Chances are, restaurant rules aren’t exactly you’re first thought when going out to eat. But a little dining etiquette can go a long way.
Etiquette refers to customs and cultural rules that make living in society more pleasant, like saying “please” and “thank you.” But how much does etiquette matter when you sit down to eat? And why should we care about restaurant rules?
We have all the answers, so you don’t make any of these mealtime mistakes.
Let’s dig in!
Restaurant Rules Are Important Dining Etiquette
Some restaurant rules go without saying. No one wants to see you chew with your mouth open. And asking your dinner mate to pass the bread instead of snatching a roll from across the table is a no-brainer. Basic dining etiquette is the same whether at a family dinner or a business luncheon.
But good manners while dining out are even more important. In a business setting, etiquette can alert others to your attention to detail or make you look sloppy. Similarly, you don’t want to be rude when eating with friends, and it’s good to know what is considered unfavorable in the first place.
Besides, knowing the dos and don’ts of behavior lets you relax and focus on enjoying the meal and the excellent company.
Pro Tip: Use your restaurant etiquette while dining at these 7 Most Unique Restaurants in the USA.
Did You Know These 5 Restaurant Rules?
The unspoken restaurant rules seem obvious to some, especially if you’ve ever worked in hospitality. But to others, they may not be as apparent. These five golden rules may save you from serious embarrassment the next time you eat out.
#1 Rearrange the Tables to Suit Your Needs
Chances are you won’t see the manager pulling ten-tops around at your next business luncheon. But on a more casual night out, it’s common to find folks shoving tables together when more people drop in to share some wings.
Don’t rearrange tables at a restaurant. Doing this show blatant disregard for the waitstaff and restaurant owners. Floor plans are arranged intentionally. Servers, bussers, and other staff are assigned to them, so mucking about will only make their jobs harder. And moving tables around even could violate fire codes.
Besides, would you do that at the doctor’s office? Ask your waiter next time, and they’ll gladly help.
#2 Send Food Back Because It Wasn’t What You Expected
Of course, there are plenty of circumstances where sending back your order is acceptable. If the food is burned, undercooked, or has a hair in it, by all means, return the order. Likewise, if you discover it contains an allergen or is missing an ingredient.
But if the food arrives and simply isn’t your cup of tea, you might need to suck it up. Dining out is different than ordering clothes on Amazon. You can’t just send it back if you don’t like the taste. Customers are expected to have some responsibility when it comes to the choices they make.
If you don’t know what’s in an entree, feel free to ask your server. They would rather explain a menu item than deal with a disgruntled customer. Moreover, take time to explore the menu, and don’t be shy when asking for guidance.
#3 Being Obnoxious with Your Phone
It’s fun to think about the restaurant rules that didn’t exist a few decades ago. Once upon a time, servers never worried about being asked for a phone charger. And they shouldn’t have to now.
Phones are a part of our daily lives. But we should still keep them off the table when we eat. Constantly checking your phone while dining with others is rude, and it tells the world that your dining companion isn’t a priority. It also might indicate that your attention span is lacking.
If putting the phone away for an hour or two means your life will come crashing down, at least silence the alerts. Your server and other guests will appreciate it.
#4 Coming in Right Before Closing Time (Then Staying)
We’ve all been there. You’re having fun with friends, lose track of time, and stumble into a restaurant just before closing. Although the staff has to serve guests who place their orders on time, they might not be happy about last-minute meals.
A little kindness and respect for their time go a long way. You could ask your bartender or server how long you can stay, but they’re often trained to make the customer feel at home. If you place an order right before the kitchen closes, do the right thing and get your food to go.
Closing a restaurant takes time. The longer you stick around, the longer the close-out process will be. Most chefs and servers exercise patience with the last orders of the night. But the bottom line is that the waitstaff is ready to go home when the “open” sign turns off.
#5 Stiff A Server
The most essential restaurant rule is never to stiff your server, especially in America. Minimum wages for tipped workers vary by state. Since the US government taxes tips, eateries can pay their staff a lower base rate than in other industries.
In addition, servers might have to share their tips with bartenders and bussers. Stiffing your server can have a negative ripple effect.
If your server could be better, talk to a manager. But if you’re unhappy with the restaurant in general, leave a tip and choose a different eatery next time. Tipping can seem extravagant, but it’s a standard business practice. If tipping makes you angry, you might be better off with a home-cooked meal.
Where Can I Learn More About Restaurant Rules?
For more tips on everyday dining etiquette, check out marthastewart.com. Stewart is known for her expertise in domestic lifestyle guides and practices. She’s also a huge fan of Emily Post, a well-known authority on manners.
According to Post, etiquette is the science of living. Having good table manners is an extension of civility and respect for one another. Minor details, like keeping your elbows off the table, gently show engagement in one another.
If you want to elevate your knowledge of restaurant rules further, take an online dining etiquette course.
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For the Best Dining Experience, Follow the Rules
It’s easy to have a great dining experience while playing by the rules. Restaurants vary in price, menu, size, and style. But being the worst customer ever is lame, no matter the venue. Although you won’t serve time for skipping these guidelines, you may lose a spot on someone’s dinner invite list.
Remember that servers, bussers, and hosts are trained to give you the best experience possible. Practicing proper dining etiquette shows that you care.
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