Mind Your Manners

Ten etiquette rules for dining out

Shannon Donaldson

Going out to dinner is a social event. It’s the first thing you do when your parents come to town. It’s where the majority of relationships begin. It’s where birthday, graduation and “I actually passed a philosophy test” celebrations happen. In some cases, going out to dinner can even be part of an interview process for a job.

Because all of these important things occur and will continue to occur at restaurants, you’ll need to arrive equipped with the right tools for the job – dining etiquette skills. And as college students living in a city known for its top-notch restaurants, what better place for Loyola students to practice dining etiquette skills than in New Orleans?

Virginia Edwards, etiquette and protocol consultant for BeyondManners.com, teamed up with Wolf Magazine to compile this list of important dining etiquette rules for students. The Career Development Center at Loyola sponsors an etiquette skills dinner by Edwards each year.

Don’t call me, don’t beep me

As hard as it may be to resist checking your phone every few minutes (or seconds), that text/tweet/email can surely wait until after your meal. You wouldn’t have a phone conversation while at dinner with someone, so why would you think it’s OK to text? Resist the urge to try for the 26th time to get G-Eazy to retweet you by either turning your phone off or putting it on silent and setting it somewhere off of the table. Instagramming is equally unacceptable. “Do not take photos of your meal,” Edwards said. “Food critics leave the camera at home and so should you.”

Chivalry is alive and well

It’s the 21st century-men and women are equal. Contrary to popular belief, chivalry didn’t die along with gender inequality. It’s still alive and well, and it’s begging you to challenge it by awkwardly trying to go through a door at the same time as someone else. Guys, avoid the confusion and open the door for the ladies.

Here’s a tip

Whatever the circumstances of your personal finances may be, always keep in mind the amount of tip you’ll need to pay along with your meal when choosing a restaurant. If a server is taking the time to ensure the comfort and efficiency of your dining experience and treating you with respect, the least you can do is award them a reasonable tip. The standard tipping protocol is15 to 20 percent of the total bill.

Bills, bills, bills

Generally speaking, the person who initiated the dinner date pays. When dining with friends, decide how to split the check before ordering to avoid confusion.

What’ll ya have, baby?

The days when women ordered their meal first are gone. Whoever is ready to order first simply does so. That way, the rest of the people at the table have a little extra time to decide on what to order. However, if in a business situation, the guest should order first.

“Reservations for Abe Froman”

If the restaurant takes reservations, make them. Get there on time, but if you can’t, cancel them accordingly. No one likes a tease, especially busy restaurants.

The customer is always right

Don’t accept unsatisfactory service, and don’t be afraid to voice your opinion. If a waiter brings you a cold pizza, management would rather you say something than leave with a bad taste in your mouth – both literally and figuratively.

Always be considerate

If you’re the one making the plans for a group of friends who are “going Dutch,” be considerate of everyone’s cuisine preferences, dietary habits and, most importantly, their budgets. Awkward situation avoided.

Play dress up

Oscar Wilde once said, “You can never be overdressed or overeducated.” You’ve already got the education part down, but dressing for the occasion can be a bit tricky itself. No matter where you go, it’s probably best to leave your Maroon Platoon t-shirt at home. If you aren’t sure what the attire for your restaurant should be, try to dress business casual. “Always dress conservatively when dining for business,” said Edwards.

Don’t stay too long

As easy as it may be to get caught up talking to friends for hours at dinner, it only makes it that much harder for the next customers to get seated promptly. The Golden Rule applies to restaurant etiquette too, folks.

For more information on dining etiquette, be sure to check out Edwards’ dining etiquette dinner this spring.