How to Be a Gracious Diner

Restaurant etiquette designed to make every dining experience pleasant for your table and those around you
BY Bill Lindsey TIMEMay 10, 2022 PRINT

Dining out provides a chance to focus on the meal and enjoy being waited on for every need. We’ve got a few suggestions to help prevent your table from being labeled “the bad one” by the waitstaff.

Be the Happy Table

While the goal of dining out is to have a great time, be respectful of other diners by muting your phone and keeping the conversation level down. The other diners are also there to enjoy a pleasant meal, so keep your wild friends or family in check; raucous laughter and tossing napkins might seem like fun, but it won’t amuse other diners or the staff. If a meal isn’t what you expected, politely ask your server to replace it, preferably before you’ve consumed 98 percent of it.

Be the Table With the Well-Behaved Kids

Dining out as a family is a great bonding opportunity, but you need to keep in mind that overly active or loud children can be disruptive to the other diners and spoil their experience. Crying babies need to be taken outside. Rambunctious children need to learn to be well-mannered when dining out, but yelling at them probably isn’t the ideal reaction and will disrupt the entire dining area. Quietly take misbehaving children (or adults) outside and explain how you expect them to behave.

Tipping 101

A 15 percent tip is the minimum for good service. The only times tipping for a meal is optional is when ordering fast food and when the meal or service is truly bad with no effort to correct it on the part of your server. In that case, tell the manager why you’re displeased as you leave. On a related note, despite the trend of fast food and food court vendors including an option for a tip, unless the server provided monumental assistance, a tip isn’t warranted.

Be Understanding

Occasionally a restaurant will run out of items; if you notice a pattern of this every time you dine there, find a new favorite restaurant. Otherwise, don’t take get upset at your server or let it ruin the experience for you or your party. Take a breath and find something else on the menu. If you arrive shortly before closing time, be respectful to the staff by not ordering complex meals or demanding that they remain open to suit your schedule.

Give the Waiter a Heads Up

If anyone in your party has food allergies or requires any type of special accommodations, advise the waiter or waitress before ordering so they can provide appropriate alternative suggestions. Similarly, if you plan to split the tab, advise the server when they first arrive at your table; waiting until the bill is presented makes extra work for them and will result in a delay while they work out the math. In this case, be sure everyone tips—don’t assume the others will handle it.

Bill Lindsey
Bill Lindsey is an award-winning writer based in South Florida. He covers real estate, automobiles, timepieces, boats, and travel topics.
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