Table and Restaurant Etiquette – 50 Essential Tips

| January 26, 2013 | 13 Comments
Table and restaurant manners and etiquette

© Rotomedia

Table etiquette or table manners are so neglected in today’s world. Not only table etiquette but etiquette in general. In this and in next articles I will talk about etiquette and I will try to sharpen your skills in this domain. These skills are something that can easily be thought but it takes practice before it becomes natural to you. 

Women love guys with manners. You can be the most handsome guy in the world and have loads of money but if you don’t know how to handle yourself you won’t go very far. This is why proper manners are important. People will perceive you differently and they will look at you with more respect if you know how to properly behave at the table, on the street, in business meetings, anywhere where there is some sort of social interaction. Trust me, it is like that. People look kindly on people with good manners. Especially today when few men can behave properly.

So, today we will talk about proper behavior at the table. It does not matter if you are in a fancy restaurant, your local dinner or if you are a guest at friend’s home. The same rules apply.


Restaurant Etiquette

  1. If you are on a date with a gorgeous woman and when entering any restaurant you come in first. Why? It’s because the inside of the restaurant is unfamiliar territory and every gentleman’s obligation is to protect his lady companion in all unpleasant situations that may arrive.
  2. When inside the restaurant, a man is walking in front.
  3. Men is choosing the table at which they will sit (of course if you have a reservation that you cannot choose, your table is already chosen).
  4. If you had no reservation and you have to choose a table, you will choose the proper size of the table that suits you and your company. If it’s only you and your lady, you won’t sit at a table for six persons.
  5. If it’s winter time and your lady is undressing her coat, you and only you are helping her undress.
  6. If your lady is wearing a hat, she is not obligated to take it down.
  7. If you are wearing a hat or a cap, you should take it off as soon as you enter the restaurant.
  8. When taking a seat at the table man should help his lady by stepping behind her and pulling the chair out and then bringing it back in as she is preparing to take a seat. Although today this is not a common sight since the waiter or maître d’ will escort you to the table and help lady take her seat. If this is the case, you should let them help her. No need for you to insist.
  9. Man should sit at a table facing the exit of the restaurant.
  10. When choosing a meal, a woman chooses first. You are only here to transfer her order to the waiter.
  11. If she is not so hungry and chooses some simple meal you will also choose a similar one, cause you don’t want her to sit and bore herself while you are eating your six course meal.
  12. You and only you are responsible for the wine. The wine list is yours, but you should always ask your lady what wine she likes and what would she like to drink.
  13. If you are planning to drink the whole bottle let her choice prevails. If she prefers red wines and you prefer white wine, of course you will order red one.
  14. It is your obligation to fill woman’s glass if it is empty. In many restaurants waiter will do it but that doesn’t mean that you have to wait for him. You can do it.
  15. When communicating with the staff of the restaurant, be polite. No need to shout and wave at them. Be discreet.
  16. By no means do not flirt with waitresses. It is an insult to the woman that’s with you.
  17. If you have any complaints with the meal or with the service tell the waiter to call maître d’ and explain him what your complaints are.
  18. When the meals arrive you will wait till your lady companion starts to eat. If you are on a business lunch you will let your boss start first. At your friend’s house you should let the host start first.
  19. While speaking you don’t need to shout. No one at the table next to you has to know what are you talking about, and they don’t care. The exception is when you are laughing, but when you laugh you don’t need to tear down the walls with your laughter.
  20. If you set up a meeting in the restaurant, come on time. It is better to come 15 minutes earlier than 5 minutes late. Especially if you are having a meeting with a woman. It is rude to let her sit at the table by herself.
  21. You should pay the bill, especially if you are on a first date with a woman. Only if she insists on splitting the bill you will do so.
  22. If you and your lady had a coat, you should help her put on a coat.
  23. While leaving the restaurant man will hold the door and let the woman exit first.


Table Etiquette

  1. Once when you start to eat you should never leave spoon, fork or knife on the table. Their place is on the plate.
  2. While having a pause between bites you should leave your fork and knife on the plate in the shape of a letter “X”. If it’s easier for you to remember, place your fork in position of 8 o’clock and knife in position of 4 o’clock. In this way waiter will know that you are not finished yet (if the waiter is educated in table etiquette, and I have seen so many that are not).
  3. When you finish with each course your knife, with the blade turned in and fork placed beside each other on the plate diagonally from upper left to lower right. 10 to 5 o’clock.
  4. You hold a fork in your left hand and knife in a right hand. This is the European way. In US people use this method to cut, meat for example, and then they switch fork to the right hand to eat. I think you should stick to the European way. It’s more practical.
  5. When seated you should place your napkin on your lap. Large dinner napkins should be folded in half after opening and before placing on one’s lap. The golden rule is that you should never blow your nose on a napkin. This is a definite no-no.
  6. When finished with the meal you should place your napkin to the left of your plate. Never put it on a plate.
  7. If you have to leave the table for a moment you should place your napkin on the chair.
  8. When eating meat, you should cut one small piece at a time.
  9. Don’t take big bites and don’t talk with your mouth full.
  10. When eating soup, tip the bowl away from you and scoop the soup up with your spoon.
  11. Soup should always be taken (without slurping of course) from the side of the spoon.
  12. Wait until you’re done chewing to have a drink.
  13. Avoid slouching and don’t place your elbows on the table while eating although it is okay to prop your elbows on the table while conversing between courses.
  14. Take your time while eating. Dinner is not a sprint race. It’s a social gathering, not a medieval feast.
  15. Use your utensils from the outside in.The fork farthest to the outside is the one you should use for the appetizer. When the next part of the meal comes, use the next outermost fork, and so on. The same goes for the spoons and knives. If you’re in a fancy restaurant you might be lucky enough to have waiters who will remove any utensils you won’t need.
  16. If you accidentally burp, have a hiccup or if you spill something, apologize quietly to nobody specifically but to yourself.
  17. You may eat chicken and pizza with your fingers if you are at a barbecue, finger buffet or very informal setting. Otherwise always use a knife and fork.
  18. Hold a stemmed glass by the stem! This is to prevent cold drinks, such as white wine from becoming warmed by your hand.
  19. In a restaurant, it is normal to pay for your food by putting your money on the plate the bill comes on.
  20. Don’t reach over someone’s plate for something, ask for the item to be passed over.
  21. If you don’t know which is your water-glass, bread plate or napkin, always follow “OK rule”. Make OK signs with both hands. The left one is forming letter “b” for bread and the right one is forming letter “d” as for drinks. So, now you will know on which side goes which item.
  22. Always say ‘excuse me’ when you leave the table.
  23. Do not put your cell phone on the table.
  24. Do not use your cell phone during dinner. If you are expecting an urgent call, excuse yourself and do the conversation elsewhere.
  25. There is no need to overtip the waiter. Don’t show off. You are not Frank Sinatra.
  26. This is more of a style tip but good to know: if you are wearing suit or only a jacket, each time you sit down you should unbutton one button. Each time you stand up again, you should re-button the jacket button.
  27. Last and most important tip is: always saying ‘thank you’ when served something. It is a sign of appreciation.


