, versus just a piece of bread at a restaurant. I’d assume putting cream cheese on the whole thing is fine?

  65. Mary Margaret says...

    No phones on the table! It can be hard to avoid sneaking peeks and nothing says “you are not important to me” like a glaring screen and darting eyes. Plus, how lovely to spend quality time with friends and loved ones with good conversation, plenty of eye contact and no tech distractions! We absolutely have this rule for our family, but even with friends we say “Phone Free!” when we are seated.

  66. Courtney says...

    Yes! I cringe when I’m out with others and they order their food starting with, “I want…” or “give me…” Sounds like my toddler! What a great little refresher on civility. 😉

  67. D says...

    I’ve always followed the “rule” that the napkin is left on the chair when you leave the table but intend to return to the meal. When you’ve finished the meal and are leaving for good, the napkin is left on the table.

    • Anon:) says...

      Agreed. Napkin on your chair was what I was taught until you’re done with the meal.

  68. I agree with all of them.
    Most of them taught to me by my British nana … in the South USA .. Life was ALL about Good Manners lol

  69. Cynthia says...

    If someone else is paying for your meal, order from the middle of the menu. Don’t order the cheapest thing or the most expensive, unless of course, your host says the lobster is excellent here, then you can order it if you choose. I don’t enjoy eating out with shrieking, wild children running all over the place. Yes, I have two adult daughters, but we taught them how to behave at home, and we avoided the adult dinner hour of 7 p.m. or later. We tried to get to restaurants by six. It’s very dangerous for children to run around, considering that servers are handling large trays of hot food or pots of hot coffee. And the parents seem blind to their children’s behavior. I see the same sort of behavior from children when I go shopping. Children have to be taught manners and how to behave. The older I get, the less I like little children because they act like wild critters.

  70. Lindsay says...

    The only surprise here is that these courtesies are not commonly known and respected. All of them are courtesies that reflect order and respect for your companions. The only update that I would note is that you not only let older women approach the table and be seated first, but also older men. Again, common courtesy. Learn it early and it’s natural and always viewed positively.

  71. EZIAC says...

    Instead of BMW I use my fingers. Make a circle with your thumb and index finger (basically an “ok” sign). The left hand will form the letter “b” for “bread.” The right hand the letter “d” for drink.”

    • Yes, this! We were taught this and drove my mother crazy by holding up our b and d fingers well into adulthood.

    • Anon:) says...

      +1!

    • Jessica says...

      Yes! I was taught this too and it’s the main rule I remember!

  72. Robyn says...

    I would love to see you address the correct way to hold utensils. NOTHING at the table bugs me regarding table manners more than someone who “fists” their knife, fork, or spoon.

    • Liza says...

      YES

  73. Caz says...

    I’d never heard of #2 before!
    I would add as a modern one – put your damn phone away! It’s so frustrating to go to dinner with people who spend all night on their phones rather than enjoying the company. Unless you are expecting an extremely important call or message, in which case I think you should politely excuse yourself first and let the others know that you’re keeping your phone out in anticipation of this.

  74. Sarah says...

    This is not an etiquette per say but whenever I am setting the table and forget which side the knife and fork go on, I remember it like this: Knife has 5 letters, right has 5 letters, knife goes on the right side (same for spoon). A fork has 4 letter, left has 4 letters, fork goes on the left!

  75. Kate says...

    It really bugs me when I go to dinner with my boyfriend and when we are paying, the waiter will give the bill/card machine to him. It happens all the time, as if I can’t pay. It bugs my boyfriend too because it seems so archaic.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my goodness, ME TOO!!!

    • Lyn says...

      When we went for lunch at Le Jules Verne in Paris…. and I whispered to my husband: “There are no prices listed…”. He said: “YES THERE IS!” Turns out… they gave me the ‘ladies’ menu’. Yes. They have menus with and without prices on them. The same thing happened at a two star restaurant in Rome.

      In Australia at least, they bring the bill to the person who has asked for it.

    • Sammi says...

      Ugh, me too! We were recently out & I put my card down to pay – clearly on my side of the table. The waitress did not bat an eye before handing the card machine to my boyfriend. Why don’t they have a sneak peak at the name on the card?!

