Modern Table Manners: 10 Fun Tips for Fine Dining

About Table Manners

Table manners evolved from a set of code of conducts originated from the French royal court of King Louis XIV (1638-1715) . Unlike King Louis XIV, who had an audience to watch him dine at every meal while he resided at the illustrious Versailles, going out for a dining experience nowadays is much more relaxed. Table manners became a guideline of expected respectable behaviors. At upscale restaurants, table manners serve as a set of communication signals. Well trained staffs watch for your signals and provide for you accordingly.

To shed the impression of rigid regarding table manners, here are 10 fun tips to help you feel much more enjoyable at your next upscale dining experience. Besides the usual “chew with your mouth closed” and “use your utensils from the ouside inward”, some table manners happen before you even reach your table. Some might take your by surprise.

the adorable fold up menu at Bodega on Main in Vancouver BC
the adorable fold up menu at Bodega on Main in Vancouver BC, an authentic Spanish tapas and dish restaurant

One: Reservation

Allow the restaurant to be prepared for your arrival. Besides convenience, a reservation shows a number of things about you and those you will be dining with. Firstly, it shows that you value your guests because you have taken the time to prepare for the occasion. Secondly, a reservation will always help to make sure your needs can be accomplished to the best of the restaurant’s abilities. Vegan or gluten free options, a table closer to the view, etc. Imagine if a friend shows up at your home without notice and demand to have seafood linguine for dinner. You get the idea.

Two: Be Five Minutes Early

A restaurant’s goal is to fill all of its tables for all of its rotations. If you made a reservation and showed up 20 minutes later, the chances are your table will be filled. Call ahead if you will be late. Do not show up late in frustration and demand a new table.

Three: Check That Coat

Upscale restaurants often offer free coat check service. This is for two significant reasons. It is for the benefit of the customers not having to sacrifice the comfort of half of their seat to store their heavy coats. It is also to avoid damage to your coat. Coats fallen off the chair and being stepped on is just as bad as if dishes or drinks fell upon them accidentally. If you still wish to keep your coat with you, do your best so the coat do not touch the ground.

Mittz Kitchen menu and drinks photo by Kaila So
Mittz Kitchen menu and drinks photo by Kaila So

Four: Save that Tea or Coffee until After the Meal

Tea and coffee have a strong robust taste and caffeine that pollutes the taste palate against the upcoming appetizers. Traditionally, cold drinks are preferred. Juice, cocktail, wine, even just ice water are acceptable before meal candidates. Nowadays most upscale restaurants do not oppose to ordering tea or coffee before meal. However, if you must order hot drinks, I would recommend just having hot water, or ask for a weaker tasting tea combination such as less tea leave green tea.

Five: Do not Rush the Ordering Procedure

Your waiting staff will come to your table multiple times before the ordering of the food. Each visit serves a purpose so do not rush the staff.

  1. First visit: The staff will make a self-introduction and ask if the table would like cold water (tap, bottle or sparkling).
  2. Second visit: Return to serve the appropriate water for each guest. This is the time to order the pre-meal drink or wine for the table. Once the staff leaves, this is the best time to look at the food menu and make some preliminary decisions of what food you would like to order.
  3. Third visit: the staff will return with the appreciate drinks and to announce the daily features. Having read the menu, you should have a good idea of what you would like to order and you can order now. If the table still requires time, this is the best time to ask the staff about any particulars of the dish of your concern.
  4. Fourth visit: Game time! Order your dishes!

If you are in a rush and must have your meal in a hurry, the best time to let your server know is at the very beginning. It is impolite to rush your server for service without a reason. Imagine if you were being rushed to get things done without notice. Remember at the end of the day your server has a service protocol to follow as well.

Six: The Napkin Chronicle

Napkins falling off from guests’ laps is a sight seen too often by restaurant staffs. The napkin serves as the protector of our fancy dresses, savior of our messy drizzles and at times, a willing hand mitten when we must touch that hot burning plate we were warned by the staff we must not. The least you can do for your hero napkin is to simply fold it three times so it is generally folded and place it on the corner of the table that is closest to your seat. If the table has no room for your napkin, just place it on your chair but do not hang it on the back of your chair.

The interior of Joe Fortes Seafood and Chop House Vancouver BC
The interior of Joe Fortes Seafood and Chop House Vancouver BC

Seven: Keep the Conversation at Your Table

The table next to you do not need to hear about the private conversation happening at your table. The same goes with eavesdropping. If you can hear the conversation from the table next to you, do not listen in that is definitely bad table manners! Keep your voices at a volume that only your table can hear. Turn off the sound to your phone or other devices that makes sound.

Eight: Phone off the Table

Using your phone at the table sends a message to your guests that you have better things to. It will also trigger a chain reaction of others using their phones while they wait for you to finish using yours. If you must, off the table you go to call or message.

Annalena The Oysters
Annalena The Oysters

Nine: Taking Photos of your Food

We all do it. (Especially everyone here at Cobra Chomp!) Nowadays, it is not uncommon to first take pictures of the dishes when they are served. Beautifully plated culinary creations are art in their own rights. Yet, being respectful of other guests comes first. Take your foodie photos quickly and quietly. Take photos of only your own dishes. If you want to take photos of other people’s dishes, permission is required. If you are being treated to, do let your host know that you would like to take photos of your dishes if it is alright. Avoid using flash on your device. It washes out the color of the food photo as well as disturbing to other guests who happen to look your way. Use the candle light at your table instead or simply adjust the exposure or brightness setting of your photos afterwards. Outside of Vancouver, some restaurants do not allow photos to be taken of their food. Do ask if you do not know.

Annalena Afogato and Chocolate covered chicken skin
Annalena Afogato and Chocolate covered chicken skin

Ten: Dessert and after meal drinks

Remember at the beginning of your meal the staff must come back four times before you should place your food orders? That process goes in pairs. Staffs do not come to clean off your table until everyone have placed their utensils together at the 4 O’clock mark of the plate. That is when the beginning of the end begins. Besides ordering desserts and after meal drinks, the staff will also come back multiple times to refill water until somebody from the table as for the bill. This is because it is improper for upscale and well trained restaurant staffs to rush their guests. So do not be frustrated if the staff never ask if you like to have your bill. You have to ask for it. If you like to spit your bills this is the best time to do so.

#tablemanner #etiquette #moderntablemanner #finedining #upscaledining

Kaila So

Founder & Content Creator

From restaurant reviews to recipes to city guides, we strive to share our adventurous encounters and honest advice for good food, good times and good experiences.

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