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.
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.)
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.
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.)
5. Before you refill your water or wine, refill everyone else’s first.
6. When the server takes everyone’s order, it’s nice to say “Please may I have the…” (The worst is “Gimme the….”!)
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.
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?
(Illustrations by Alessandra Olanow for Cup of Jo.)