The Dos and Don’ts of Restaurant Etiquette: A Guide for Diners

Whether you’re a seasoned restaurant-goer or a newbie to the fine dining scene, knowing the dos and don’ts of restaurant etiquette can make all the difference in your dining experience. In this guide, we’ll take you through some essential tips and tricks to ensure that you have a comfortable and enjoyable meal.

From knowing when to arrive and how to order, to how much to tip and how to handle any mishaps that may occur during your meal, we’ve got you covered. We’ll also provide insights into cultural differences in dining etiquette, so you’ll be prepared for any situation.

Not only will following proper restaurant etiquette make you a more considerate diner, but it will also help you avoid any awkward or embarrassing moments during your meal. Whether you’re dining for business or pleasure, whether you’re ordering just a cup of coffee or a full dish of Bangkok salad (find a recipe for that dish here: with some wine and dessert included, being aware of restaurant etiquette can enhance the experience for you and your fellow diners.

So, let’s dive in and discover the dos and don’ts of restaurant etiquette, and make your next dining experience one to remember!

Rules of Restaurant Etiquette

Now that we’ve established why restaurant etiquette is so important, let’s dive into the rules to follow for proper dining etiquette. Following these tips will not only ensure that you have a pleasant dining experience, but it will also show respect for the restaurant staff and fellow diners.

  1. Be courteous to servers and fellow diners: A polite and friendly demeanor goes a long way in any social setting, especially in a restaurant. Greet your server with a smile and say please and thank you when making requests. Don’t forget to be mindful of your volume and refrain from using your cell phone during the meal, as it can be disruptive to those around you.
  2. Be punctual and respectful of reservation times: If you’ve made a reservation, be sure to arrive on time or even a few minutes early. This shows respect for the restaurant and helps ensure that other diners are not kept waiting. If you’re running late, give the restaurant a call and let them know, as this can be very helpful in managing their reservations.
  3. Observe dress codes and adhere to restaurant policies: Some restaurants have dress codes or policies that guests are expected to follow. It’s important to be aware of these before arriving to avoid any awkward situations. Dress appropriately for the occasion and be sure to follow any policies such as no outside food or drinks.
  4. Use utensils properly and follow dining etiquette: Proper use of utensils and adherence to dining etiquette can help make the dining experience more enjoyable for everyone. Start with the utensils on the outside and work your way in with each course. Avoid resting utensils on the table and place them on the plate between bites. Remember to keep elbows off the table and sit up straight to show respect for the meal and those around you.
  5. Tip appropriately and express gratitude for good service: Tipping is an important part of restaurant etiquette, and it’s important to be aware of what’s appropriate for the restaurant you’re dining at. In the United States, it’s customary to tip between 15-20% of the total bill. If you receive exceptional service, consider leaving a higher tip to show your appreciation. Additionally, expressing gratitude verbally to your server can go a long way in making their day and ensuring that you receive excellent service in the future.

Don’ts of Restaurant Etiquette

While discussing restaurant etiquette, it’s also important to be aware of what should never be done. Avoiding these behaviors can help ensure that your dining experience is pleasant and enjoyable for all.

  1. Don’t be rude or dismissive to servers or fellow diners: This is perhaps the most important rule of restaurant etiquette. It’s important to treat those around you with respect and kindness, especially those who are serving you. Avoid snapping your fingers, shouting, or speaking down to servers, as this can make them feel undervalued and disrespected. Additionally, avoid making rude or inappropriate comments to your fellow diners, as this can make the dining experience uncomfortable for everyone.
  2. Don’t be late or change reservations without notice: As we mentioned earlier, it’s important to arrive on time for your reservation or give the restaurant notice if you’re running late. Changing a reservation without notice can be disruptive to the restaurant’s scheduling and may lead to other diners being turned away.
  3. Don’t violate dress codes or ignore restaurant policies: Be sure to read the restaurant’s dress code and policies before arriving, and adhere to them accordingly. Ignoring these policies can be seen as disrespectful to the restaurant and may make other diners uncomfortable.
  4. Don’t eat in a loud or obnoxious manner: While it’s certainly enjoyable to savor your meal, it’s important to do so in a way that’s not disruptive to those around you. Avoid making loud chewing or slurping noises, as this can be off-putting to fellow diners. Additionally, try to avoid talking with your mouth full or making loud conversation that may disturb those around you.
  5. Don’t under-tip or complain excessively about minor issues: Tipping is an important part of restaurant etiquette, and it’s important to be aware of what’s appropriate for the restaurant you’re dining at. Additionally, complaining excessively about minor issues can be seen as petty and disrespectful to the restaurant staff. If there is a problem with your meal or service, bring it to your server’s attention in a polite and respectful manner.

Special Situations

While the dos and don’ts of restaurant etiquette apply in most situations, there are some special circumstances that require additional consideration. Here are some tips for handling these situations with grace and professionalism:

  1. Etiquette for group dining and splitting the bill: When dining with a large group, it’s important to be mindful of others’ preferences and needs. When splitting the bill, be sure to communicate clearly and fairly with the group. If you’re the one organizing the outing, consider discussing payment options with the restaurant ahead of time to avoid any confusion. Additionally, be aware of your own behavior during the meal, as it can have an impact on the experience of those around you.
  2. Etiquette for business dining and networking: When dining for business purposes, it’s important to present yourself in a professional manner. Be sure to dress appropriately, arrive on time, and be prepared to engage in conversation related to the purpose of the meeting. Avoid discussing controversial or personal topics, and be respectful of others’ opinions and backgrounds. Additionally, be aware of your table manners, as they can convey a great deal about your professionalism and attention to detail.
  3. Etiquette for dining with children or infants: When dining with children or infants, it’s important to be mindful of other diners’ experiences. Be sure to bring items to entertain and occupy your child, such as books or toys, to avoid any disruptions. Additionally, be sure to clean up any messes your child may make, and be aware of any rules or policies the restaurant may have regarding children. If your child becomes upset or disruptive, consider taking them outside until they’ve calmed down.