Imagine the days when dining out was rare, expensive, and only for the extremely special occasion. Today, we often dine out instead of at home, we call in carry-out, and we have events catered in lieu of home preparation. So, here are a few tips for those times when you're dining out with an individual or group.
- Always be on time or early. When it comes to eating, schedules and hungry people appreciate promptness.
- If you are early, wait for your party to be seated, unless you clarify that you will be seated before they arrive. "I will go ahead and get a table if I am early," or "I will wait for you in the lobby." Of course, if there is a wait time, sign in as soon as you get there to facilitate your time.
- At nicer restaurants where the table setting is more complex, follow the chart below. Also see the earlier F.S. Post.
- Do not begin eating until the entire table has been served.
- If you are with a large party of people and you know that the check is going to be split up, most restaurants will accommodate you and give each person or couple their own ticket and collect accordingly. Most waiters or waitresses will ask as they take orders, but it is always most polite to let them know at the beginning of the meal how the checks will be paid. When dining at finer restaurants, it is proper for one person to receive the check and then have everyone pay that one person.
- Leave a generous tip. The tip is a reflection of what kind of person you are. The proper amount to tip a waiter or waitress is 15% to 20%. The rule used to be to calculate it from the before-tax total, but it has recently been pointed out that wait staff pays taxes off of their tips, so now the tip should be calculated from the after-tax total.
- The question most often wondered about when eating out is, "When do I let someone else pay for my meal?" When friends meet up for lunch or dinner or tea, it is usually understood that everyone will pay for themselves. If you are out to eat with people older than you or more important than you, they may very likely offer to pay for your meal. It is all right to object, but eventually, when they refuse to surrender, thank them.
- What if it is a guy and you are not sure you are comfortable with letting him pay for your meal? There are two ways to look at this: 1. Girls feel as if they are sending the signal "I like you" when they let the guy pay, and sometimes they are. 2. Guys sometimes like to pay for the girl, because it is their nature to provide and protect and letting her pay for her own seems to them against the grain. Basically it comes down to judging the situation. The same applies here as when anyone else is buying your meal; it is all right to object but do not cause a scene.
- Most importantly, use your manners! Listen more than you talk and treat the wait staff and hostess with kindness. See the earlier post: Table Manners.
Questions regarding this topic? Leave them as a comment!