….Seems to be an oxymoron these days, as one sees less and less etiquette being practiced, only extraordinarily bad manners and a distinct show of dis-respect to other restaurant goers and the staff.
Who doesn’t like to eat out?! A new location to discover, new type of cuisine, and often, new people.
It used to be that people would put on their finest and go out with their best friends for a meal. It was an event. Today, groups of people who barely know one another will go out for an evening, where they plan on going to several locations over the course of the evening, so they treat the establishment as if it is only there for their own personal enjoyment. The other patrons ignored. As they get louder and more intoxicated, the discomfort in the room becomes increasingly unpalatable , then, off to the next venue with utter disregard for those whose evening they ruined.
In the past, table etiquette was not only taught, but heavily enforced at home. Elbows off the table, Chew with your mouth closed, speak to the person at your right, at your left, across the table from you with full eye contact, and you were to SMILE!!
There were no phones allowed, no distractions. A meal was an event to be shared with the others at the table. Conversation other than religion or politics was encouraged.
No one knows this better than the Chinese, who went as far as to create DIM SUM, which is basically little tastes. The idea being that one can sit in a restaurant and socialize with friends over an extended period of time, and share their nibbles with friends. Food is a huge part of their social life, and great food is very important.
One does not get the feeling today that many people understand the concept of dining. Today it is about eating and running off to the next event, although to be fair, there are some restaurants who are looking to turn the table as many times as they can in an evening, and are not exactly encouraging people to stay. If I ever go to a restaurant and am told they need the table, it is unlikely I will ever return. The only time this is acceptable, is if it was established prior to going. Good restaurant management however, will try and allow you to keep the table if you are continuing to dine.Sitting for an hour over a cheap coffee does not count.
Restaurant no-no’s include, but are not limited to:
You may think your child is adorable. I do not. Keep it seated. Keep it quiet, or leave it at home. It is not cute to have it’s dirty fingers in my food, standing at my table asking questions and interrupting, or running around the restaurant screaming. Do NOT lecture me that it is only a child. The Chinese bring their children to restaurants from the time they are born, and they are QUIET. It is disrespectful to the other diners. We are paying for the privilege of eating there. You are not paying for us. If a BILLION Chinese have figured it out, so can you.
SNAPPING FINGERS AT THE WAIT STAFF
Really??? Do you actually think you are that important? Unless you advised the staff you were in a hurry at the outset, and they abandoned you, if you must get someone’s attention, quietly go see the Maitre’D and request assistance. PERIOD.
Your conversation is YOUR conversation. The rest of us are do not need to hear it, nor do we find it entertaining. We came to be with the people at OUR table, not yours.
Turn them OFF, or go outside to have your conversation. If you are expecting an urgent call, announce it to the guests at your table, apologize for the impending interruption, then excuse yourself when it happens. Once again, the rest of us do not need to hear your side of a conversation.
The absolutely rudest most disrespectful thing anyone can do. It suggests that the people at your table are unimportant. If you came with them, STAY with them. If you absolutely must speak to someone at another table, wait until everyone has finished their meal, excuse yourself, briefly confer with the individual at the other table and return. If seeing them was so important, you should have gone to dinner with THEM and not your table mates.
PLAYING WITH FOOD
A very wealthy and generous gentleman I know entertains a great deal, and always orders sufficient food and drink for the table, and plenty to spare. On numerous occasions I have witnessed selfish guests ordering extra plates, then playing with the food. Why?? Because they felt they could, certainly not because there was lack of either food or choice. It is rude to the host and the chef. On several occasions the table was absolutely groaning with the weight of the food. Why on earth be so arrogant and wasteful as to order more?! Particularly as a non-paying guest. It is the height of bad manners.
SENDING PLATES BACK
Unless the eggs or chicken is raw, be quiet and eat it.
In my case, I stress that I have severe food allergies, which could be lethal. BLUE Cheese tops the list, and I have no tolerance for raw garlic or onions, or MSG. They render me totally nauseous.
If the dish comes dripping with onions or garlic, you can be sure it will go back.
Some people however, make it a power game, and send things back because they want to be noticed. Unless it is grotesquely undercooked, overcooked, or just plain disastrous, shut up and eat it. You ordered it.
DIETARY PREFERENCES – ALLERGIES
For some it is just being fussy. Please do NOT say you have allergies if you simply have dietary preferences, otherwise the other guests will be fearful throughout the meal. If you are going to be difficult, then just go to a vegan or vegetarian restaurant.
If you make them, KEEP THEM. If you can’t, then cancel in a respectful amount of time so that the restaurant can offer the table to other patrons. It is totally disrespectful to not cancel if you will not be going. The restaurant has provisioned food and staff on your behalf which costs them money.
If you do not know how to use a knife or fork properly, BUY A BOOK ON TABLE ETIQUETTE. It is extremely unpleasant to watch someone spearing their food, using their knife as a spoon, or holding their fork as a spear.
FOOD ON YOUR CLOTHES
They made napkins for a reason. Accidents do happen, but there are some people who simply do not pay attention and end up with half the meal on their shirts. It is extremely unattractive.
CHEWING WITH AN OPEN MOUTH
CLOSE IT. We don’t want to watch you masticate your food, nor do we want to hear you smacking your lips.
TALKING WITH A MOUTH FULL OF FOOD
USING YOUR FINGERS
ELBOWS ON THE TABLE
Are you so bored with the company that you need to hold up your head? No?!! Then leave the elbows off the table.
STICKING YOUR FORK INTO OTHER”S PLATES
Unless you are with your significant other and are trying new dishes and have agreed to share, then LEAVE IT ALONE.
If you are with a group of friends and everyone offers a taste to everyone, that is another story. I have been out where it was understood we were all going to share so we could try it.
That is perfectly fine.
Most people however, order a meal with the intention of eating it by themselves.
If you are absolutely determined to taste something because it just looks to good to be true, then a polite, “Oh my, does that taste as amazing as it smells?” may prompt a small taste. If not, then KEEP OFF.
Oh my, where to start.
I was at NOBU several years ago, and a wealthy Montrealer was also there with a group at another table. He is rich, loud and exceedingly vulgar.
He did not receive several of the items he ordered, which is to be expected in a SUSHI restaurant, things come at the pace of the chef, and in a specific order. He wanted them immediately, and created a scene.
I was actually with the Executive Director of the Metropolitan Hotel having dinner. He excused himself, and went over to the other table to calm down the loud patron, and explain the reason for the delays. There was a period of calm, then another outburst. Obviously too much sake and too much self importance.
End result??!! He is now barred from the Hotel and the Restaurant. Apparently this was not the first outburst, nor was it the first time that the tablecloth with all its contents had found the floor, but it was certainly the last.
I was later informed that this same person has a reputation in Montreal, New York and London, and has been barred from numerous establishments.
Well, that explains the fact he now has a private chef.
Another aspiring Montreal Socialite has been barred from several restaurants for creating a scene and constantly complaining about her bill, even though she did order what was charged.
In one Japanese Restaurant, the owner told her never to come to her restaurant again, then ran after her and threw salt on her and the entrance to her restaurant to eliminate the bad Karma.
How incredibly embarrassing.
I could go on, but I think those were enough to make the point.
If you absolutely positively must throw a tantrum, do it at home and don’t humiliate yourself in public. We are watching, and we WILL remember.!!