How to Behave When Dining Out: Top Ten Etiquette Tips for Diners

If you don't want to read this whole post, here's the gist: Don't be an asshole.
If you don't want to read this whole post, here's the gist: Don't be an asshole.
Photo by BeeCeeMayfair

I've never worked as a waiter, waitress, hostess, manager or chef, but I like to think I can recognize when a customer is being an asshole. I'm betting you probably can too.

We've all seen the guy who chooses to yell at the top of his lungs on a cell phone in a small, crowded restaurant or the parents who let their children run wild and bother other diners while they enjoy a pleasant meal. I really think we all know how to behave in a restaurant. The problem is we don't all put this knowledge to practice.

In the spirit of happy diners and good food, here's a list full of quick reminders about how to be a good restaurant customer, from attire to tipping and all the important stuff in between.

Oh, and don't worry. There will also be a list of waiter etiquette coming soon.

10. Know how to dress for the restaurant at which you're eating There is absolutely nothing wrong with wearing gym clothes out to eat -- if you're eating at Taco Cabana. If, however, you're dining at a fancy steakhouse, step it up a little. Forget jeans and t-shirts. Try to avoid tennis shoes. Throw on a nice blazer or some heels. If you're unsure about what to wear, go online and see if you can find photos from the restaurant. Even if there aren't photos of people dining, shots of the interior space should give you an idea of how dressy or casual the restaurant is. Also look at the menu prices. Generally, a more expensive menu will call for dressing up a little more. If there's a specific dress code, the restaurant's website should detail exactly what that is. But here's a rule that applies at any restaurant (I'm looking at you, ladies): Keep the girls tucked into your shirt, pull up your low rise jeans and pull down the labia-skimming shorts. I don't care if you're eating at McDonald's or The French Laundry. Nobody wants to see that much skin on anything but a roasted chicken.

9. Make reservations If a restaurant clearly states that reservations are required, don't act like you're some sort of royalty who can waltz in whenever and be seated without a reservation. If you're not sure if reservations are needed, call and ask. Never show up late and expect to be seated immediately just because you reserved a table. If you're even ten minutes late to a busy restaurant, the host or hostess is completely justified in giving away your table. That said, if you have a reservation, and you still have to wait more than 30 minutes to be seated, you had better be dining at a restaurant helmed by one of the top chefs in the world. Waiting that long for a reserved table at Red Lobster is not OK, and you have my permission to complain about that sort of service on Yelp as many times as you want.

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