15 Etiquette Rules For Dining At Fancy Restaurants

l'apicio restaurant waiter

Some restaurant etiquette is just common sense: Don’t speak when your mouth is full, don’t tell rude jokes during the meal, and always cover your mouth when you cough.

Others can be a bit more nuanced. Who pays after a business meal? Where do you put your napkin when you stand? And how exactly does one order the perfect bottle of wine?

We spoke with expert Patricia¬†Napier-Fitzpatrick of The Etiquette School of New York. She not only makes a living teaching people the nuances of decorum, but has even written the book, “The Art of the Meal: Simple Etiquette for Simply Everyone.”

She shared some guidelines for dining at expensive restaurants.

DO always dress nicely.

'I still believe men should wear jackets to dinner, if not a suit,' Napier-Fitzpatrick said. 'If a man is dining with clients -- and especially clients from other countries which tend to be more formal -- they should wear a jacket and a tie.'

'Women should be wearing a dress or suit, and shoes instead of sandals.'

DON'T put your cell phone, keys, or purse on the table.

It's just common sense. It distracts not only your other dining companions, but also your waiter and the entire restaurant.

DO let your guest order first.

'The host, especially if it's a woman, has to make it clear that he or she is the host,' Napier-Fitzpatrick told us.

'Say phrases like, 'Will you please bring my guest...' or 'My guest would like to order first' to ward off confusion.'

DO set up payment ahead of time if you're the host.

'A savvy host knows to give their credit card before they sit down, or even call the restaurant ahead of time,' Napier-Fitzpatrick explained. 'I tell that especially to women who travel to other countries that are very male-dominated.'

'Also, the person who invites is the person who pays.'

DON'T tell the sommelier how much you want to spend on wine.

'Tell the waiter what you like, what you're having, and give them an idea of price by simply pointing to a wine in your price range,' Napier-Fitzpatrick advised. 'The waiter will know to stick within that price point.'

'I also tell people not to pretend you're a wine connoisseur, because then you'll look silly. Just take a little taste of the wine when it arrives, and see how it is.'

'Nine times out of 10 it's just fine.'

DON'T return the wine.

'The protocol is you have to keep it even if you don't like it because they opened the bottle for you,' Napier-Fitzpatrick said.

'However, if it really is awful, you don't have to keep it. Politely explain the problem to your waiter.'

DO take pictures of your food, unless you're with a client.

'Everyone's starting to do that now,' Napier-Fitzpatrick laughed. 'If it's not distracting other restaurant patrons and you can do it discretely, I would say it's OK.'

'But if I was having dinner with a client, I would not recommend it. If the client wanted to take pictures, however, I would of course let them.'

DO know where to place your napkin.

DON'T reach across the table to sample your companion's food.

'I don't recommend sharing if you're with someone you don't know very well, or if you're at a formal business meal,' she warned.

'If you're with someone you know better, pass them your bread plate with a little sample of food on it.'

DON'T yell to your waiter.

'Try to make eye contact with your waiter,' Napier-Fitzpatrick advised.

'If that doesn't work, put up your right hand with your index finger raised slightly to get their attention.'

DO send back food that's not cooked properly.

'If you are with other people and you have to send your food back, it's your responsibility to tell everyone to go ahead and start without you,' Napier-Fitzpatrick said.

'And if I'm the host, I suffer and eat my meal even if it's not cooked the way I want rather than have everybody have to wait for me or feel bad.'

DO order the same number of courses as your companion.

This avoids awkwardness and allows you to pace yourself with the other person.

Make sure to take your time eating and pause after every few bites -- especially if you're the host, since you don't want to make your guest feel rushed during the meal.

DON'T place your utensils on the side of your plate when you're done eating.

'We call it a silent service code for the wait staff,' Napier-Fitzpatrick said. 'When you're finished, place the knife and fork together at the 10:20 position on the plate.'

'Place the fork up because in the American style you eat with the tines up.'

Here's a good example.

DON'T start a business conversation before the conclusion of the entrée.

'Business should not be discussed until the meal has been cleared away,' Napier-Fitzpatrick warned.

'Also, generally avoid complaining about business colleagues and work during the meal.'

And DO remember your table manners!

  • Wipe your fingers and mouth often with your napkin
  • Cut one piece of meat or fish at a time on your plate and eat it before cutting the next one
  • Butter bread on your plate, never in midair
  • Look into (not over) the cup or glass when drinking
  • Sit up straight, and keep your arms (including elbows) off the table

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