If there’s anything any of us love to do, it’s to eat. While you can eat in your underwear or slippers or with your feet up on the chair at your home, you can’t do the same in a restaurant. Whether it is a fast food joint, casual or formal dining, there are rules on proper behaviour in a restaurant.
Nowadays, most restaurants have nameplates for their crew. That’s so that you can call them by their nicknames. It makes it less degrading than hollering waiter or waitress. That’s what the nameplate is there for!
And I cannot stand this Filipino habit of grabbing someone’s attention by pouting his lips and making the sound “psssttt” to call a waiter (or anyone for that matter). It is humiliating and rude.
Wait for the server to approach you. They usually introduce themselves and REMEMBER their name!! It is good practice to make sure that when you need anything again, you don’t just drag any other waiter or say “psssttt”. That’s the reason why in the restaurant they start off with: “Hi! I’m (name of server) and how are you guys doing today? I’ll be your server. Here’s the menu. Can I start you off with some drinks? If there’s anything you’ll need, just let me know. Again, my name is (—) and I’ll be your server today”.
2. Who pays the tab?
When friends decide to go out for a meal and some drinks, it’s usually “dutch”. Which means, you pay what your order.
When someone INVITES you to a meal, the HOST always pays the bill (regardless of gender). Don’t invite people to a meal and expect them to pay for it. After all, it is good etiquette that whoever invites you, foots the tab. Hence, if you say, “you guys want to go grab a bite to eat?”, then expect to pay for that meal! If you want to make it clear that each one pays his own meal, say it so from the get go. If you don’t say anything, remember the rule – HE WHO INVITES, PAYS FOR THE MEAL!
3. BMW rule
When you’re at a formal dining event and you encounter all those cutleries and glassware on the table, a lot of us are flabbergasted because we don’t know how to go about this setting.
Rule of thumb is BMW – Bread, Meal and Water.
The left side of the table is the bread and butter plate. In the middle is the meal. At the right side is the water glass.
When there are multiple cutleries, use the utensils on the farthest end and work going towards the middle plate as the meals are served.
4. Bags and groceries off the table
Even if your bag is a Hérmes or Prada, no bags on the table please. Social climbers with no etiquette do this to show off. It’s a distraction and you shouldn’t actually be mixing books, cellphones, keys, gadgets and groceries on the dining table. If food or water gets spilled on it, your throwing a fit won’t help because in reality, only food and drinks served should be on the table.
In finer restaurants, they offer seats for your delicate LVs or other branded handbags and smaller items. Others have hooks under the table for your carry on bags.
5. Pass the salt PLEASE
When you need something that’s not within your reach, ask your companion to kindly pass the food or utensil or container or whatever! Don’t reach out for it by stretching out your arm in front of other people especially when they’re all trying to stuff food into their mouth already.
6. Chew with your mouth closed
Proper decorum dictates that we don’t make a lot of noise when we eat. Unless of course the restaurant is themed for that purpose. Many Chinese, Japanese and Korean restaurants have food (usually broth) that’s best eaten with a slurping and chomping sound so that it’s authentically “appreciated”.
As a general rule, however, don’t chew with your mouth open. You are not a monkey.
7. Food from plate to face NOT face to plate
Bring your food to your mouth. That’s correct. When eating, the direction should be from plate to face. Lean back and enjoy the meal by picking up the food with the utensils (or hands) and bringing it to your mouth. Never put your face into the plate. Only four-legged animals do that.
8. When to bring the kids
Unless your children have mastered good manners and proper conduct and can behave in a restaurant, you may want to keep them in a leash at a fast food joint or a family-themed casual restaurant. Fine dining is not appropriate for children who cannot observe the rules. Why people go to a more upscale restaurants is not only the ambience and the food, but the privacy and quietness of the environment. It doesn’t matter if you can buy the restaurant. If your children are uncouth, have no table manners and misbehave – you’re not welcome in these establishments. And when people being to stare at you and your children while they’re horsing around, you deserve the dressing down with the gazes from the crowd.
9. The napkin is not a tissue paper
Table napkins serve the purpose of cleaning your mouth when food comes in contact with the surrounding area. When you have snot, or a bad cold or allergy, and need to blow out all that mucus, for God’s sake, excuse yourself from the table, stand up, and go to the bathroom and use the tissue paper there. And don’t forget to wash your hands before returning to the table.
10. Breaking bread
Use your hands when breaking any form of bread. Even if you have to knead it slowly, use your hands. Don’t pick up the butter knife and attempt to slice open the bread using the butter knife or any other knives on the table.
I’ve left a nice poster reminder here for additional etiquette and manners when you’re dining alone or with your friends. Remember, while you pay to enjoy the meal, so do others. If you want to eat like a slob, do it within the confines of your home. Order a take out.