    • Dee says...

      I booked and paid up front for a hotel room for my partner and I. We turned up at reception and they couldn’t find our booking. After some confusion it turned out it was reserved under my partners name (which I’d had to give them under guest 2 name). I was livid!!

    • Kris says...

      Yes! Also, when buying a bottle of wine at a restaurant waiters always pour the first glass for my husband to taste. It always bugs me! We were recently in Italy and ordered a bottle of wine, when it came to the tasting our female waiter asked us who would like to taste first….it was refreshing to be asked!

    • heather says...

      me three! or when I put my card in the cardholder, and they STILL bring it back to him!

  76. Kathryn says...

    Regarding starting to eat before everyone’s food has arrived, I was told that if the person across from you and the two people on each side (in total 3 like your post mentions) have their food, then you can start eating. Although, if I’m not sure if my present company are aware of this rule, I feel uncomfortable starting to eat, even if the requirements or met… so not sure how helpful this rule is.

  77. Hillary says...

    I went to business school in the south and we had a mandatory business lunch where they taught us business meal etiquette. While things like this might not be important to you, they are important to some people and can make a good (or avoid a bad) impression.

    • Stephanie says...

      This is a great point!

  78. Christie says...

    I think most of these just come down to basic everyday manners – don’t push in front of old people, don’t feed yourself before others, use please/thank you.

    Specific table manners (such as where to put your knife/fork and how to set a table) are useful though – I remember learning those things as a child and have found them useful a million times over when I didn’t embarrass myself with colleagues at a restaurant.

  79. Interesting that many people are uncomfortable with having their plate cleared while others are still eating; I never thought of it that way! When I worked in restaurants, we were always told to clear dishes as soon as possible so that guests weren’t left with dirty plates in front of them while chatting after their meal.

    • No way! ‘Spot clearing’ (clearing a plate before the whole table is finished eating) was the ultimate crime at a restaurant I worked at (in Melbourne, Australia). I guess because it makes the remaining people feel like they need to rush or that they’re eating too slowly.

  80. Erin says...

    SoCal reader here! I love the reminder that you should wait to look at the menu and hold it low or flat to be attentive to your dinner partners, it seems so obvious but it’s such a good reminder! I’m sure I’ve buried my nose in a menu or two. And actually most of these seem like common sense to me, but I also waited tables for a long time, so I might have just picked up on most of these rules, with the major exception of oldest lady first (who knew?!) and the bread and butter rule! Those are both new to me! I am a big fan of good manners and don’t think it’s ever out of place. I would rather err on the side of being polite!

  81. Gayle says...

    I used to take my son and daughter to nicer restaurants not only to try different foods but to learn how to behave. When my son was about 14 and browsing the menu at a nice Chinese restaurant he looked up and asked “Is this a learning experience or can we order what we want? ” He admitted to me as a college student that having learned these skills served him well when his circle of friends had expanded to families from very different situations. Good manners, whether totally correct or not, will get you through. Also, I am nothing but nice to the wait staff and have no problem with saying please, and thank you for that matter, for their service of the food we’re paying for.

  82. Michelle says...

    One question: how do lefties handle this?! Specifically with the BMW trick and utensils. I usually have a lot of arm crossing over my plate/reaching because I want to follow BMW to keep everyone’s bread & drinks in order, but man is it awkward to reach for my drink in the middle of a meal. With utensils, I usually reset the place settings after I sit down and it’s less awkward, but I’m not sure whether this is offensive or not (like the crossing fork and knife thing during French meals).

    • Liza says...

      Why don’t you drink with your right hand? I could see using your dominant hand as a small child with limited motor controls, but as an adult? I’m a leftie too and I pretty exclusively drink with my right hand because the glass has been in the same place my entire life. It isn’t like things ever change. Once you pick up the fork and knife they should never touch the table again, so resetting them hardly seems necessary. I find it so bizarre that you feel like the layout is an adjustment. The table is the exact same 3 times a day every day!

    • Great post. :-) It’s good to consider manners, and I really enjoyed reading these comments.

