Fine Dining Etiquette You Need to Know Before You Wine and Dine
There are many things that we do in mall food courts and family-style restaurants that aren’t done in fine dining restaurants or at formal dinner parties. If you’ve never had to learn about dining etiquette, the subject can seem murky, mysterious, and downright intimidating. So, we’ve put together a simple guide to everything you need to know before wining and dining.
Before Heading Out
Fine dining etiquette begins before you even leave your home.
Whether you’re going to a fine dining restaurant or a dinner party, ensure you dress accordingly. Check the venue’s website or the invitation for a dress code. If neither indicates what you should wear, call the restaurant or your host and check with them. As comfy as jeans and sneakers are, fine dining isn’t the place for them.
Arriving At The Venue
There are a couple of things to remember when arriving at the venue, whether it be a restaurant or home.
Wait to Be Seated
If you’re going to lunch or dinner at a restaurant, wait for the whole party to arrive before being seated, even if a server offers to show you to your table. If you’re attending a private dinner party, wait for your host or hostess to assign seats. Alternatively, your hosts may have used name cards to assign seats. Either way, sit in your assigned seat when your hosts sit down.
Keep Your Belongings Off the Table
Don’t put your phone, keys, wallet, and other belongings on the table. Keep them in your pockets or purse. Additionally, don’t take out your phone to text, check social media, or answer calls. If you receive an urgent call, excuse yourself from the table before taking out your phone.
Keep Your Menu On the Table
If you’re at a formal restaurant, keep your menu on the table when reading it. This doesn’t mean leaving it lying flat on the table. You certainly can pick it up, but just make sure that the bottom, or at least part of it is still touching the table.
Treat Serving Staff With Respect
This goes for any dining situation, but it’s a cardinal rule of fine dining too. Always treat serving staff respectfully. Not only is it polite, but it’s also a reflection of your character.
Instead of calling out to them, try to make eye contact and signal silently that you need something. If you can’t get their attention, raise your hand (no waving or clicking fingers) in their direction and wait for them to attend to you.
Order the Same Number of Courses as Everyone Else
If you’re at a restaurant, agree with your companions regarding appetizers and desserts, so everyone orders the same number of courses. This ensures that everyone will start and finish their meals at the same time.
Put Your Napkin On Your Lap
Wait until your host or hostess places their napkin on their lap, and then follow suit. Unfold your napkin rather than shaking it open, fold it in half, and keep it on your lap with the crease toward you for the duration of the meal.
Don’t use the napkin to wipe your face or the cutlery and definitely don’t use it to blow your nose. If you need to excuse yourself from the table at any time, place your napkin on your chair. When you finish your meal, semi-fold the napkin and place it neatly to the left of your plate.
Eating And Drinking
Follow these rules of fine dining etiquette when it comes to eating and drinking.
Wait to Eat
When dining at a restaurant, wait for everyone to be served. Everyone should start eating at the same time. If you’re at a private dinner party, wait for your host to pick up their knife and fork—this is the signal to start eating. If multiple knives and forks are on the table, start with those placed farthest from the plate and work your way towards the plate with every subsequent course.
Hold Your Wineglass By the Stem and Sip From the Same Place
Always hold your wineglass by the stem. This prevents leaving fingerprints on the bowl of the glass and warming the wine with the heat from your hands. Ensure you always sip from the same place on the glass for the rest of the evening to prevent leaving a lip ring of natural oils, lipstick, or lip balm.
Never Clink Glasses When Toasting
Clinking glasses is something we see so often, but it’s actually not the correct etiquette. When toasting can damage the glass, especially if the restaurant or your host uses fine glassware. The rule in formal dining is less noise is better.
Keep the Rim of Your Plates Clean
Try not to get any food or sauce on the rim of your plates. This is out of respect for serving staff who will hold the edge of the plates when clearing them from the table.
Place Any Discards On the Upper Left Part of Your Plate
The bottom right part of your plate is for butter and sauces. If you have any discards, such as a lemon rind, a bone, or a piece of rind or fat you don’t want to eat, place it on the upper left part of your plate.
Keep Your Bread On Your Bread Plate
If you’re served bread, keep it on the bread plate to the left of your main plate at all times. Don’t butter the entire slice at once. If you’re served a dinner roll, don’t cut it in half and butter it. Whether you’re served a slice of bread or a roll, break a piece off, butter it on the plate, and then put the piece of bread in your mouth.
Saying Thank You
If you’re dining in someone’s home, it’s crucial that you thank the host correctly. Whether they’ve hired a private chef or not, they’ve gone to great lengths to create an enjoyable evening.
Give Your Host A Gift
A small gift for the host or hostess is the accepted way of showing your gratitude for their invitation and the meal you’ve shared. Your gift should be for later use, and not something that they’ll need to use that same evening.
Flowers, a potted plant, or a scented candle are popular choices, as is a box of good quality chocolates or a premium bottle of wine.
While there are other rules of fine dining etiquette, these basics will see you through meals at formal restaurants and private dinner parties! Please enjoy—because saying ‘bon appetit’ is a no-no.