Archive for category Dining Etiquette
Cindy Post Senning, January 26 2012
There are many foods that present a classic dilemma for diners young and old. The question is, “fork or fingers?” The answer is sometimes definitive – you definitely eat your peas and mashed potatoes with a fork. That’s a no-brainer. But how about french fries? It’s a sometimes fingers/sometimes forks answer: If the food the french fries are served with is a finger food – a sandwich or a hot dog on a bun – you can eat the french fries with your fingers also. If the food is a fork food – steak or a broiled chicken cutlet, for instance – then you eat the french fries with a fork.
One other basic rule of thumb has to do with ketchup and gravy. If you’ve smothered your french fries with either, you should use a fork to eat them.
However you manage them, french fries can be pretty delicious. Enjoy!
More Articles on Dining Etiquette
Subscribe to our FREE Monthly Newsletter
Assess your Executive Presence with our Self-Assessment Tool
Globe & Mail
Chris Nuttall-Smith, April 14 2012
My wife and I have the same argument every time we go out for dinner. We’ve been having it for 27 years. She says it’s rude to leave the table to use the facilities while there’s food in front of you. I say if ya gotta go, ya gotta go. Is there some sort of rule I haven’t heard of? Because, aside from my wife, I’ve never heard anybody else complain.
If you’ve got to go, I suppose you do, though I can’t help wondering why, after 27 years, you haven’t just learned to squeeze in a good tinkle immediately after ordering your food. (We are just talking about tinkling here, correct?)
As to whether there’s a rule: No, there is not. But if you leave the table with a plate of food in front of you, the food gets cold and your wife has to eat alone. Plus, with apologies to the overactive-bladder set, there’s something just kind of weird about taking four bites of food and then heading to the loo.
Listen to your wife, bub. She’s a good and patient woman. And maybe lay off the pre-dinner Super Big Gulps, too.
More Articles on Dining Etiquette
Subscribe to our FREE Monthly Newsletter
Assess your Executive Presence with our Self-Assessment Tool
Globe and Mail
Dave McGinn, March 13
There’s a war on bringing kids to restaurants, and parents are losing the battle. Last month, Grant Central Pizza, in Atlanta, printed a note on its menu banning crying children from the restaurant. In July, a Pennsylvania restaurant banned children under 6, crying or no crying. Even many restaurants with no bans don’t exactly roll out the welcome mat for families. Taking your kids out to eat can be a fraught experience, but it doesn’t have to be. You just have to know how to do it properly.
You can bring kids to any restaurant, so long as you will have paid and left by 8 p.m. After that you’re trespassing on grown-ups-only time. Turns out 5 p.m. can be a happy hour for families, too.
When you bring your progeny out to eat, you’re asking more than usual of wait staff (See: WAITER) – replacing spilled juices, picking up dropped toys, bringing you crayons, speeding things up just enough so that you can still make it home in time for bedtime. Such service deserves an added reward. Leave a gratuity of at least 20 per cent. And if there’s salmon mashed into upholstery or peas all over the floor, consider throwing in a little extra.
The best ally you have. Make friends immediately. Be very courteous and grateful. And ask for something to nibble on as soon as you’re seated.
Do it quickly. It’s best to call ahead to see if the restaurant has a kid’s menu. If it doesn’t, consider ordering a meal for yourself that your kids might opt to eat if their meal isn’t to their liking. And if your kid is a picky eater, now is not the time to force porcinis on them.
Babies cry at restaurants, because babies cry everywhere. You have one minute to soothe them at the table. After that, take them outside (See: OUTSIDE) or to the bathroom as a courtesy to other patrons.
Your refuge when problems – crying, hyperactivity, garden-variety fits and full-blown tantrums – cannot be quickly solved inside.
MAKING A BREAK FOR IT
Lasso that toddler immediately. This is a restaurant, not a playground. Provide distractions. (See: DISTRACTIONS)
Never leave home without packing essential diversionary objects, be they colouring books, a favourite toy or an abridged Anna Karenina. You will need to keep your children occupied. It’s not the bartender’s job to supply you with markers.