      Yes, good question for the lefties. It seems somewhat silly, almost discriminatory, that using one’s dominant hand could be considered rude. The key with good manners is to be considerate and confident. I always discreetly switch my glass to the left. Having the glass on my correct side allows me to function smoothly, confidently, and be natural. I don’t think anyone has ever noticed or batted an eyelash. It’s 2016, and maybe we need to update our thinking just a bit.

  83. Stella says...

    4:20 is how your utensils should lay once you are done with your meal. :) I’m Swedish, and was brought up using fork and knife, it really bothers me seeing grown ups in the us trying to cut their food with the side of their fork and the other hand just laying in their lap,.. Aarghhh!! :)

    • Lia says...

      Me too. As a Canadian living in America this is one quirk I always notice (and get irritated by)!

  84. Joanna says...

    I HATE “yeah, gimmie the…”. We’re adults and we can form complete sentences.

  85. Saying please may I have when ordering my meal seems a little ridiculous, since I’m ordering something I’m paying for, as does not saying that you’re going to the restroom, but just saying you’ll be right back. I think people would wonder where I’m just darting off to. haha The rest I agree with and try to follow.

    • Joanna says...

      The waiter may be there to serve you but you can be kind and not order them around.

    • Kaye says...

      I agree, Joanna! Kindness doesn’t cost a thing. Manners in Canada (where I’m from) are very similar to the US, but one thing I’ve noticed during my frequent trips to the US is that Americans can often be impolite (or just a little gruff) with wait staff… Which is a shame, because service in the US is often top notch!

      Also, I would hate to teach my children that paying money entitles us to treat others rudely… Saying “please” and “thank you” is effortless (it’s not like you’re begging), and it conveys a respect for others, regardless of whether you’re paying for a service.

    • I agree Erin! I always say “I’ll have the…” or “I’d like the…”. Of course I use manners and say thank you… but I totally agree that “please may I” sounds weird when you’re putting in an order that you’re paying for! It’s like it’s giving the waiter the option to say “no, you may not…” haha!

    • Joanna & Kaye– I don’t want to speak for Erin, but it seems like maybe you misunderstood her comment. As for me, I think “please may I” sounds so weird to say to a waiter/server… but that absolutely doesn’t mean I order them around and don’t say please and thank you! I’m very polite and gracious with anyone in the service industry, and yet I feel like “please may I have the…” is asking a question… and when I’m placing an order, I’m not asking if it’s okay if I have that item, I’m instead informing the waiter, kindly and with manners, what item I would like to order. I usually say something along the lines of “I’d like the X please (or, i’ll have the X please), thank you!” … as it’s typically in response to the question “what will you have” or “what would you like to order.” I do agree that “give me the…” is rude…. but I don’t think that’s what Erin’s post was necessarily suggesting.

    • Kaye says...

      That would make sense, Amber! I usually go with “May I please have the…” but please in any order works :) like you, it’s the sentences that start with “Gimme” that really rub me the wrong way… Anyway, thanks for clarifying what the original poster may have meant!

    • Molly says...

      I totally agree with Amber here. Maybe it’s where I’m from, but I’ve never heard anyone say “Please may I have the…” when ordering food. I think I would get weird looks from both the waiter and my dining companions if I did. You can be polite without using this type of phrasing where, as Amber has pointed out, it sounds like you are asking a question rather than informing someone of an order. I usually say “I’d like the [blank] please.” And I also agree that it seems ridiculous to not just say you are going to the bathroom. You don’t need to make a big deal out of it, but everyone knows where you’re going anyway and would think it was weird if you were going anywhere else!

    • Thanks Amber! That is exactly what I meant. I normally say something like, I’m going to go with the chicken tonight. Not rude, and not an order.

  86. Sarah says...

    I wonder often if Ettiquette ends up being rather regional than universal. I’ve lived most of my life on the West coast and was not raised with almost any of these as formal table manners. Letting the oldest woman follow the waiter?! I’ve never heard of any such thing! And rules for a bread plate seem strange because I don’t think I’ve ever been to a restaurant where the bread is not sliced, so it would be greedy to take the whole loaf rather than just a slice! And of course I’d offer to refill other’s wine glasses, but I’d never presume someone is drinking more just because I am! But then I wonder if it’s the Wild West where we aren’t so formal or if I’m just unaware that everyone else is doing it, haha!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that’s really interesting — i think there are regional differences for sure, and also of course differences between countries. i wonder if other west coast readers feel the same! (the bread thing is not to butter your whole roll or slice — no matter how small the slice, you still break off bite-sized pieces, if that makes sense.)

