Most of us don’t get the opportunity to eat out all that often. When we do, we want to savour the experience and ensure our money is well spent. Of course, it’s not just ourselves we need to consider. Seeing recent pieces lately, we’ve compiled an etiquette guide to eating out.

Be courtious to your venue

The way things are right now, you need to book a table with your restaurant in advance and most do not request a deposit to reserve you a space. If you don’t turn up, they lose that table value- in these trying times it’s unlikely they can fill it at short notice. If you’re not able to make it, for whatever reason, let them know as soon as possible, rather than not showing up at all. Restaurants were hit hardest by the pandemic and this will only make matters worse.

Dress code

You generally know in advance the itinerary of the evening. Therefore, be sure to research the appropriate dress code. Most restaurants, if they have a specific code, will outline this on their website. If you’re unsure, look to social and TripAdvisor reviews for reviewers’ photos for an idea.

Phones away

Mrs Manners would be appalled with the seemingly harmless gesture of leaving your phones, keys, wallets etc. out on the table.

To you it may not be an issue but you’re sending a message to your guests, even if your phone is turned down, that there is something more important on your mind. Check out this video from Simon Sinek:

Balancing the meal

For the most part, it doesn’t matter if you have 1, 2 or 3 courses together, especially as no-one is generally going to be eating that course on their own. But if your friend or partner has expressed an interest in a dish and they will be eating it on their own (or sacrifice it altogether), join them, they’d really appreciate that.

If you’re at a business meal though, if the host settles on 1, 2, or 3 courses, you should follow suit and if they choose starter over dessert, you just have to go with it.

Before chowing down

Etiquette Guide to Eating Out

An obvious one.

If everyone hasn’t got their meals, its impolite to start without them. Sometimes though, when catering for big parties, restaurants struggle with the demand and meals get missed and as such there may be a bit of a wait. Unless the person waiting gives permission to carry on though, it is still regarded as rude.

Be kind

Your server is there to provide you with the best experience they can. You may have specific requirements and expectations when dining out but there is never a need to be rude to your server. They’re human, they make mistakes, they’re unlikely to know you personally but the kinder you are to them, the better experience you’ll have.

Don’t cause a scene

If you’re having a problem with your meal or the staff at the restaurant, or there is a personal matter unfolding with whom you’re dining with, it is never ok to cause a scene. We’re talking raised voices, storming off, emotional breakdowns etc. it’s unfair to your party, it’s unfair to your server, and it’s unfair to your fellow diners.

If you have an issue with the restaurant, present your issues to the management and give them an opportunity to rectify. Hopefully you’ll reach a satisfactory conclusion whether that is a replacement meal, discounted bill or free dessert for example.

If a personal matter is getting out of control, ask for the bill and take the matter home.

Decide in advance how to settle the bill

Small or large, when dining out with friends or family, splitting the bill at the end is a challenging feat. You could:

  • Pay as you go (though difficult once food gets involved).
  • Split the bill among everyone there (challenging if you’re ordering different courses, some are drinking, others aren’t).
  • Pay for what’s yours, for this option we’d say take cash with you to make it fairer on your server.

However you decide to handle the bill at the end of the meal, it’s best to decide in advance so you can prepare.


Tipping is optional in the UK as servers are generally on minimum/living wage. However, leaving a tip expresses your satisfactory levels with the service provided during your meal.  We’d recommend leaving a 10-15% tip as a gesture for their performance.

If you’re part of a large group, there is a chance that you’ll have a 12.5% service charge added to your bill (normally for 6+ people). If this is the case (and it will be stipulated on your bill), you do not need to leave a tip as well.

When to move on

For some restaurants you’ll be given a dining slot and will need to leave by the time it expires, unless they give you permission to stay (or generally because the courses are delayed). If you want to continue spending time with your party, head to a bar or someone’s house to let the good times continue.

You may also like...