You've been invited to dinner at that swanky, new restaurant in town. You know the one, everyone's talking about it. You read an article that describes the saffron smoked trevally on pumpkin ravioli as delectable. You don't even know what those words mean yet your mouth still waters like a St Bernard's on a hot summers day.
Maybe it's a business dinner, perhaps it's a love interest, maybe it's just one of your old college buddies, who's in town for the weekend and wants to catch-up. Whatever the reason for your meeting, always remember to bring your A-game when it comes to dinner etiquette.
Let's look at a possible timeline of your evening:
- You're getting ready. All your basic grooming should be done. Hair styled, face shaved, and body washed. But what about the outfit? You can't contact your dinner date and ask what to wear, you'll look foolish! It's a dinner so common sense dictates you be presentable. Go for a nice button-down shirt and dress pants. It's clean, simple and classic. If you get there and find it's a more casual environment - Roll up your sleeves, if it's a classier establishment bring a tie and keep it in your coat pocket. If it warrants it, put it on upon arrival.
- At the restaurant. Be the first one there. Order a drink and wait in the lobby for your dinner date. When they arrive, stand-up, greet them with a warm smile and firm eye-contact (You want them to know you're happy they came). Maybe you could even compliment them. If it's a business meeting, mention you like their suit perhaps. If it's someone you haven't seen for more than a few weeks you could throw in the obligatory "you're looking well".
- Getting seated. As you make your way to the table you should turn your phone off or at the very least put it on silent. Don't be the guy who is constantly checking his phone at the dinner table. As the wait staff guide you to your table be sure to thank them and let your friend sit first. The chair pull for Ladies has almost become controversial in some groups so let the wait staff do it unless you're absolutely confident it is a romantic date.
- Ordering. The first rule is treat you waiter or waitress with kindness and respect. You'll be asked for drinks first so always get water for the table. If they offer tap or bottled, opt for the bottle. Then order the real drinks, know your beverage and order it with confidence. we shouldn't have to say this but try not to order anything ending in "tini". The waitstaff will leave you at this point and come back for food orders. There is no escaping small talk, so make it interesting. No weather chat. Maybe discuss their eating preferences, as it's always good to know. For example, if they're vegetarian probably best not to order the T-bone.
- Eating. You've ordered your meals and conversation is flowing. The food comes to the table and you start to dig in. Not so fast! Wait until your dinner date begins eating theirs, before getting onto yours. Other general rules here include: Placing your napkin on your lap, work your way in from the outer cutlery, take small mouthfuls, don't slouch, and try and finish your meal at the same time as your opposite. Once you've finished place your knife and fork together at the 5 o'clock position so your plate resembles a big Q. This is universally known in the hospitality industry as "Q for quit".
- Dinner comes to a close. Dessert is on offer. If it's a business meeting, opt for coffee instead. If it's a romantic date, let your opposite decide. Offering to share is a nice touch. Otherwise, a final glass of wine is a nice way to fade out the evening and avoid an abrupt ending.
- Paying the bill. It's an age-old dilemma that we've all faced. Start by telling your guest you'd like to pay. Some people will want to pay for themselves, in this instance, ask to pay half and DO NOT split it by who had what, just cut it straight down the middle. There are occasions when they may want to pay for the whole night and could get offended if you don't let them. In this case, accept their generosity and let them know the next one is on you.
- Ending the evening. So that was it. You got out alive and you actually had a nice time. Your business relationship has blossomed, your date wants to see you again, and you and the buddy from college are still belly-laughing after reminiscing over your past antics. If it seems like the evening may continue, suggest a nice bar you know of. Or perhaps it's just best to end it there. Give them a genuine shake of their hand and let them know you had a great time.