If this may seem long list, trust me it is not. There are more rules but I wanted to keep it simple and to present you with the must have list. If you follow these rules you will keep yourself out of the faux pas situations and you don’t want to embarrass yourself on a business lunch or on a first date with a stunning woman. If you have some more questions not covered by this list, write it down in the comments section and I will be glad to answer.

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13 Comments on "Table and Restaurant Etiquette – 50 Essential Tips"

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  1. Malik Swift says:

    Muslims eat with their right hand. We use the bathroom with our left hand. To suggest which hand we you use to eat without researching cultural exceptions is a little immature.

  2. Paul says:

    Sorry Malik, but you can’t expect me to research eating habits from every culture on earth AND use that info in the article (there would be a lot of exceptions for different cultures of course). I don’t see what immaturity has to do with that.

  3. shimza says:

    When siting at the dinner table or at lunch time, can women remain wearing the winter coat or has to take off the same.
    And secondly in extreme winters can the lady wear winter coat at daytime.


    Not all muslims follow that practice MALIK

  5. Bob says:

    During dinner, where should one’s hands be placed? I was always taught that hands should be on the table. I see many women place their left hand on their lap. I find this acceptable but find it feminine when I see a guy doing that. Please clarify! Thank You!

  6. Tawfiq says:

    Dear Mr Paul,

    Thank you for the nice article. forget about what Malik says!! they are always like this. anyway, my question is, when you are chatting with someone on the table while eating, should you put the fork and knife on the plate or it is ok to keep holding them?

    • Paul says:

      Thank you for your compliments Tawfiq! In regards to your question..I would say it’s more polite to put your fork and knife down when talking at the dinner table.

  7. Alexander Kay says:

    Great article. With regards to Malik’s comment, I do agree that is worth mentioning (though it was not at the expense of maturity not to). I have worked in both Dubai and Kuala Lumpur and was instructed that it would be rude to eat in front of Muslim clients and colleagues with the fork in my left hand. At first, it was incredibly awkward to adjust to, but it is now my default dining etiquette. Most Europeans do not notice or care and there are always Muslims present at lunch or dinner meetings wherever I am (they do make up almost 1/3 of the world’s population after all).

    I would suggest reading Paul’s article on Etiquette Around The World in conjunction to this; even within Europe, there are exceptions to the rule.

  8. Tina says:

    #1 – a gorgeous woman?? ANY woman you are out with should get this honor.

  9. Karina says:

    manners and more manners – but why? are there reasons for these or is it ‘just because’- we should not be blindly following a set of etiquette without knowing why. facing the soup bowl away from yourself;that, I get – its a safety thing..I have not been able to find why it is necessary to say ‘may I be excused’ or ‘may I leave the table?’ – why????

    • John K. says:

      It is necessary because a meal is a social event with your companions, and getting up from the table and abandoning them is to potentially leave them hanging. It’s the same as if you were to receive a phone call at the table, and say “excuse me” before getting up and stepping out to go take the call.
      More generally, when a person says “excuse me”, they are acknowledging that their action may cause some discomfort to the person or people around them, and are apologizing in advance. Such as if you were to burp in front of others, for example. To not say “excuse me” means either that you are unaware that your behavior might be unpleasant to those around you, or worse that you do know but just don’t give a damn. Such as if in the middle of dinner you burp and then just stand up and walk away from the table without saying a word. Not very considerate behavior.
      Saying excuse me shows that you care about the people you are with and those around you, and that you have respect for them, and are willing to expend some effort on their behalf. As opposed to not caring about them and having no respect for them and their feelings at all.
      Really, manners and etiquette is a form of respect to others and a time-tested method to make human actions more pleasant. And if you show consideration to those around you, and those people around you show consideration back, it results in a more pleasant society.

  10. Tina says:

    How does a man come into the restaurant first if he’s opening the door for his woman?

    • James says:

      Although, I understand the situation described, I myself would be second to enter the establishment. Yet, earlier in the article it was stated that finer establishments would have a bellman or doorman that will open the door. In this regard, the lady should enter second.

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