Special Report

Dining-Out Etiquette Rules That Should Come Back

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6. Keep your elbows off the table

Your mother told you this, and she was right. Why? Your elbows might crowd your tablemates, accidentally nudge a plate or glass, even cause the table to tip in your direction. In addition, you’ll sit up straighter if you’re not leaning in (which looks better than slouching and also aids digestion). Certain foods — like corn on the cob or spare ribs — might be easier to eat in the elbows-on position, so if you’re careful, that might be okay. Otherwise, remember mom.

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7. Break (don’t cut) your bread

Some restaurants serve a loaf of warm bread on a cutting board with a bread knife, in which case slicing off a piece or two is perfectly correct. If there’s no cutting board or bread knife, though, how are you going to cut the bread? With your butter knife, on the tablecloth or butter plate (which you may end up breaking in the process)? Doesn’t really work. Just take a piece of bread from the breadbasket, tear off a bite-size piece, butter it if you wish, and eat it — then repeat as necessary.

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8. Hold wine glasses by the stem

There are several reasons for this: It looks more elegant; you won’t warm up the wine with your body heat; and you won’t get unattractive grease stains on the glass. (Remember that your palms are naturally oily, even if you’ve wiped them clean.)

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9. Be nice to the waitstaff

There are admittedly some lazy, incompetent, or just plain dimwitted servers out there, but there are also many, many more who are smart, skilled, and very hard-working. They’re not your servants — they’re people like you who have taken a job helping you to have a pleasant dining experience in order to make a living (see No. 18) and even sometimes just because they like the restaurant world and the people who frequent it. Be polite. Cut them some slack. Compliment them when warranted. In return, at least in most cases, they’ll make your meal more enjoyable — and maybe even give you special attention the next time you come in.

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10. If something’s wrong, don’t make a scene

Dirty silverware? A worm on a lettuce leaf? The proverbial fly in your soup? Food not heated through, or vastly overcooked or undercooked? All very unpleasant — but loud exclamations or frantic gestures ruin everybody else’s dining experience. Just catch the server’s or manager’s eye and quietly and politely explain the problem.

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