TEENS AND CELLPHONE USE
Absolutely forbidden. Use this outing as a chance to instruct your teens on proper dining etiquette. (But be sure to make this clear before you arrive.)
Not a given. Dangle dessert as a reward for good behaviour. (Remember: You may need to make a break for it.)
Other diners may give you the dreaded stink eye for bringing your children along. Offer them a smile and then ignore them. Unless your kids commit an actual restaurant offence it’s the stink-eye givers who are in the wrong.
Ask for one close to the bathroom. You’ll be glad you did.
Pamela Eyring, February 27th 2012
The ways in which business gets done in today’s global marketplace is evolving at a rapid rate. Even in the midst of new paradigms and emerging technologies, one thing remains constant: big deals often come together over meals.
Given that a simple faux pas at the table can make the difference between being shown the money or the door, it’s time to review the Do’s and Don’ts of Business Dining. 1. Be On Time.
Timeliness is among the first and most significant impressions you can make at a meal or event. If you are the host, being there first to greet your guests demonstrates a level of professionalism and consideration that will be noticed and appreciated. Similarly, if you are a guest, arriving on time makes a very positive statement about your expectations for the meal and the relationship. No matter what Hollywood or style gurus might have you believe, nothing demonstrates a lack of respect more than being “fashionably late.” 2. Turn Off All Devices Before Being Seated.
Whether you’re the guest or the host, your dining companions should have your undivided attention during your time together. Your phone should never leave your pocket or purse during a meal, let alone see the top of the table. This is your chance to demonstrate that you value your companion enough to give 100 percent of your time and attention during the meal. 3. Follow Good Form.
Practicing good form at the dining table is a subtle but effective way to demonstrate your level of professionalism. Simple rules to consider include the following:
- Always open your napkin and place it on your lap below table level. Keep it on your lap at all times, not tucked into your collar. If you need to leave the table for a period of time, place it on the seat of your chair. At the end of the meal, place it loosely to the left of your plate.
- Use flatware (cutlery) from the outside in. Once you pick up and use a piece of silverware, it shouldn’t touch the table. When you are finished with your meal, place your knife and fork on the plate so that the handles are on the lower right edge (20 after the hour on a clock) and the tips on the upper left (10:00). This allows a waiter to see you are finished and assists during the removal of the plate.
- Never “borrow” food from another’s place setting. When you are seated, assess your setting with BMW (Bread, Meal, Water) in mind. That is, your Bread plate is always on your left, your Meal is in the middle, and your Water is always on your right. This will save you the embarrassment of inadvertently using or drinking from your companion’s place setting. 4. Savor The Opportunity And The Meal.
While you may be on the clock at work during a business meal, don’t let the clock dictate the pace of conversation or the speed with which you enjoy the dining experience. Instead, focus on making the most of this opportunity to connect and build your business relationship. If you are hosting, never pressure or hurry your guest in any way. They should feel like a welcomed and wanted guest. 5. Mother Knows Best.
Remember what your mother taught you. That’s right! All those bits of motherly advice still apply: sit up straight, take small bites, chew with your mouth closed, never talk with your mouth full, participate in the conversation, keep your toys (i.e. your phone, purse, notebook, etc.) off the table, and for goodness’ sake, be nice to your server.
While knowing how to conduct oneself at the table may seem small when negotiating an important deal or discussion, in reality, it’s a valuable asset. No matter where you go in the world or how high up the ladder you climb, discerning business professionals will always recognize and respect your professionalism.
Globe & Mail
July 9 2012
If somebody at a dinner party hardly touches their food, should I ask them if they didn’t like it? That’s what they do in restaurants, but my girlfriend says it’s rude.
As with any situation involving friends around a table, it’s a matter of context. Is this your former glow-in-the-dark-naked-Twister-league partner we’re talking about or your new boss’s uptight second husband? Is the setting light and casual or more formal than that? Either way, I’d probably ask: quietly and discreetly in a more formal situation, loudly and accusingly at a casual dinner with friends. (“What, so now you’re too good for my tempeh and mung sprout soup, punk?”) Whatever the problem, your job as host is to try and show your guests a good time. Maybe that means fetching them an aspirin, offering something else to eat (within reason, of course) or getting them a fresh plate without the half-eaten tomato hornworm on it. But you’re never going to know until you ask.
