Restaurant Etiquette: 100 ways to not look like a douche…

The following 100 ways to not look like an as#(@le, or douche or moron in a restaurant- or what i like to call “100 Rules of Restaurant Etiquette” have been gathered over the last seven years by various peoples in the hospitality industry, mostly in fine-dining.

THESE 100 maxims have come from individuals from all over the world: India, Loas, China, the Carribean, The US, Europe etc.
  1. Don’t show off with money to a waiter… they see money all day long and are not impressed.
  1. Have fun when you go to a restaurant—whether it is to dine or to just to have a fun meal, make it so. Don’t worry about the pretensions… just enjoy.
  1. Trust your server… they know the menu and food better than you ever will.

 

  1. Trust the sommelier—a good sommelier knows his or her wine list better than you ever will. Chances are he/she tasted all those wines, if not a majority of them, and has probably been to those vineyards.

 

  1. Be among the first tables of the night… you’ll get the best food and service.

 

  1. Don’t be the schmuck who shows up fifteen minutes before the restaurant closes—there’s a lot of bad energy being directed towards you. Remember the kitchen and the wait staff have lives too,

 

  1. Just because it’s your birthday, doesn’t mean you are owed anything for free…. Including dessert, candle or not.

 

  1. Don’t tell the waitstaff, sommelier, or manager how many wines and or bottles you have in your cellar, trust me, they don’t care.

 

  1. GUYS if you are out with a pretty girl, you don’t have to spend $1000.00 on a bottle of wine to impress her. She may know nothing at all about wine and you are therefore wasting your money. Listen to hear and be genuinely interested- that’s worth a lot more to her.

 

  1. Don’t be afraid to tell the server and or sommelier what you would like to spend in a bottle: a good list has fabulous wines at all price ranges.

 

  1. Don’t be cheap either.

 

  1. Don’t ask for tap water at a fine dinning restaurant and further more don’t justify your thriftiness by saying that it “tastes better,” you know it doesn’t!

 

  1. Bottled water is not pretentious. The rest of the civilized world wouldn’t dream of drinking anything but with a restaurant meal.

 

  1. Remember a standard tip for a run-of-the mill restaurant is 15%, a nicer restaurant 18% while a fine-dining restaurant about 20% with a good handshake for the sommelier if he struck gold with a nice bottle.
    •  Most servers, even those at the most expensive restaurants, usually make around $2-$4 an hour. The tip not only ensures service… but this is money that goes into the “set-up,” your polished glasses, changing of silver, and graciousness. Trust me, you want good service and the staff to remember you… TIP!

 

  1. Dipping bread in olive oil should stay in Italian restaurants. Do not assume this is standard practice in every restaurant in the world.

 

  1. There’s nothing wrong with a cocktail, but they should remain at the bar, before or after dinner. Wine and even beer is the only alcoholic drink that go with food.

 

  1. Thai, Vietnamese, Korean, and Japanese are all cuisines from different countries… don’t expect sweet and sour chicken at any of these. Go to an ethnic restaurant and enjoy that ethnicity’s food.

 

  1. Cesar salad is not a necessary salad or menu item at ALL restaurants.

 

  1. Generally speaking, meat is ruined when prepared well done. So if you like a well done steak… don’t go to a restaurant to eat it… you’ll piss off the staff and waste your money on bad meat… and please don’t expect it to be tender!

 

  1. French fries and mashed potatoes are not an omnipresent side dish… some restaurants don’t have such things on their menus, and it is probably for the better.

 

  1. Gauge where you take your kids… if appetizers start at the high teens, leave the kid at home.

 

  1. Kid’s menus are not required by law. Most places will accommodate you but the absence of a children’s menu should tell you what to expect.

 

  1. Unless you are in a vegetarian restaurant do not expect every restaurant to have a vegetarian item… most will accommodate you.

 

  1. Most fancy restaurants and/or fine dinning do not have the following ice cream flavors: chocolate chip cookie dough, rocky road, or strawberry-coconut.

 

  1. Tiramusi is an Italian dessert—don’t expect to find it on every restaurant’s menu… if they don’t have it, see it as a blessing in disguise—try something new.

