Most of us have been to at least one restaurant gathering, dinner party or elaborate fundraising feast where a fellow diner or two left their manners at home. In fact, recent polls show that as many as half of Americans believe that the general population’s good manners are slowly disappearing, and less and less folks are following (or even aware of) traditional, time-tested rules of etiquette. Especially when it comes to dining. Sure, most of us know the “start from the outside and work your way in” rule, but what about everything before and after you reach for the right (or wrong) utensil? For example, do you realize the significance of the napkin? Not only is it used as a cue by the hosts to begin eating as soon as they place it on their lap, it also lets waiters know you will BRB when placed on your empty chair, and it signals the meal is over when plopped half-folded on the table. Or how about those fancy utensils? Do you know the proper position to place your fork and knife when you’re done eating? 10:20, face up, and pointing in, respectively. What about if you’re just setting down your silverware to engage in some spirited conversation (no politics or religion, please)? Place your knife and fork next to each other on your plate in a parallel position or cross them like an X. The latter is the proper way to do it in Europe. Which is something else to consider: Customs vary across the globe. So what might be totally acceptable in Miami may get you dazed and confused glances in Mumbai or Milan. Bon appétit!
The dining table isn’t your personal desk. Regardless of the venue or fellow diners, never put your cell phone, keys, purse or other personal items on the table. Tuck them away in your pocket or leave them at home or in the car (with the exception of your keys, of course).
It’s OK to take photos of what you ordered…if you’re dining alone, on vacation or you make a living trying out new dishes. Active social media reviewers get a pass, too…within reason. Nobody wants to let their food get cold while they wait for you to get the perfect FOMO drool-worthy photo to post.
If you’re not sure what to order, don’t appear less cultured by ordering something you’re not sure how to pronounce. Instead, enthusiastically say “You know, I’ll have what she’s having — that sounds great!” Even if the meal turns out to be a dud, at least the person eating the same dish as you will feel like they made the right choice.