"Salted butter - Grand Cafe SF"

Bread and butter at the Grand Cafe, SF

While at a recent event in San Francisco I spent some time talking with Alison Bing, author of the Lonely Planet Guide / San Francisco about her dining adventures (she has my dream job:  she's PAID to eat out!)  Somehow the conversation turned to dining etiquette and how this can influence your experience while out on the town (or at your favorite joint). 

The short list below is the culmination of our discussion and contains some things which seem obvious and others which are just simple, everyday reminders.  In the end, of course, it's all about enjoying food with family or friends - and not having to wash the dishes later (unless you forget your wallet!)  

Dining Tips  

  • Timing.  The “be on time” statement seems obvious here, but remember, if you are even 10-15 minutes late your reservation COULD be in jeopardy.  If you arrive too late, there might not be enough time between your reservation and the next one on the books.
  • Gestures
    • Menu closed signals you are ready to order.
    • Napkin in your lap signals you are ready to eat!  Hint:  when sitting down immediately place your napkin in your lap.  If you get up from the table, fold it and place on the table (not on the chair).
  • Cell phones.  If you need to use you cell phone step away from the table and into a space where you can talk. 
  • Cafes
    • If using a computer (eg., working) consider ordering food/beverages regularly and tip (pocket change = not okay).
  • Servers.  Engage their expertise, ask opinions.  This is the best guarantee you will have a better experience and food.
  • Tips
    • 18% is the new 15%
    • Leaving no tip is never acceptable unless the waiter is outwardly insulting (say he/she asks your date out in front of you, which might be flattering to your date but uncomfortable for you).
    • 20-25% is given for above and beyond service
    • Don’t forget to tip on wine!
  • Remember the golden rule:  restaurants are a shared community so try to behave neighborly and be forgiving of those around you!   

Follow Alison Bing at Twitter/alisonbing