    • Sarah says...

      Ah! See I did not understand buttering just one bite. Never heard of it, I would definitely just butter the whole piece I intended to eat and can’t imagine being bothered what someone else was doing either way. I don’t want to cast the whole West coast into the same a apparent lack of manners I have, but I did have a conversation with a friend who grew up in New Jersey about wedding etiquette, which led me to wonder if it was all regional. She said that guests buy all the gifts for the bride and groom for the wedding shower (off the registry) and then don’t bring an additional gift to the wedding, but do give a card with at least enough cash that covers their dinner. I was totally dumbstruck by the cash to pay for dinner notion!

    • I commented below that I think these things sound way too fussy and formal… and I’m a life-long west coaster… it could be that we’re way less formal. I think basic manners are one thing, but formal dining etiquette seems so bizarre for Seattle!

    • Margaret says...

      I’m from Philly but I’ve lived in CA for almost 20(gulp) years now. Things are most definitely less formal here, which still bothers me.

    • Sarah–the regional thing about the wedding registry… I’ve never heard of that!! That would be a fun Cup of Jo post!!! US regional wedding etiquette differences… it probably already exists in here somewhere :)

    • Jess says...

      Sarah – I also grew upon the West Coast and had only heard of about half of these! I like to think of etiquette like this as a game that would be fun to play for a while. And then I would want to go back to the “rules of the game” that my friends and family and I have created like – when everyone has taken a bite of their food, you can pass your fork to anyone and ask for a taste of their meal, or have the pickiest eaters sit next to traffic at Dim Sum, or remember to use the crust of bread to sop up the cous cous stew, or remember that sushi is to be eaten with your hands and dipped briefly into soy sauce – fish side down!

    • Elena says...

      Native Portlander (OR) here… While I do think many things are regional, these all ring true, save for crossing your silverware to indicate you are pausing your meal and the bread. My mother never taught me to do those things. (So maybe the bread thing really is regional?) But she did teach me to always pass the salt and pepper together, even if a person only asks for one and when eating soup to gently move the spoon towards the middle of the bowl, not towards you. (I guess to avoid splashing yourself)

      As for letting the oldest person go first, two things come to mind: it’s kind and respectful, but maybe even more important, they get to move at their own pace. No one likes to be left in the dust…

      I also notice that regardless of region, manners are often taught but not used and therefore not remembered. My husband’s family are native Floridians and he went to cotillion when he was young. Do you think he remembers any of that? No way!!! I remind him (gently) all the time. :) He’s a hot mess at the table sometimes…

    • Sarah says...

      YES, regional for sure, and also really generational. My mom was an upper-class, well-bred midwesterner who learned classic 50s etiquette, but bucked all of that and raised her daughters with more of a screw-society’s-rules attitude (post-hippie parenting syndrome).

      She may have gone a little too far in the other direction, thought, because at that point we were growing up in the South where that could make for awkward conflicts for my sister and me. I remember getting put in time-out at a friend’s house for not saying “sir” and “ma’am” at the dinner table. Even as a seven year-old I was like, WTF is happening right now?!?

      So I straddle that line a little with my own daughter – something in me can’t bear to teach her the patronizing BS of old-school etiquette, but basic politeness at the table so she doesn’t look like a caveman at friends’ houses is probably necessary.

    • Sarah says...

      Well and I should say, I’m not barreling past Grandma to make sure I follow the waiter first by any means! But if I’m out with my parents and my sister and her kids, if the waiter comes and I was standing closest to him or her, I would follow first, not stand there and indicate to my mom that I expected her to lead. No worries about the kids getting to the table first though, they are always outside the restaurant hoping to be allowed to climb the trees, ha!

