Top 8 Restaurant Etiquette Tips

Spring is a time of year I start to think about dining out more and inviting friends to join me. The weather is better now and restaurants promote the plentiful local seasonal produce on their menus, which I love.

Here are my top 8 tips on restaurant etiquette to keep in mind. These are different from my pet peeves. See Restaurant Pet Peeves as a reminder. (Also at:

  1. Call to cancel a reservation. A restaurant’s biggest pet peeve is when someone makes a reservation and doesn’t show up or contact them to release the reservation. If you remember only one tip from this article, it’s to always call the restaurant if you need to cancel your reservation. It’s the right thing to do.
  2. Call when you are late. The second biggest pet peeve is when the guest is late and the restaurant has given away your table. Almost everyone has a cell phone these days, so you have no excuse. Call the restaurant no later than the time of your reservation to let them know—out of courtesy—you’ll be late and to please hold the table for you. Restaurants will give your table away after 10-15 minutes if they don’t hear from you.
  3. Waiters and the restaurant are not your servants. Always treat waiters with respect. Don’t order the staff around in a tone that’s unbecoming of a well-educated, kind, and gentle person. Begin each request with a “please” and end with a “thank-you.”
  4. Don’t be a picky eater. What annoys waiters and bothers me is to be with someone who asks lots of questions about how several of the dishes are prepared, and then tells the waiter to instruct the chef to cook it in certain ways. Unless you have allergies, if you aren’t there to enjoy the chef’s creations and restaurant’s cuisine, stay home and cook. Dining at fine restaurants means enjoying the chef’s “art,” like going to a gallery or museum.
  5. Leave disagreements for later. While at the restaurant, never allow a situation to become heated. Keep your cool and enjoy the company of the others at the table. There’s nothing worse than having the “taste” of an argument  linger throughout the evening. If you have a grievance or complaint, make note of the staff person’s name and call the manager immediately afterward. Making a scene while still at the restaurant is unpleasant for everyone.
  6. You don’t like the food or wine. Do you send it back? The trend today, especially at high-end restaurants, is not to send food or wine back just because you don’t like it. If your medium-rare steak arrives well done, you might mention it when the waiter asks. However, keeping it allows your business lunch or dinner with friends to flow smoothly, without the disruption of waiting for your replaced dish to arrive.
  7. Leave an appropriate tip. The trend again in medium to high-end restaurants is to provide a minimum 18 to 20% gratuity for services, including for wine. This amount encompasses the intricacies of food preparation, ambiance, and the level of care and service provided by multiple staff members. A 15% tip is still appropriate at inexpensive restaurants. Do remember, only tip on the subtotal.  If you tip on the grand total you are tipping on the tax.
  8. Thank the wait staff. When it comes to saying thank-you to servers and other staff, do so at any point during the dining experience and especially as you leave. This is the perfect time to share your comments about how much you enjoyed the service, the food, and other experiences. Doing so often carries more weight than the big gratuity you left.

What other tips or comments do you have to share?  Please post them in the area below. I’d enjoy hearing from you and others will too!

Happy Practicing!

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2 Responses to "Top 8 Restaurant Etiquette Tips"

  • Faylinn says:
    • Syndi Seid says: