Fine Dining Etiquette – A Survival Guide

A quick rundown of who you’ll encounter when dining at a fine restaurant: The Maitre D’, sometimes referred to as the headwaiter, will be standing at the dining room’s entrance. He will be the one to show you to your table and will seat you. He is the man that you will talk to if you would like any sort of special service or have any certain request. He is easily identifiable because he will be the one in a tuxedo. He serves the same function as a captain in a smaller restaurant. If there is food to be prepared at the table, for example Steak Diane, it will be cooked by the captain (maitre d’).

You will notice that the captain will be the one to take your order and will oversee that it was prepared to your requests by the kitchen, and will serve it properly. If you are at a restaurant that has no maitre d’ the captain will perform these responsibilities. He will also be uniformed in a tuxedo. Waiters are the ones that pick up your food and drinks from the kitchen and bar and do the actual serving. Busboys are the ones that are responsible for clearing your table and such tasks as refilling your water glass, and in older days for giving a clean ashtray. The wine steward, also known as a sommelier, will present the list of wines to the host. It is perfectly acceptable for you to ask for a suggestion.

Most likely you will receive an a la carte menu which means that everything you see is priced separately. The entree will often include a portion of rice or potatoes, but the vegetable will come at an additional cost. If you receive a menu that is called a table d’hote or prix fixe, the prices you see will be fore the entree and will include your dinner, with an appetizer, and you’ll also get a salad, dessert. Yes!

You will see that the captain does not take all of the orders from the man alone. He will first ask each woman for their separate order and then will ask the men for theirs. If you are in a large party, the captain will ask each person one by one for their order and will not go with the default gender-based system. You may find yourself with a menu that is in a foreign language, for example at a French restaurant. Simply let the captain know that you need assistance – he will translate the menu for you. Even if the menu is in English, for some of the specialties you’ll need a bit of interpretation, since they may be named by the chef and not readily understood.

There will be times when you will be served your sides in side dishes. It is proper to transfer these sides onto your plate by using a large spoon. You may also choose to share a part of your meal with your dinner guests. Do so with a serving spoon before you begin eating. Likewise, two people with two different entrees should divide up the portions before starting to eat. And finally, if you can’t finish your meal and someone at at your table would like to, serve that person the untouched portion of your plate with a clean serving utensil.