  87. Christine says...

    Slightly off topic, but I find the rudest thing someone can do at a restaurant is let their children misbehave or walk around. It is super distracting for other diners. Clearly this is a parent issue, not a kid issue. There seems to be a “let the kids be kids” mentality going around that allows for everyone else to have to put up with this vs them actually controlling their kids.

    • Summer says...

      YES! As a former server, I can assure you that misbehaving children can ruin a server’s entire pay for the night (because no one will want to set in their section).

      One of my favorite stories: A couple came in and asked not to be seated near the children (which is common), but immediately said, “We love children! It’s just that we’re paying someone to not be around our own tonight.”

    • Lyn says...

      I agree. Particularly in cafes, where parents kind of treat it like free child care! It potentially ruins the dining experience for other diners, but more importantly it’s also a safety issue, as the restaurant staff carrying heavy trays of (hot) food have to make sure not to run into the children and hurt them.

      I’m about to have a baby of our own very soon, and we love dining out. It will be a struggle to adapt, but I suppose we’ll have to downgrade the frequency of our fine dining experiences for a while!

    • julie says...

      “Let the kids be kids” mentality. What other mentality is there? Of course kids are going to be kids! The alternative to kids walking around the restaurant (and by kids I’m talking small children) is holding them down in their seat while they scream. I can’t imagine that would be less distracting for diners.

      Taking small children to a restaurant stresses me out because I am trying so hard to keep them happy, fed, and well behaved, but things don’t always go as planned. They’re human and kids have bad days just like adults, so having an attitude of grace for these moments is really preferable to judging parents for what could seem to you like bad parenting. We’re all doing our best!

    • Sandra says...

      I agree! I have a 5 year old and we pretty much stopped going to dinner with one set of friends unless it is adults only because they would let their kids run around without even keeping an eye on them starting when they were really young and then DS would get frustrated that he couldn’t run around too and had to stay in his seat. I waitressed when I was younger, and kids running free in a restaurant are dangerous and a distraction.

    • Jodi says...

      One of my parents would always escort me out of the restaurant if we were misbehaving, ha! She would tell us that if we couldn’t sit politely at the table until dinner was finished that we were going home… they actually took us home one time and it apparently worked! Restaurants were a treat for me growing up. I do not have children, but I think as a parent, recognizing the point when your child is getting a little too rambunctious is a kind gesture to other diners.

    • Katherine says...

      We have three kids under 6 and we don’t think twice about taking them to cafes and restaurants. We do think about timing to avoid over tired grumpiness and I always bring simple toys like a matchbox car or colouring book, but we eat together at home at the table at least twice a day. The kids sit up and stay still. We talk and spend time together. Going out behaviour is no different. Their habits are formed daily at home and there’s not much extra effort once we’re out.
      I agree that for previous generations there were some expectations that seemed too restrictive for kids, but we must not let the pendulum swing too far the other way. Basic expectations of self control and respect are not unreasonable right from toddlerhood.
      But… for shame! I’ve always buttered their whole slice of bread in one go!

  88. For the most part, these all seem so fussy to me! I suppose these tips come in handy if you’re dining with colleagues or in some sort of professional setting… or if you’re at Downton Abbey… or if you’re Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. I typically dine with friends and family, and even at the fanciest restaurants, I find that being yourself and enjoying your food and company doesn’t need so many formalities. If you like dipping your food in your soup then do it! You’re paying for the delicious meal so enjoy it! I actually disagree with the first point about visiting for awhile before opening the menu… I feel like reading the menu is my favorite part of the conversation (“have you had the …” “i’m thinking of getting the…” “the chicken here is amazing” etc), and I find that getting your order in takes off the pressure (of the waiter coming over again and again) and just allows you to visit more freely. There is one thing that’s not on here that drives me crazy… but I think of it less as restaurant etiquette and more as basic human decency… when people blow their nose at the table. I think it’s SO disgusting. I have a professional acquaintance who, after every single meal, blows his nose and then places the tissue or napkin ON HIS PLATE. I lose whatever appetite I had left, every single time.

    • Sarah says...

      Totally agree with you, and I have so few table etiquette rules! It happens often enough (table nose blowing) that I’ve questioned my own disgust, like maybe I am just being too fussy, ha!