 

  1. Never start a sentence, when speaking to a restaurant’s staff, with “…I don’t care that it’s not on your menu, but I want…”, this guarantees bad service and bad restaurant-karma.

 

  1. The more cigarette breaks you take the colder the food will be when you eat it… as it has to wait in the kitchen’s window until you come back. Smoke before and after… Otherwise drink water.

 

  1. Do not try and teach the sommelier a lesson on wine… they don’t care, and if you know you know more than them then take comfort in that fact.

 

  1. Remember, when you are given the initial taster of wine once the bottle is opened, you are not deciding whether you indeed like the wine—you already bought it! It is part of a ceremony to make sure it is not spoilt. So stop trying to impress everyone at the table by holding it up to the light and making a big deal. Simply smell it… does it smell like wet newspapers? Vinegar perhaps? No? Then just tell him/her to pour.

 

  1. Do not ask for the finest or most expensive bottle of Pinot Grigio… Pinot Grigio as a wine is meant to be simple and quaffable, not a religious experience by any stretch of the imagination. When was the last time you asked for the most expensive bottle of cola?

 

  1. If a server has eight plates in their hands, and they are sprinting past you, that may not be the best time to grab them and ask them where the bathroom is.

 

  1. When a member of the restaurant staff approaches you don’t immediately start barking orders, let them introduce themselves… you may be putting gin a drink order with the busser or manager. It’s not necessarily wrong, but it does make you look lie an idiot.

 

  1. Don’t say you know the owner, or throu around names, because they’ve heard it all, and you just sound like an asshole.

 

  1. Only Lipton makes decaf tea. If in a nice restaurant ask for “tisane,” which are herbal and or fruit teas which naturally contain no caffeine, like Chamomile, apple, or peppermint.

 

  1. If you go to a chain restaurant, do not expect five-star service… if you go to a, expensive restaurant, be ready to spend. Don’t go on a budget.

 

  1. If you want to seem as though you have even just a hint of class… never yell out “waiter”, “garçon” or “server” to catch a server’s attention… it’s the whole “you’ll look like a jerk” thing.

 

  1. Like Tiramisu, Flan has its place, and Italian restaurants are usually not it.

 

  1. Never, ever, begin to dictate your order with “bring me your cheapest…”

 

  1. Feel free to ask, “what do you recommend” or “what’s your favorite,” but don’t ask “what’s good,” because even at a strip bar you’re most likely going to get “everything.”

 

  1. Ask for the specials once… if the server skips over them… there’s probably a reason, they may be trying to steer you away from potential disaster.

 

  1. When you need to make more than three modifications to one dish, you might as well just choose something else entirely.

 

  1. Remember, there is no reason to overcompensate, if you feel a little akward at a restaurant just relax… its food. Let the staff guide you…its their job.

 

  1. In a nice restaurant, don’t pay half your bill in cash and the other half in plastic… it’s tacky,

 

  1. When you go to pay, there’s no reason in saying… “Here’s my gold card” or “here’s my platinum” unless the server is colorblind they will see that when they run the card.

 

  1. If the server comes to you and says “I believe there is something wrong with our computer, it cannot read this card,” he or she is really saying, “dude, it was declined,” don’t argue with them, they’ve been tactful enough not to make you look stupid. Play along and come-up with a solution.

 

  1. Don’t get mad when there is no space available at a restaurant and you didn’t make a reservation. In other cities showing up to a restaurant without a reservation is not only crass but sacrilegious. If you want a space… reserve.

 

  1. Don’t look over the hostess’ shoulder while they’re looking up you reservation, that’s screen is not for you, otherwise it would be turned towards the door.

 

  1. Don’t call the hostess honey or sweetheart, remember they control when you seat, where you seat and with whom.

 

  1. Don’t ask the wait staff to control the sound, lights, or music in a restaurant—they have no control over such things. Talk to a manager… but remember the light may be bothering you, but look around… are you the only one in the restaurant?

 

  1. Ditto for the air con.

 

  1. Don’t tell the sommelier you are a connoisseur of wine… because you just let him know how absolutely insecure you are… instead talk to them, share the knowledge… then they’ll know that you to are an enthusiast.