Globe & Mail
January 7 2012
Over the past few years, my wife and I have become wine snobs and regularly drink $40-to-$50 bottles. Our problem is when we go to friends’ homes or any party. We stand out because we bring our own stemware and people are always curious about what we are drinking. Our bottles are hard to protect in a sea of lower-end wines and we stand out as unfriendly if we do not share. How do you handle this?
Have you ever thought that the reason you “stand out as unfriendly” is that you are unfriendly?
When you bring wine to a party, your wine becomes the party’s wine. That’s why a party is called a “party” instead of a “drinking at home alone.” For events that don’t involve a meal, the solution is simple: A good wine-shop consultant will happily find you amazing bottles for $15 – bottles that you’d struggle to differentiate from the $50 stuff. Bring three of those and open two (one should be given to the host as a gift). Now you have enough to drink and enough to share and it cost you the same. If it’s a dinner party, the cook might already have wines selected for the meal; be sure to ask in advance. As for the fancy glassware, leave it at home, bub. Nobody brings their own stems to a party without looking like a total jerk.
Globe & Mail
February 17 2012
If I’m forced to sit at a communal table in a restaurant or at a large gathering, do I also have to socialize with the strangers seated around me?
While you have no duty to ask after your tablemates’ families, health or take on the Canadian economy’s crippling productivity gap, you should at least look them in the eye and say hello when you first sit down. You should do this because, if you don’t, you’ll look tortured and pathetic or, worse, like someone from Toronto – I have seen diners here do everything short of install Plexiglas partitions to prolong the illusion that they’re not sitting next to people they don’t know.
Besides, communal seating isn’t all bad. That renaissance degenerate with the greasy hair and scabid-looking skin who’s eyeing your potted salmon from across the table might actually be charming and lovely or even one of the members of Nickelback. You could be sitting with a rock star (or a member of Nickelback). If you don’t say hi, you’ll never know.
February 16 2012
Last Saturday I volunteered as a server and wine steward at the Matthews Estate Valentine’s dinner in Woodinville. It was an opportunity to keep my server and customer service skills sharp. As a journalist covering the restaurant industry, it’s my job’s version of continuing education.
I worked under the direction of Eric Swikard and Jenna Barnett, who are engaged to each other, appropriate for the Valentine’s dinner. Swikard, the brand ambassador for Matthews’ sister winery Tenor, was in charge of the wines. Barnett was the chef for the night. Together they are Ken and Barbie but with substance and a refined palate to boot.
Swikard leaned over during dinner service to rhetorically ask, “Isn’t she the most beautiful chef?”
Saturday’s dinner was a reminder of proper dining etiquette. It is also a reminder of the rigors of the restaurant industry. Timing and teamwork are of the essence. Patience and pressure tug at each other all night. Anticipation of guests’ needs as well as sensing their apprehensions is critical to successful service.
It’s humbling to experience dining from the producer’s perspective. And I only had to pour wine and clear plates for 24 guests. My hat’s off to restaurant professionals around the world.
And that’s the first dining etiquette observation and a personal pet peeve; please remove your hat when you sit down to dinner. I get it, you think you look cool in your hipster knit cap or period fedora. You don’t. And it’s rude. Hats were created to protect men and women from the elements. Don’t bring the elements tableside. The attention it brings to your table is unbecoming.
Also unbecoming is waving arms, screaming across the room or snapping fingers to get the attention of your server. It is not advised unless you want soup on your fly–the fly on your pants. Most experienced servers are adept at reading tables, picking up on cues whether guests require attention or privacy. If your table requires attention, make eye contact with your server or gently flag the closest front of house staff and ask for your server.
While addressing servers, don’t say anything you wouldn’t say to your mother. Lewd, crude, misogynistic, condescending, offensive or oppressive language is off-limits. Treat the staff with respect and the service will reflect that.
Much of the arm waving and finger snapping are by guests who think they are neglected. Serving a round table of eight guests calls for etiquette. Women are served first followed by the men. Call it chivalry, call it old-fashioned–I call it proper manners. Gentlemen, I did not forget you. Your wine glass will be filled after all the ladies’ glasses are filled.
About the wine: drink responsibly. Know your limit lest your companions know you don’t know your limit. At winemaker dinners odds are there will be plenty of wine. Pace yourself. There will be plenty of wine if you want to revisit a particular wine later.
At finer restaurants with dedicated wine programs, wine is often served in fine crystal glassware with large bowls. Wine glasses will be poured a third, even a quarter full of 5 to 6 ounces of wine. I prefer 5 ounces of wine in a large wine glass than 5 ounces in a small glass filled to the rim. The large bowl allows the wine to aerate, open up and grow in complexity. You are not being stiffed when your wine glass is a third or a quarter full. It doesn’t mean you are a pessimist, either. Once you are done with your first glass, politely ask for a refill. Most restaurants will oblige unless you appear intoxicated.
To help pace your drinking, eat the food. I know it sounds like obvious advice. Unfortunately, guests who drink more than they eat present symptoms of intoxication by about the third course.
Make reservations if a restaurant offers the option, even when you think there will be plenty of tables available when you arrive. Most restaurants will hold a table up to 15 minutes after the reservation time. If you are running late, call the restaurant to advise them of your schedule.
When making reservations detail dietary preferences, restrictions and allergies. Most restaurants will be accommodating. The more notice you give the restaurant, the more accommodating they can be.
Should you decide against dining at that restaurant, cancel your reservation as soon as possible. Failing to cancel your reservation is like committing to your college roommate’s wedding and failing to attend.
Much like you had to coexist with college roommates, be mindful of your dining neighbors. That means speak in the appropriate volume, don’t answer your mobile phone and refrain from excessive perfume or cologne. Diners around you probably don’t want to hear about your job, business deal, romantic life or family life.
“Don’t wear so much perfume or cologne so people can enjoy the smells and tastes of the food,” said Faith Ramos, who has worked in fine dining restaurants across the country, including Campagne at the Pike Place Market. “You are at the restaurant to enjoy the food.”
Graciously leave at a reasonable time. Don’t overstay. Just like you wouldn’t want guests you entertain in your home to stay two hours past your bedtime, you don’t want to be the restaurant guest who is left two hours after everyone else has left. If you are thinking, “But, who would …?” Yes, that happens more regularly than you would think.
The end of this column brings me to the end of the evening; remember to tip your servers. For the record, I do not accept payment (including gratuity) when I work functions such as last Saturday’s dinner.
Restaurant professionals work extremely hard. Front of house staff are often paid minimum wage. They rely on gratuity to make a living. Furthermore, they are required to tip back the host/ess, bus people, the wine team and in some cases the kitchen staff.
Your gratuity is critical to a balanced restaurant ecology. Around 18 percent is standard these days. Restaurant professionals are consistently the most generous tippers, sometimes leaving 33 percent and in some extreme cases 50 percent gratuity. If the service warrants it, don’t be afraid to be generous. It’s good karma.
February 16 2012
For more than 30 years, Tim Zagat, the co-founder and CEO of the famed Zagat Survey of restaurants, has been helping diners find the perfect meal out. Now Zagat reveals 10 new etiquette rules that will change a food lover’s dining experience for the better.
Zagat and his wife, Nina, first started rating and reviewing restaurants in 1979. The attorneys have since turned their hobby into a gastronomical bible for diners in more than 100 countries.
“We ask customers to rate food, décor and the service. We have lots of filters to make sure restaurants aren’t voting for themselves,” Zagat said on Thursday on CTV’s Canada AM.
That search for the world’s best eateries has also allowed Zagat to make an interesting observation.
“I think people are using rules of etiquette that are out of date,” said Zagat.
To update those guidelines, Zagat offered these 10 new rules of dining etiquette :
Women and men should be treated as equals in a restaurant. Still, a plurality of diners say that men are treated better than women. The explanation given is that men are more likely to pay the bill and tip. How dated can you be? She probably earns more than you.