    • Iz says...

      Some of us have to blow our noses multiple times every day – and I especially do when eating hot/steaming food. If I was dining with you, I would have to excuse myself from the table several times during the meal to go blow my nose away from you, which I don’t think is really feasible. I will add though, that I don’t use my napkin for that or put my used tissue on the table!!

  89. I’m always a fan of manners reminders! Of course, I’ve always been raised to think that different occasions call for different “sets” of manners but manners nonetheless are always a must!

    xx

    bombshell-to-be.blogspot.com

  90. Lauren E. says...

    I used to think my dad was so uncool when reminding me of the etiquette of eating out (we frequented places like Friendly’s and Perkins so it seemed a little weird to me!) but now I’m so grateful. I feel like I can conduct myself in any scenario, including professional lunches and fancy dinners. The bread rule is one he taught me early on! Now I watch my fiance butter his entire roll and try my best to hold my tongue :)

  91. Laura C says...

    I was told some time ago that when you arrive at the restaurant, the man should open the door and enter first, and when you are leaving, the man should open and hold tge door for the woman to get out. That is because some centuries ago, saloons were some dangerous places to be in, and men would enter first to have a look inside and be sure that the place was safe. Nice story!

    • Sabrina says...

      Great story – makes so much sense…

  92. Caitlin says...

    Love this! Another thing I would add, which is a challenge sometimes, is to not let the wait staff clear your plate until everyone else at the table is finished eating. This puts subtle pressure on the last person eating to HURRY UP, which could be uncomfortable.

    Of course, any restaurant worth its chops should know this already, but I’m not opposed to giving the bus boy a polite ‘not yet, thanks’ when he asks to clear my place if one of my friends is still finishing up.

    • Yes. This is my BIGGEST pet peeve! It feels so rude and rushed.

  93. My mother-in-law is french and very proper in her manners. So I have made many mistakes like dipping a chunk of bread into soup etc! But what I have learnt from her seem to serve me well!
    – use the knife only to cut and not to push food. So after cutting, place the knife back on the knife rest.
    – never hold a piece of bread to mop up gravy, put the bread onto the plate and use the fork to “move” the bread around
    – this applies to general etiquette beside table: when you need to spit a seed out like from cherries, form a fist with your hand and bring it to your lips, release the seed from your mouth and let it “slide” through the “tunnel” formed by your fingers into a napkin or plate. It sounds funny but I assure you it looks very elegant!
    – and she always places forks face down when setting the table cos she says in aristocratic times, it shows the crest of the family. I think this is strictly french but not 100% sure!

  94. B says...

    You mention crossing your silverware to pause. You put them horizontal to show you are done with meal. One other thing with utensils is always “work your way in”. Salad spoon and soup spoons are farthest from plate.

  95. It’s missing the FOIL method. First outside, inside last. You might remember it from math for distributing binomials but it also applies to what silverware to use (mostly).

  96. h says...

    these all seem fine and are things i do except for the order of precedence in seating. sure, it makes sense to let the oldest member of the party go first out of respect, but i would feel pretty uncomfortable gendering it in the way that you have it here.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      we actually talked about it in our office — is it outdated? even sexist? i can see both sides of the argument. in my every day life, i do like it when alex will step aside so i can follow the host and choose the best seat — it feels like a sweet gesture on our date. but i can definitely see the other side, too!

    • Angela says...

      Personally, I don’t see the gender order for seating in a restaurant as sexist. It’s a traditional ritual that shows kindness and should be respected as such.

  97. Jenna says...

    The bread thing is so good to remind people!! I used to work at as a banquet server and it would drive me crazy when people would cut their crusty buns a part with a dull knife because it would get crumbs ALL OVER the table! Also, it looks much nicer to eat one bite than be gnawing away at bun. Hehe.

    • Eliza says...

      Exactly. All of these etiquette points are standard practice among those I know here on the east coast. It doesn’t feel fussy or formal, maybe because we all grew up with it and it feels natural.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      it’s funny because i totally get how the “let the oldest woman walk first” thing seems nuts to some people, but i literally could NOT walk in front of my mom to the table. it would feel so wrong and awkward and rude. it’s funny how when you practice something for a while, and it gets culturally/regionally ingrained, it’s such a part of you!

