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13 Little Etiquette Rules to Follow When You’re Dining at a Restaurant

Dining etiquette is more than just table manners.

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Two interracial young people looking aside at somebody and smiling while siting at the table set for dinner in restaurantUfaBizPhoto/Shutterstock

Be mindful of the proper attire

Make sure you’re dressed accordingly. If you’re going to a fancier restaurant, skip jeans and tennis shoes and wear something a little nicer. If you’re not sure what the proper attire is, ask the restaurant in advance.

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please wait to be seated signvectorarts/iStock

Wait to be seated

This is policy at many restaurants, but even if a restaurant offers to seat you before everyone arrives, it’s polite to wait for your entire party to arrive before being seated.

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phone on dinner tableolaser/iStock

Don’t leave your phone on the table

This one seems obvious, but take your phone, keys, and other belongings off of the table. And don’t take your phone out to text. This sends a message to your company that whoever you’re texting is more important to you than they are. Sending a reply message or email can wait until dinner is over, but if it’s urgent, excuse yourself before taking out your phone.

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Glasses, flowers, forks, knives served for dinner in restaurant with cozy interior.johan.lebedevski/Shutterstock

Put your napkin on your lap

You can do this as soon as you sit down. However if someone is taking you out to a meal (especially if it is for business), wait until your host puts his or her napkin on their lap. If you excuse yourself to use the restroom, place the napkin on the chair. When you finish your meal, you can place the napkin on the table. This is one of the 10 table etiquette mistakes you need to stop making…are you guilty of the others?

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Muslim women hijab having

Wait for everyone to be served before you start eating

If you have to send something back, which is acceptable if the food is not cooked properly, make sure you tell the rest of your party to continue eating without you. Next, read about some interesting steakhouse etiquettes everyone should know.

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Young Asian waitress advising one of clients to choose new snack from menu in restaurantPressmaster/Shutterstock

Don’t call out to your waiter

Instead, try to make eye contact with him or her to silently signal that you need something. If you still can’t get your waiter’s attention, raise your hand in their direction. Check out these 50 secrets waiters will never say to your face.

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african american waitress taking order on notepadJoshua Resnick/Shutterstock

Treat the wait staff with respect

This one is pretty obvious, but don’t treat the waiter like a servant. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, but if any of the food is not to your liking keep in mind that this is likely not the waiter’s fault.

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Everyone should order the same number of courses

Agree with your companion or companions upon whether or not you want appetizers or desserts. That way, you will start and finish your meals at the same time. Learn more about these etiquette rules that you should always practice—your server will thank you.

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Shot for woman holds empty wine glass with blurry background in Izmir at Turkey for winter seasonShot for woman holds empty wine glass with blurry background in Izmir at Turkey for winter seasonorcunkoraliseri/Shutterstock

Hold your wineglass by the stem

If you’d prefer not to drink wine, don’t turn the glass upside down. Just politely place your hand over your glass to signal that you don’t want any, without drawing attention.

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Group of young men talking in a bar, drinking beerbbernard/Shutterstock

Leave within 15 minutes of finishing your meal

If you don’t want the fun to end, grab drinks somewhere else. You don’t want to monopolize a table that the restaurant needs, especially if it’s a popular restaurant. After all, a restaurant is a business, and staying past your welcome could prevent another customer from being seated.

Don’t miss the 10 dining mistakes you always make when you’re trying to be polite.

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Leather Credit card folder for customer billing. Payment tray for cafe and restaurant. Anutr Yossundara/Shutterstock

If you’re paying the whole bill, tell the waiter in advance

If you’re hosting the dinner party and you would like to pay for everyone’s meal, tell the waiter ahead of time that you should receive the check. If you prefer, you can also give the waiter your credit card ahead of time.

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leisure, people, payment and finance concept - man paying with credit card at cafeSyda Productions/Shutterstock

Decide ahead of time how you’re splitting the bill

If you would like separate checks, ask the waiter ahead of time if this is possible so they can keep track of what each person orders throughout the meal. However, if you’re with a large group, don’t assume the restaurant will be able to accommodate this. If everyone’s meal was around the same price range, it’s best to just split the bill evenly.

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leaving a tipPhotobuff/iStock

Tip well

Don’t skimp on the tip. Depending on the restaurant, your waiter may not be working on an hourly wage, which means they depend on your tip for their livelihood. Tip 15 to 20 percent for satisfactory service and 25 percent for exemplary service. Keep in mind, tipping etiquette can vary around the world.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest