Receiving exceptional service when dining out comes down to one thing: effective communication with your server.
Often what isn’t said makes as much of a difference as what is. With the right combination of body language and technical table know-how, you’ll be considered VIP in no time.
1. If The Restaurant Uses Cloth Napkins, Place It On Your Lap When You’re First Seated
When you step away from the table, leave it on your chair. Most upscale places will either refold or replace your napkin before you return. That’s just how they roll.
As a sign of a good meal, politely fold it up and place it on the table before leaving.
2. Gesture For A Menu Or Check
If you seated yourself and the server hasn’t immediately brought you a menu, make eye contact and motion for it by drawing a rectangle in the air with your index fingers.
For the check, make eye contact with your server again and ‘sign’ your name in the air. You just saved yourself a conversation.
3. Close The Menu When Ready To Order
An afterthought for many, this subtle move speaks volumes. Forgetting to do so will delay the meal as your server will assume you haven’t made up your mind. Acknowledging that most people don’t have a photographic memory, feel free to open the menu again while ordering.
4. TL;DR — Toast To Your Left; Drinks To Your Right
Bread plates can be tricky, so here’s a hint: Make the “OK” symbol on both hands. The side that resembles the letter ‘b’ is the same as the bread plate (though we can’t promise your neighbor will use the correct one). The ‘d’ is where your drink glass should rest.
And please, please tear or cut your bread before buttering. We know you’re hungry, but it’s hard to talk about the intricacies of foreign politics/who wore it better with an entire roll crammed in your mouth.
5. If Silverware Repeats, Use The Utensils Furthest Out And Work Your Way In
If you ever watched the '90s classic, Pretty Woman, you already know this. No matter how many forks are in front of you, this is a pretty safe assumption. Although there are always exceptions, such as a dessert spoon or fork placed above your plate. Worst case scenario, observe the diner beside you.
6. Make Eye Contact When You Need Something
We know direct eye contact with strangers can be off-putting, but it’s time to get over it. Call your server without saying a word. Feel free to turn around, if necessary, as they might be facing your direction. A partial smile, raised hand or slight nod should be enough to grab their attention.
7. Place Your Drink Towards The Edge Of The Table To Request A Refill
Now we’re not saying leave your glass teetering on the edge, but your server will be quicker to noticing an empty glass. On the flip side, covering a coffee cup or wine glass with your hand when they approach means you’ve reached a stopping point. Yes, people do stop sometimes.
8. Show You’re Finished By Placing Your Silverware At A Diagonal Across Your Plate
Ideally, your knife and fork should point at 10:00 on your plate, but anywhere from 9:30 to 11:00 will prompt the staff to ask if you would like your meal cleared. This action also indicates that it’s time for a dessert discussion.