13 Little Etiquette Rules to Follow When You’re Dining at a Restaurant

Dining etiquette is more than just table manners.

Be mindful of the proper attire

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Make sure you’re dressed accordingly. If you’re going to a fancier restaurant, skip jeans and tennis shoes and wear something a little nicer. If you’re not sure what the proper attire is, ask the restaurant in advance. These little fashion tips can make you look expensive.

Wait to be seated


This is policy at many restaurants, but even if a restaurant offers to seat you before everyone arrives, it’s polite to wait for your entire party to arrive before being seated.

Don’t leave your phone on the table


This one seems obvious, but take your phone, keys, and other belongings off of the table. And don’t take your phone out to text. This sends a message to your company that whoever you’re texting is more important to you than they are. Sending a reply message or email can wait until dinner is over, but if it’s urgent, excuse yourself before taking out your phone. Not texting at the table is just one of 50 smart etiquette rules to follow.

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Put your napkin on your lap


You can do this as soon as you sit down. However if someone is taking you out to a meal (especially if it is for business), wait until your host puts his or her napkin on their lap. If you excuse yourself to use the restroom, place the napkin on the chair. When you finish your meal, you can place the napkin on the table. These are some of the most annoying dining habits ... don't make them!

Wait for everyone to be served before you start eating


If you have to send something back, which is acceptable if the food is not cooked properly, make sure you tell the rest of your party to continue eating without you.

Don’t call out to your waiter


Instead, try to make eye contact with him or her to silently signal that you need something. If you still can’t get your waiter’s attention, raise your hand in their direction. Check out these 50 secrets waiters will never say to your face.

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Treat the wait staff with respect


This one is pretty obvious, but don’t treat the waiter like a servant. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, but if any of the food is not to your liking keep in mind that this is likely not the waiter’s fault.

Everyone should order the same number of courses


Agree with your companion or companions upon whether or not you want appetizers or desserts. That way, you will start and finish your meals at the same time.

Hold your wineglass by the stem


If you’d prefer not to drink wine, don’t turn the glass upside down. Just politely place your hand over your glass to signal that you don’t want any, without drawing attention.

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Leave within 15 minutes of finishing your meal


If you don’t want the fun to end, grab drinks somewhere else. You don’t want to monopolize a table that the restaurant needs, especially if it’s a popular restaurant. After all, a restaurant is a business, and staying past your welcome could prevent another customer from being seated.

If you’re paying the whole bill, tell the waiter in advance


If you’re hosting the dinner party and you would like to pay for everyone’s meal, tell the waiter ahead of time that you should receive the check. If you prefer, you can also give the waiter your credit card ahead of time.

Decide ahead of time how you’re splitting the bill

iStock/Steve Debenport

If you would like separate checks, ask the waiter ahead of time if this is possible so they can keep track of what each person orders throughout the meal. However, if you’re with a large group, don’t assume the restaurant will be able to accommodate this. If everyone’s meal was around the same price range, it's best to just split the bill evenly. If you order way less expensive food than everyone else, this is the proper way to handle divvying up the check.

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Tip well


Don’t skimp on the tip. Depending on the restaurant, your waiter may not be working on an hourly wage, which means they depend on your tip for their livelihood. Tip 15 to 20 percent for satisfactory service and 25 percent for exemplary service. Here's some new thinking on tipping smart diners should know.

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