Dining Out During the Holidays

Dining Out During the Holidays

Last week, I had the pleasure of having lunch with my etiquette teacher, mentor and friend, Mrs. Peggy Newfield, president and founder of The American School of Protocol® in Atlanta. We arranged to meet at a restaurant in the Buckhead region of Atlanta. Feeling slightly apprehensive and wanting to make an exemplary impression while dining with the renowned Peggy Newfield, we (my son, a soon to be college graduate, and I) arrived early. After reserving a table for our party of three, I experienced a protocol memory relapse and became unsure if we should be seated at the table or wait for Mrs. Newfield in the lobby. I decided upon the latter.

As more and more lunch patrons arrived and upon hearing the host state that the Friday “rush” would be starting soon, I decided to be escorted to our table. Once seated, I knew to leave the napkin on the table and not eat, drink or order until my special guest arrived. Our server came and introduced herself. I reiterated that we were expecting another diner and informed her that I would be handling the bill. Peggy soon arrived. Upon standing, proper introductions and greetings were extended per protocol. We enjoyed a fabulous lunch and first-class decorum was demonstrated throughout the meal.

My experience prompted me to share and reiterate tips on restaurant etiquette and social dining. This holiday season, adhere to the tips I am providing and leave your uncertainties at home. My desire is for you to relax, exemplify decorum and enjoy your special time with others.

Restaurant Dining

  • Make reservation in advance. If you are unable to honor a reservation, place a cancellation courtesy call.
  • Introductions and greetings should be made while standing.
  • Ask the server to replace the dining utensils if they are dirty. Do not clean tableware in a restaurant.
  • Try to order the same number of courses as the majority of the guests at the table. If others are ordering appetizers, salads, soups or desserts, follow suit.
  • When excusing yourself from the table, do so after you order or between courses.
  • Wait until all are served before you begin to eat your meal.
  • Buffet style – wait until at least half of the table guests have returned before you indulge.
  • Iced Tea – stir quietly using a half-moon motion. Your neighbor at the other table should not hear you stirring your beverage.
  • Avoid loud conversations; be respectful of other diners.
  • Tasting other’s entrées is acceptable as long as it is done at the beginning of the meal, before any silverware is used. Pass your bread plate to the person whose food you want to taste and let that person cut a small bite and place it on your bread plate.
  • Toothpicks and dental floss are not to be used in public places. If something is lodged between your teeth, take care of the problem in the restroom.
  • The standard tip is 15-18. In upscale restaurants, 20 is customary. For those of you who will be extending your time at the table during the holidays, leave more than the standard tip. Take into consideration the additional customers your waiter could have served.

Home Holiday Affairs with Friends

  • R.S.V.P. in a timely manner to allow the host to prepare properly. When responding, you can obtain additional information about the affair. i.e., dress attire, what to bring, etc.
  • Bring the host a small gift, but show discretion when presenting and don’t bring items that require a lot of immediate attention, e.g., flowers not in a vase.
  • Be timely and don’t overstay your visit. Adhere to the times on the invitation.
  • Refrain from bringing uninvited guests.
  • Guests should not be required to remove their footwear unless dictated by culture.
  • Inform the host if you accidentally break or spill something.
  • After the event, make sure you express your gratitude by sending a timely note of appreciation.

Why not give a little extra as you journey through this “Season of Giving.” A kind word, a smile, a sincere compliment, and possibly a generous tip are just a few inexpensive ways you can bring joy to others and spread the holiday cheer.

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Tina Hayes is the founder and owner of The School of Etiquette and Decorum in Antioch, CA. As a passionate instructor dedicated to providing quality and professional etiquette training to her clients, Mrs. Tina Hayes promotes the awareness that social presentation and behaviors are important to be successful in today's society for all ages.