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Valentine's Day - Restaurant Etiquette

Restaurant Etiquette – Valentine’s Day Dining

Valentine’s Day is a nationally celebrated holiday often associated with a romantic dinner out. Good etiquette at restaurants is part of good manners anytime when eating out. But, it especially comes to mind around Valentine’s Day when diners pack restaurant tables to celebrate their romance.

Most servers are trained to treat customers with courtesy and respect, no matter what. But, it’s a two-way street. Diners also have a responsibility to treat wait staff with courtesy and respect.

Here are 8 ways to convey gracious restaurant etiquette for Valentine’s Day dining and be the customers that servers love to serve…and, brag about back in the kitchen!

1. Make reservations well in advance. Weeks in advance! This is especially true on weekend nights and special occasions like Valentine’s Day. If you use a reservation app like OpenTable.com, it even has a section to add a note such as: “We’re celebrating our 10th Valentine’s Day together. If possible, we’d love a table by the window/fireplace/near the pianist, etc.” Then, respect your reservation time by showing up a few minutes early.
2. Focus on the menu early on. It’s frustrating for the server, especially on a busy night, to return to a table three times and the diners still haven’t decided what to order. Ask questions about any menu items early on to help make your decision easily and quickly. And continue the small talk after ordering.
3. Use please and thank-you often. When ordering, say, “May I please have the …” instead of “Give me the…” When the server refills drinks or brings out a new course, say a simple thank-you.

4. Brush up on your table manners. In our busy lives, we tend to go through the drive-thru lane and eat on the go and in the car. But, in a nice restaurant setting, the server will be impressed if you know at least basic table manners, such as using your silverware from the outside of the place setting first and working your way in with each course. Your water glass is on the right of the place setting and your bread plate is on the left. The napkin is placed loosely folded to the left of the plate when you’re finished.
5. Get the server’s attention in a courteous way. If you need extra napkins, a drink refill, or the fork is dirty, try to make eye contact and raise your hand slightly to catch his attention when he is nearby. Never whistle, snap your fingers or say, “Hey!” Start out with, “When you have a moment…” and then add you request. It softens the request and doesn’t come across as demeaning or demanding.
6. Be gracious and give grace. Mistakes happen. And things are not always to your liking…if the table is wobbly, the steak is under-cooked, or the wrong drink was brought out by the bar…do let your server know in a polite manner. But, don’t blame him or her or worse yet, under tip. If you are impolite or rude to the server, it’s a poor reflection on you.
7. Keep your mobile phone tucked away. Give your undivided attention to your dining companion and your server rather than chatting on the phone or texting at the table. On a related note, avoid having loud or emotional conversations at the table.
8. Don’t camp out on a busy night. Allow about 1 ½ -2 hours for a fine-dining 4-course meal. Be considerate of other diners who may be waiting for your table.

Tuck these restaurant etiquette tips into your head before heading out for that romantic Valentine’s dinner. You’ll feel confident and the wait staff will love you!

Rachel Wagner is a licensed business etiquette expert, trainer and speaker. If you would like to learn more dining etiquette tips, you may read her quick blog posts at www.EtiquetteTrainer.com.

If your company or organization needs dining etiquette training for the executive team or sales team, Rachel’s popular Art of Business Dining training session will help refine each employee and give them greater confidence to represent your company with excellence in any business dining setting.