  98. Ouf! I wasn’t taught these things at home (my Midwestern father once pointedly asked when/where I picked up eating with fork and knife always in hands, i.e., European style), but I must have absorbed them thoroughly. Like the bread buttering ritual is just to not seem piggish. However, where I live, no matter how long it takes between the first delivery of a plate and the last, nobody even acknowledges the food before them before everyone is served. In general, etiquette is about making everybody feel good and comfortable, so if you are doing something to please others you are pretty sure to be right. And if you’re focused on yourself, you’re pretty sure to be wrong.
    Still, I thought this was going to be restaurant manners for kids! So much to say! Like, first, start early (both in the kid’s life and in the evening) and keep it to an hour max. Eventually (around age 2), they will learn to occupy themselves (which is not the same as amuse themselves) and not expect to walk around. At least for an hour and a half. And on and on as you buy more time.

  99. Something I miss while dining in the US is that people here usually toast and then just put down the glasses to eat, in Sweden we usually toast, drink and then look each other in the eyes (in a non creepy way) to acknowledge the toast and the wine.. It ends the toast nice!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that sounds so nice. i’ve heard that if you don’t make eye contact while toasting you’ll have seven years of bad luck (or sex!).

    • Christie says...

      That drives me nuts too – it makes the toast feel pointless if you don’t drink. The toast is supposed to be about having a drink to celebrate someone!

      In Australia we do the same as Sweden – toast, drink, make eye contact and smile (if appropriate).

    • Samantha says...

      Ha! Yes! My fiance and I always jokingly insist on making eye contact after toasting and say “Or else we’ll have 7 years of bad sex!” and it became such a habit that we accidentally said it while out to dinner with his parents the other week! Haha whoops!

  100. Jane says...

    The problem with #1 is that restaurants are sooo dark today. My fiancé (age 29) has to pull out his cell phone flashlight or grab the candle and squint to read the menu (to be fair, he is far sighted and often forgets his glasses at home, which he uses only for reading). Truly 29 going on 75…

  101. *E says...

    This is more of a waiter thing, but it always bugs me when someone hands their finished plate to the waiter (or it is taken from them) when other people at the table are still eating! Especially when it’s just me and my husband, makes me feel slow/rushed if I still have a few bites and his place starts being cleared.

    • AGREED!! or when they give you the check without it being asked for!

    • Jodi says...

      This is my absolute, absolute, absolute #1 pet peeve when going to restaurants. I am a slower eater than my boyfriend, and in the U.S. the waiter ALWAYS takes his plate away from him and I’m left eating by myself at the table for the next 10 minutes. Way to feel awkward and rushed! It bothers my boyfriend too, and one time he was fast enough and told the waiter to please wait until I was finished!

      On the flip side, if the person I’m dining with is a slow eater, I try to time my eating so that we are both finished at the same time (mostly so the above doesn’t happen, ha!).

    • Megan says...

      I hate having to ask for the check. When I’m dining with my young children, I wish they’d automatically bring the check with the food in case there is a need for a quick getaway.

  102. Renee says...

    I have one! Spoon your soup away from you. “As the ships sail out to sea, I spoon my soup away from me.”

    • Eliza says...

      Yes. This is probably one of the lesser known practices these days, but it still counts:)

    • Katherine says...

      Yes! My mum always taught us this, even with our breakfast cereal (probably just because we’d get more practise that way!) And to tip the bowl away from you too, if you need to scoop up the last bits. Like others said, this one often felt fussy without reason to me, but it does actually prevent splashes and spills on your clothes which is now sensible reason for me!

  103. Liz says...

    On my second date with my boyfriend, I excused myself to go to the bathroom by saying that I would “be right back.” I thought that my meaning was obvious, but he was convinced that I was trying to escape from a bad date! He seemed pretty surprised (and relieved!) when I reappeared a few minutes later. Two years later, we laugh about it.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, that is so funny!

    • Allegra says...

      Yeah, if I disappeared at a restaurant without a further explanation, saying only that I’ll be right back, my friends would definitely get confused too and probably worried that something happened. Maybe it’s just our group of friends, but we prefer to just (somewhat diplomatically) bring up the truth.

    • I’m with Allegra… there would be a lot of “is she ok?” “what happened!?” if I excused myself so vaguely with my friends and family…. even with my coworkers!

  104. eg says...

    To indicate you are finished, put fork and knife side by side on plate (versus slightly splayed). And I don’t know what the etiquette w/ napkins is, but for some reason I get kind of grossed out when people put their crumpled (paper) napkins on their plates (on top of their unfinished food) when they are done – especially if other people are still eating…
    And, maybe duh, but: no phones on the table!

  105. Caroline L says...

    The illustrations are so cute! I wonder if it’s acceptable to start your meal if everyone else insists on it even though most are not yet served.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i’ve heard that it’s okay if everyone is insisting, or if your host insists.

    • Caroline L says...

      Oh that’s good. I always feel awkward when everyone is insisting and yet I know that it’s good etiquette to wait. Don’t want to be rude either way! :-) Love these cute little reminders of etiquette. Thanks for sharing!

    • As Larry David said on Curb Your Enthusiasm, the rule isn’t that you have to wait to eat if you get your meal first, the rule is that you have to insist the others eat if they’ve gotten their meal and you haven’t! He goes on this rant when his lunch companion tells him it’s rude to start eating until he has his meal…(:

  106. Teresa says...

    I had always been taught that whenever you leave the table while the meal is still ongoing, to leave your napkin in your seat. Further, that the napkin was only to be left at side of plate when the meal was concluded and you were ready to depart. Curious if this is incorrect?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that’s interesting — i wonder if one way is american and the other is english or french or something. i’ve heard that you don’t want to put your napkin on your seat and then use it to pat your mouth later.

    • Sophie says...

      I grew up in Jamaca which follows British customs and I learned that when you temporarily leave the table the napkin goes on your chair. When you conclude your meal you close your utensils in the middle of your plate and put your napkin to the left of your plate (neatly folded).

    • Michaela says...

      Growing up my American Granny taught me the same thing! Napkin in the chair unless you’re finished and leaving the table. It makes sense because no one wants to see your soiled napkin.

    • Caroline says...

      That is what I was taught as well – napkin on the table meant you were finished with your meal, whereas napkin on your chair meant that you were not. Raised in West Virginia, so I don’t think they were teaching us the European rule!

  107. Courtney says...

    I always say “I would like the…” because in high school French would learned to say “je voudrais…” and that’s how it translates. I don’t know, it seemed polite and it stuck.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      what a great way to think about it.

    • Elizabeth says...

      Same here!

  108. Sarah says...

    A tip my mom taught me growing up to remember where your drink glass and bread plate are is to make rings with your fingers and thumb, and leave your pointer finger up on both hands. It makes a “b” on the left and a “d” on the right, for bread and drink. Just make sure it do it under the table :)

    • Erin says...

      Genius!

    • Sarah D. says...

      Awesome tip:)

    • Allegra says...

      Growing up, I regularly set our dinner table at home so this bread and drinks thing is ingrained in me – I hadn’t even realized that people may need help remembering this! Actually, some of my friends even have trouble placing forks and knives correctly, which also astounds me :)

      What’s difficult for me, instead, is to remember whether the water glass is to the left or to the right of the wine glasses. I know that usually utensils etc are worked from the outside in, but that logic doesn’t really apply here since you probably drink your water throughout the meal. Anyone have any good tips for this?

      Btw, I love these etiquette posts!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i agree! i always have a hard time remembering that, too. maybe you could have a jokey trick — like, after a long day, you desperately need that wine so you put it closer to your hand (on the outside). maybe that would work?

  109. Katie says...

    Another way to remember which side your bread plate/drink are on:

    If you make the “ok” symbol with both hands, your left hand makes a b and your right hand makes a d. Bread on the left, drink on the right!

    • Abbie says...

      This is the only thing I remember from cotillion!

    • Emily says...

      Yes! I always do this when seated at round tables to make sure I don’t steal my neighbor’s water!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      love that!!

    • Jennifer says...

      I always do this! Mind your B’s and D’s! ;)