Restaurant Etiquette: How to Eat Out Without Embarrassing Yourself

From table manners to tipping to making a reservation, a wealth of experience informs this etiquette guide on dining.

| October 2015

In The Tricky Art of Coexisting: How to Behave Decently No Matter What Life Throws Your Way(The Experiment, 2015), award-winning writer, presenter, comedian, actress and producer Sandi Toksvig draws from personal experience (and world history) to provide valuable advice on etiquette and thoughtful behavior. This section on dining details acceptable behavior for considerately planning a night out and eating out with groups of all sizes.

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“Ladies traveling alone will request the escort of a waiter from the dining-room door to the table. Ladies will make up their minds quickly as to what dishes to order.”

 — Collier’s Cyclopedia of Commercial and Social Information and Treasury of Useful and Entertaining Knowledge on Art, Science Pastimes, Belles-lettres, and Many Other Subjects of Interest in the American Home Circle, 1882

Many years ago an actress acquaintance of mine came to London for the first time. Born and brought up in the Welsh countryside, she had an exciting job in the theatre and was both thrilled and terrified. Her new producer decided to treat her by taking her to lunch at a very smart restaurant. The night before, she phoned her mother in a panic because she had hardly ever eaten in a restaurant and was worried she wouldn’t know what to order.

How to Eat Mindfully

“Have the special,” counseled her mother, “then you can’t go wrong.” The actress arrived the next day looking as smart as she could manage and sat down in the vast restaurant. She opened the menu and saw a large box that declared “Special Today” followed by a foreign name that she didn’t recognize. When the waiter came to take the order she calmly pointed to it and said, “I’ll have that.”