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How you behave on a dinner date can make or break a budding relationship — according to many surveys. International Etiquette Expert Sharon Schweitzer, founder and CEO of Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide, offers these tips to help men and women date and dine to win and woo. Most of these tips are also good to remember when dining with friends.
Most people won’t date anyone who is rude to a server.
Dining out tips for polished manners:
Soup: Differentiate yourself from the rest of the pack – remember the proverb, “Just like ships that sail out to sea, I spoon my soup away from me.”
Invitations: The person extending the invitation is the host and is responsible for payment of the bill. When extending invitations; inquire about special dietary requests such as food allergies or kosher, halal, gluten-free, sugar-free and dairy-free diets. Book a restaurant that accommodates these needs. Guests don’t split the bill.
DolceDolce tip: When dining with friends is clear about invitations and then spilt bills fairly and neatly. Don’t over-charge anyone but don’t be nit-picky – and never forget the tip. And if a woman invites a man she can also arrange to pay the bill.
No table additions: Keep your smart phone, wallet, keys and glasses off the table.
Pre-arrange payment: If you want to be a sophisticated host, arrive early and provide a credit card, or call the restaurant ahead of time to pre-arrange payment. Your date will appreciate that everything is handled seamlessly.
Napkin knowledge: As the host, place your napkin in your lap first. If you must leave the table between courses the napkin is placed on the chair seat soiled side down. At meal’s end, place your loosely folded napkin on the left of your plate. Don’t refold it.
Please take my guest’s order first: Polite comments to the server such as ‘Please bring my guest…’ or ‘my guest will order first, please,’ let the server know that you are the host.
Sommelier: For a pleasing pairing, tell the sommelier what you like and the entrées you and your date ordered. You can provide an idea of your price range by pointing out 2-3 wines in your price range. The sommelier will stay within those ranges. Don’t say how much you want to spend.
Avoid a catastrophe: Alert the server to allergies and sensitivities such as eggs, gluten, salt, sugar, and spice. If the server lists 4 types of dairy as part of a secret specialty sauce and doesn’t mention eggs, protect you. Say: “I’d like the house specialty, but I can’t stand eggs. You didn’t mention eggs, but I know sometimes there are hidden gems.”
DolceDolce tip: If allergies are serious, I suggest calling ahead to make sure the restaurant can handle your requests.
How many courses? Order the same number of courses as your date. This avoids awkwardness and allows you to pace yourself with your date or companion.
Pacing the meal: Make sure to take your time eating and pause after every few bites. You don’t want your date or dining companion to feel rushed during the meal.
Sending food back: If you must send your food back because it is not cooked to your liking, it’s your responsibility to insist that your date or companion start eating.
Silent service signals: If you are resting between bites, place your fork, with tines up, near the top of your plate. To signal the server that you’re finished, place your fork and knife across the center of the plate at the 5 o’clock position.
Silverware savvy: Once silverware is used (including handles), it must not touch the table again. Rest forks, knives, and spoons on the side of your plate. Unused silverware stays on the table.
Refreshing beverages: Don’t pour yourself a drink first. If there is a carafe of water or beverages on the table, always pour for your date or companion.
Sharing food: Depending on how well you know your date, you may unobtrusively pass a bread plate for a sample before a first bite.
Eating difficult foods: Boiled lobster? Artichokes? Avoid panic attacks by planning what you’ll order ahead of time. Read the online menu, call the restaurant about daily specials and do your research beforehand.
New serving trend: Traditionally, professional wait staff have served food from the left and removed food from the right. Beverages are poured and removed from the right. Be aware of a new trend of serving from the right and removing from the right.
Nonverbal cues: Oh server? A closed menu indicates you are ready to order. If you or your date are browsing an open menu, the server has the impression you aren’t ready. Catch the eye of the server if you need assistance, or slightly raise your index finger pointing up. If she is busy, softly call their name or “server”?
Conversation: As the host, it’s your job to keep conversation going during the meal. Don’t hog the conversation—ask your date questions, light topics include books, travel, vacation, movies, pets; avoid politics or religion.
Fete accompli: When you place your loosely folded napkin on the left side of your place setting, dinner plate, dessert, or coffee, the dinner is concluded.
Tipping: Always leave a tip at restaurants: bartender: 10-15% of bar bill, valet: $2.00- 5.00, coat check: $1.00 per coat, server: 15- of the bill before coup