 

  1. Do not expect restaurants to bend to your latest diet fad. If you can only eat purees and/or snack on leek soup… stay at home. (that goes for you non-celiac gluten-free freaks).

 

  1. Unless there is sand between your toes as you sit and eat… stay off the frozen drinks.

 

  1. Be gracious… you get more with honey than with vinegar.

 

  1. If it’s not a hotdog or hamburger joint… don’t expect ketchup (ditto with Tabasco… outside of Texas it is not a dining necessity).

 

  1. Spaghetti is not a staple or restaurants nationwide. Stick to a diner for Cobb Salad.

 

  1. Not all Asian restaurants will have your favorite takeout menu items. So forget the ribs, egg roll, or kung-pow chicken.

 

  1. Warm wet moist towels are a staple of Japanese restaurants… don’t go expecting it everywhere.

 

  1. Don’t grasp the wine glass by its bowl… hold it from the stem. That’s the whole purpose of the stem… and you’ll look like you know what you’re doing.

 

  1. Throw the gum out before you sit down… or swallow it. There’s nothing more low-class than to ask the waiter for a piece of paper so that you can throw away your gum.

 

  1. Finish the cell phone conversation before you sit and eat. Leave the phone on vibrate…didn’t your mother tell you  not to talk with your mouth full?

 

  1. Lemonade comes from lemons, available in most kitchen and restaurant… pink lemonade on the other hand, comes from a powdered mix… most restaurants do not have this… so don’t expect it.

 

  1. Girls, if you order the wine, it will be shown to you once it arrivers to the table and, in any good restaurant, it is assumed you will taste it… don’t get offended by this, they are being professional.

 

  1. If it’s not on the menu, chances are they don’t have it.

 

  1. Don’t complain to get something for free. Get a life.

 

  1. If your slouching over your plate setting and the food comes, MOVE! Or get it on you.

 

  1. Do tell the manager how good your service was or how great your experience was, don’t tell him who your friends are or how much money you have… or what kind of car you drive… that’s just stupid.

 

  1. If you’re in a hurry let the server and manager know when you sit. Don’t wait till you already ate to start a bitch fest.

 

  1. If it’s not on the wine menu… they don’t have it. Don’t get mad because they don’t have your favorite bottle of Opus One.

 

  1. Like life, respect in a restaurant is earned… treat others other how you would like to be treated and never believe and or think you are owed anything.

 

  1. If you have a particular table request… do it at the time of reservation or when you get there… don’t wait to be seated to start playing musical chairs.

 

  1. If you make a reservation for six people… don’t call half an hour before and say your ten. That may require a set menu or worse yet, another table; which the restaurants may not have available to begin with.

 

  1. If you can’t make it on time… call. It’s much appreciated.

 

  1. No you can’t smoke at the table in America, it doesn’t matter where you’re from or what sort of income you have… like seatbelts, it’s the law.

 

  1. If there is no kid’s menu… then they probably don’t have chicken nugget or mac and cheese in the kitchen either.

 

  1. Remember, loud perfume just means it’s cheap. Enjoy smelling the aromas of good food and wine… lay off the Tresor.

 

  1. If you choose to sit outside… don’t bitch about the whether.

 

  1. Ladies… you know what you’re doing. If you wear a dress that shows more nipples than cleavage…don’t get mad when your server keeps looking at them (or if your order is slightly inaccurate for that matter).

 

  1. Putting your wallet on your table doesn’t necessarily mean ‘bring the check’ most servers are trained to bring the check when requested.

 

  1. If you must absolutely have foamy egg-white omelet with thin blanched asparagus, skinned tomatoes, and slightly steamed baby broccoli, be courteous and human about it… don’t be obnoxious ordering something overly complicated, Otherwise make it yourself so treat you can see how difficult you are…  especially in the morning. Remember, we are indeed fortunate to have the ability to order such a thing; it is after all a privilege not a right.

 

  1. If a wine list doesn’t have anything you are familiar with… then it was probably done on purpose. Ask who wrote it and just ask for a recommendation. Tell them what you usually drink.

