When heading out to a restaurant, there are a number of things to consider in terms of how you conduct yourself. This obviously depends on the type of establishment you’re going to – more highbrow, expensive restaurants tend to expect their customers to act in a certain way. This can be off-putting for some people, but for others it is a symbol of an opulent night out. However, there are also some levels of dining etiquette that apply across the board.
No matter where you’re dining, it’s always good manners to remove your coat and particularly your hat (if you’re wearing one). Most waiters will offer to put your coat away for you. If not, placing it on the back of your chair is fine.
If you’re dining as a couple, it’s customary for the male to give the female the first choice of chair – and to also pull it out for her. This also extends to the ordering of the food.
Once you have ordered your starters and mains, you will usually be asked what wine you would like. If you know your wine quite well, you will probably already have an idea which one will suit your meal. If not, a good waiter will usually recommend one to you. After ordering, the waiter will shortly bring over the bottle and pour a tiny amount into one person’s glass – usually whoever ordered the wine. This is to make sure the wine isn’t corked. Once the customer approves, the waiter will fill everyone’s glass before returning to top up the person who ordered.
When the food arrives, it is good etiquette to use your cutlery in the old-fashioned manner of fork in left hand, knife in right (depending on the meal you’ve ordered). It is also good manners to eat as tidily and quietly as possible. Noisy, messy eaters can put off others and destroy their appetite. Though in some cases, this is hard to avoid and is sometimes part of the ritual – e.g sharing pizza or seafood.
Once you have finished, it is good etiquette to place your knife and fork side by side on the plate. This indicates to the waiter that you have finished, so they can collect your plate. If you did not finish all your food, it is bad etiquette to “play” with your food.
When paying for your bill it is customary to leave a tip for the waiter who served you; as a rule of thumb this is generally around 10% of the bill. If paying by credit card, e.g. American Express Australia you can choose the gratuity amount before you pay.