Restaurant Etiquette 101

When it comes to eating out, the options are endless. I should know. I’ve been writing restaurant reviews for Forsyth Woman for almost 12 years. Okay – not just me. If you’ve ever read my bio on, you may know that Rosey is a pseudonym. Several writers have been “Rosey,” and we all share a love of great food and a passion for writing. If you know who I am, please keep it to yourself. I like to fly under the radar whenever possible. It makes things more fun!

With all that said, the restaurant options may be endless, but the manners are universal. There are unspoken rules about eating out – whether you are at a high-end restaurant for a special occasion, or you’ve made an unplanned detour to a family-friendly-favorite simply because you didn’t feel like cooking after a long day at work. As a connoisseur of our local eateries, the start of 2018 seemed a good time to brush up on our restaurant etiquette.

  1. Dress the part. Be mindful of where you’re dining and consider what you wear. If you’re not sure, look the restaurant up online or on Facebook. Just some simple pictures (which most restaurants love to share) will be enough to give you an idea of the atmosphere. And if you’re still not certain; just call ahead and ask.
  2. If you make reservations, be on time. Restaurants who take reservations do so for a reason. They are being respectful of your time and trying to help minimize your wait. However, they have more than just your table to worry about. If you’re late for reservations and have to wait (or worse, lose your table), it’s not the restaurant’s fault.   You made an appointment, now keep it.
  3. Don’t reinvent the menu. Some chefs love the challenge of creating a special order, but most don’t particularly like it during a busy rush. Sure, if you have a food allergy – let your server know. But I’m taking a wild guess that you don’t like to be micromanaged, so don’t micromanage the chef from the dining room. Let them do their job.
  4. Put your phone away. Admittedly, I struggle with this one. Most people with a smartphone understand the difficulty of putting them down. But in a restaurant, they really should be put away so you can focus on conversations with your dinner partners and not be a distraction to other diners. Seriously – no one wants to be THAT person who talks and laughs so loudly over the phone that it disrupts other people.
  5. Put your napkin in your lap. If you get up to use the restaurant, leave it on your seat. When you’re finished with your meal, the napkin can go on the table.
  6. Wait for everyone to be served before you begin eating. This is just a courtesy to your dinner mates. Granted, if they encourage you to go ahead and start, that’s okay, but if possible, wait. It’s awkward to be the last one eating when everyone else is finished.
  7. Don’t holler for the server. It was hilarious when Jack Nicholson did it in “As Good As It Gets,” but it’s quite rude in real life. If you need your server, try to make eye contact.
  8. Tip well. It’s no secret that the primary income of waiters and waitresses is tip-generated. While we can have the discussion that other countries do this and that for their wait-staff, this is America. Our custom is to tip our waiters and waitresses. Unfortunately, they tend to get the blame for any and everything that goes wrong, and even more unfortunately for them, they are punished through the wallet. Even if you have bad service, leave a tip. Talk to the manager if the service or food was bad, but also consider the circumstances. Was the restaurant especially busy? Did your server have a large group that was consuming his or her time? A lot of factors may play a part but commit to honoring your end of the unspoken rules which is – if you’re going to eat out, be prepared to leave a tip. My general rule is this: 15% on mediocre service; 18% on pretty good; 20% on great; and 25% on exceptional.

Bon appetite!


The holidays may be over, but we always encourage our readers to shop small, shop local, and restaurants are no exception. Winston-Salem is home to some amazing locally-owned eateries that are unique and delicious, and who appreciate your patronage. Be sure to keep up with some of our favorites in “Rosey’s Review,” and be sure to tell them Rosey sent you.


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