 

  1. Do not tell the staff the least great vintage of Silver Oak or Chateau expensive you just had… no one cares. And you look like a raging buffoon.

 

  1. “Sharing style” or “family style,” means no individual plates. It’s ok for people to pick off one plate… enjoy a change of things for once.

 

  1. Most hotel restaurants, for breakfast, don’t have doughnuts, chocolate chip muffins or croissant sandwiches or breakfast burritos… stick to Dunkin Donuts or McDonalds.

 

  1. Leave the double soy, decaf, latte with caramel and pumpkin spice for your locak Starbucks… again, in a restaurant. Keep it simple… you look more sophisticated.

 

  1. An espresso is just a coffee… not a combo that includes a biscotti or a wedge of lemon peel (both New York traditions).

 

  1. Most restaurants have either Coca Cola or Pepsi but usually not both.

 

  1. The flower on the table (or anything else for that matter) is not for you to take home.

 

  1. If you don’t want to look like a hobo leave the bread, never order the leftover breadbasket “to go.”

 

  1.  Most restaurants offer one brand of coffee… and Starbucks is not one of them.

 

  1. Johnnie Walker blue is not a single malt. Don’t talk about it like it is… again it only makes you look stupid.

 

  1. Courvoisier, or any other cognac is an AFTER DINNER drink, not meant to be drank thorough the meal (unless you’re Chinese).

 

  1. If you will add coke or juice to it… don’t worry about getting the most expensive champagne, cognac, or rum… you’re wasting your money.

 

  1. Don’t buy the cheapest bottle of wine and bitch about the stemware. Next time buy something above $100.00 and see what kind of glasses you get.

 

  1. ALWAYS ask the corkage policy of a restaurant, never assume, and never ever just show up with your wine anyway. It may only mean embarrassment for you and your guests.

 

  1. Its dinner not a fashion show… less is more.

 

  1. No one cares about your broche. So stop telling every one. Ditto with your last vacation.

 

  1. Don’t stare for an hour at your bill making faces… it makes you look cheap.

 

  1. Don’t complain to everyone around you about how small the menu is… with today’s access to technology you could have seen the menu before you got there. Plus less food means fresher ingredients and better-prepared dishes. If you want selection there’s always the local diner or Denny’s.

 

  1. Having seen most of the world I know this: dining (not simply eating) is a privilege. Enjoy it, have fun with it—don’t use it as an outlet for your crabbiness or bitterness. The truth is those that work in hospitality are not getting paid all that much for it but, they love it. They do it because partaking in service, food, wine, etc. bring them pleasure. It brings them pleasure to bring you, hopefully, a little bit of pleasure as well. Does it come with a price? Yes, to both parties in fact: those serving and those being served.

2 thoughts on “Restaurant Etiquette: 100 ways to not look like a douche…

  1. I must disagree with you on the water piece. Before, whenever I went to Jean Georges, I would order a bottle of water so that I didn’t, as you mentioned, appear cheap. I HATE the taste of both brands they sell, and never ever drank it. So I’d fork over $5 for the bottled water each visit, and NEVER drank it. In fact, I never drink anything when I eat, it’s simply a personal preference.

    Not wanting to appear cheap, I ordered the water bottle each time and left with it unopened/untouched on every occasion. After years of this foolishness, I stopped. I realized I was being inauthentic just for appearance sake. Simply put, I don’t drink when I eat. Never have. It spoils the experience for me. And if I do want a sip of water, I prefer tap, since water here in NYC tastes SO good.

    My experience is that many bottled water products on the market have a distinct taste…and the taste is bad. To me, good water is tasteless. I’ve only found Poland Spring and Deer park to be tasteless; all of the others I’ve tasted are disgusting. So my advice is to be true to yourself. If you truly enjoy bottled water, and they carry the brand you enjoy, by all means. But if you don’t enjoy the bottled taste and order just to keep up appearances, shame on you.

  2. I love how the cheapskates always chime in about the water issue. Dude, order wine or sparkling water. If you order tap, you will look like a douche. People always get pissed when I bring this up, but I get embarrassed when I am out with friends and several of them order tap water in a fine restaurant. I say “then stay the fu– home!” This is etiquette.

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