2. Paying for it
Whoever initiates a dinner date pays. Long ago, women were handed menus with no prices on them. Nowadays, whoever did the inviting should be expected to pay for the meal, unless you’ve worked out another arrangement in advance.
3. Ordering food
Forget gender — people should order when they are ready. Sorry, Emily Post, but gone are the days when women were expected to go first. Since menus can be long and complex, regardless of your sex it’s a courtesy to order first and buy your tablemates a bit more time to decide.
4. Handheld vices
Do not talk, text, tweet, email or surf the web at table. It’s rude, say 63 per cent of diners. A whopping 73 per cent advise turning off those ringers. If you have urgent business to deal with, step away from the table briefly to handle matters.
5. Kids, kids, kids
It’s fine to bring children to dinner in most restaurants. But don’t do it at places where they’d elevate the decibel level or restaurants that are meant to be romantic. Zagat surveyors split over the age at which children should be allowed to accompany their parents to a restaurant: 38 per cent say from birth while the same per cent argue five years or older. Tellingly, 61 per cent believe that restaurants should be able to ban children.
6. Dressing down or up
Dress casually. This is known as the “Los Angelization of dining.” Hardly any restaurants require ties and jackets anymore. The tiny minority of restaurants that do will not object if you put your jacket over the back of your chair. About the only rule that is left today is “don’t be a slob.” Alternatively, you may want to “dress up” to impress your companion.
7. Serious reservations
People should treat dining reservations as important commitments. Honour your restaurant reservations or cancel them on time. Holding an empty table for a no-show does real damage to a restaurant. If you make reservations and fail to cancel in advance, you’ll deservedly become persona non grata at the restaurant.
8. Okay, now get out
Don’t overstay your welcome at a busy restaurant. Take your time and enjoy your food, wine, conversation and after-dinner treats. Nobody should ever feel rushed. But interestingly, 60 per cent of Zagat surveyors nationally supported the idea of restaurants setting time limits on tables during peak hours. Remember, next time you may be the one waiting in line.
9. Long live chivalry
Men go through doors first and then hold them open for women. We know, we know. This is the one rule of chivalry that will never die, even if it’s been updated (men used to allow women to go first). Two people can’t go through a door at the same time. To women out there who find this notion antiquated, please, humour these poor men. Let them get the door — they’ll let you get the bill or walk on the outside once out on the street.
10. Remember you’re the customer
The customer is always right. Too often customers feel they are being judged by the wait staff. That’s wrong. Short of berating the waiter, you should expect to receive hospitable, efficient service and good food at any restaurant. If that doesn’t happen, take your money elsewhere and tell the next 10 people that you meet.
New York Times
Sarah DiGregorio, January 17 2012
JULIE SAHNI vividly remembers the first time she had to eat with utensils. Ms. Sahni, a New York-based cookbook author and cooking teacher, grew up in India eating the traditional way, with her right hand. Then, in college, she won a dance competition that would take her to Europe. How, she wondered, would she eat?
The answer was a three-day immersion course in Western dining etiquette, which progressed from soup (don’t let the spoon clatter on the bowl) to green beans (spear them without sending them into your neighbor’s lap) and finally a slippery hard-boiled egg. Ms. Sahni, 66, mastered the knife and fork, but she has never really liked them.
“Eating with the hands evokes great emotion,” she said. “It kindles something very warm and gentle and caressing. Using a fork is unthinkable in traditional Indian eating. It is almost like a weapon.”
Eating with the hands is common in many areas of the world, including parts of Asia and much of Africa and the Middle East. But until recently, you would have been hard-pressed to find many restaurants in the United States — especially those with $20 or $30 entrees — where digging in manually was encouraged. Now, several high-profile chefs are asking diners to get their hands dirty, in the belief that it heightens the sensual connection to food and softens the formality of fine dining.
When the chef Roy Choi surveys the busy dining room of A-Frame, his restaurant in Culver City, Calif., only one thing can dampen his mood: cutlery. “I see people cutting kalbi ribs like a steak, and it’s like fingernails on a chalkboard,” he said.
A-Frame, whose eclectic menu Mr. Choi says was inspired by Hawaiian cuisine, is utensils optional. Though a basket of silverware is provided at each table, when the grilled pork chop or market salad arrives, servers advise customers that they’ll be missing out if they pick up a fork. “Then there are a lot of questions like ‘Am I really supposed to?’ and ‘Is there something else I need?’ ” Mr. Choi said. “But the moment we answer ‘yes’ and ‘no,’ people usually just go for it.”
He had thought he might have to provide finger bowls, as many restaurants do in other countries, but hands-on eating proved to be much neater than expected. “You eat with conviction and passion when using your hands,” Mr. Choi said. “I hope that people let their guard down and throw out some of the rules we have regarding etiquette and connect like animals.”
Etiquette, as a matter of fact, is central to most traditions of hand-to-mouth eating; the artfulness and ritual of the practice is part of what people love about it. Hand-washing often comes first. In Muslim communities, a prayer of thanks comes next. Only then can one reach in — usually with just the right hand — to eat.
And dining with the hands is not necessarily easy: in some regions, including parts of India, it is most polite to use your thumb, pointer and middle finger, and to let only the first two joints of those fingers touch the food.
Details differ from place to place, but often rice or flatbread is used to ferry food to the mouth — think of Indian roti and naan, Ethiopian injera or Middle Eastern pita. Central and Southern Africans pound root vegetables or corn into starchy mashes like fufu or ugali; you’re meant to pull off a bite-size ball and use it as an edible scoop.
Ms. Sahni refuses to eat Indian food with a knife and fork, even in the most formal South Asian restaurants in New York. “I don’t care if I’m all dressed up, if everyone else is eating with a knife and fork, if the wine pairing is $80,” she said. “It’s essential.”
When she reaches in with her right hand, others are often happy to follow suit. But it wasn’t always that way. She remembers an Indian restaurant in Manhattan that, in the 1970s, had unofficial sections for Indians and non-Indians. She says the owners explained that Indians didn’t want non-Indians to see them eating with their hands and that Westerners didn’t want to see it, either.
Today, the writer Amitav Ghosh says he doesn’t go to Indian restaurants in London and New York because eating with hands is discouraged. “They regard this essential aspect of the cuisine with a kind of embarrassment,” he said.
In the United States, most run-of-the-mill restaurants, with the exception of Ethiopian spots, do not forbid the practice, but do not encourage it, either.
One Manhattan restaurant that does encourage it is Tulsi, Hemant Mathur’s upscale Indian outpost in Midtown. Upon delivering dishes like goat curry with roti or stewed chickpeas with puffy bread, servers tell patrons they are best eaten with the hands.
At the New York restaurants Fatty Crab and Fatty ’Cue, the chef, Zakary Pelaccio, provides silverware but hopes that the nature of his signature dishes, like chili crab and barbecue, will inspire diners to use their hands. Convinced that the sense of touch is integral to good eating, he eats just about everything except soup with his hands. He even named his new cookbook after the practice: “Eat With Your Hands,” to be released in April. “I eat with my hands today, and not just because it would be a serious shame to let utensils slow me down,” Mr. Pelaccio writes. “It has become a sort of philosophy of mine — a metaphor for life.”
In Los Angeles, Bistronomics, a long-running pop-up restaurant inside Breadbar, presented a no-utensils menu last spring. The $65 prix fixe, created by the chefs Jet Tila and Alex Ageneau, included dishes like salt cod croquettes with zucchini purée and grilled lamb chops with carrot confit. The chefs plan another dinner like it this spring.
“It creates more of a social atmosphere,” said Mr. Tila, who grew up in Hollywood. “It brings us back to our childhood, and it seems to lighten the mood in the room.”
A glimmer of this idea has even made it to the White House. When the New York chef Marcus Samuelsson prepared the state dinner for India’s prime minister in 2009, he included a bread course (unusual at such events) of naan and corn bread with dips. “What could be better than for people who don’t know each other, from all over the world, to break bread together?” he said.
In fact, Mr. Samuelsson expects that as American fine dining evolves, flatware may become more and more optional. “I think there will be a four-star restaurant where knives and forks are used, but not for every course,” he said. “ ‘Great’ does not have to mean one narrative, the European narrative.”