Eating in a restaurant social etiquette

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pensieve
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19 Aug 2009, 12:57 am

Don't start eating your meal until others have all received their meal.

I failed. I was second to receive my meal and just wolfed it down. Then my mum set me straight.

Do any other people wait until everyone has received their meal?


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Lyriel
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19 Aug 2009, 1:14 am

My general rule is to wait until the server moves away from the table to eat. To wait until everyone's been served is too broad an expectation, especially when the server is making 2-3 trips (particularly for large parties), or if some people are getting salads/appetizers before the main dish.

By waiting until the server has moved on, I also feel like I'm sorta, by proxy, keeping the rule about not seasoning your food in front of the cook - one rule I broke miserably when eating a formal, four-course meal when I was 15 (I didn't really know better, and thankfully, my mother worked at the hotel we were eating at, and knew the cook, so I was forgiven).



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19 Aug 2009, 1:31 am

Usually I eat out alone since I live on my own and am not very social.I just wolf my food down.When I was with my family, it didnt matter, when they got their food, they wolfed it down, and when I got mine, I wolfed it down.To them, it was when you get your food, just eat it.Although at times, if they cant stand waiting theyd pick off that persons plate who got their food first.


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19 Aug 2009, 1:53 am

It was with a group of people. My mum's friends from work. I normally eat by myself or with my family. She just gave me such a look like I should have known to wait.


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bicentennialman
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19 Aug 2009, 2:59 am

In my experience, it is a social rule to wait until everyone has their food before you start eating. The exception is if those who don't have their food yet tell you that it's all right for you to start eating:

Person with food: "Sorry-- I hope your food comes soon."
Person without food: "I'm sure it will. You can start eating if you want." (This assumes that they are saying what they mean and that they are not saying this to give you a chance to say "No; I'll wait until your food comes!")

This permission is more likely to be given the more casual the setting is. At a meal with just your immediate family, it's a lot more likely that you won't be expected to wait. If I am ever on a date (hypothetically speaking ;) ), I would choose not to start eating before my date got her food, because I want to be polite, and I will probably look selfish if I ignore the fact that she doesn't have any yet. And in the case you described, your mother may have been nervous about her co-workers being there and worried that they would be offended-- in those cases, someone would be unlikely to even ask to begin eating before everyone gets their food.

It's not your fault that you weren't aware of this rule. I only learned it because my parents specifically told me "Don't start eating until everyone gets their food" a couple times. But now you do know about it! :)

(Sorry about this post being long; I try to cover a lot of possibilities.)



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19 Aug 2009, 3:12 am

I was raised with pretty formal etiquette. The basic rule is to wait until the host lifts his/her fork. If there isn't a host, you wait until the oldest or highest honor guest starts.

In a restaurant, the meals should come at the same time, but sometimes they don't. The person/people who's food hasn't arrived should say "please start eating, mine will be here soon enough" or " Don't let your food get cold", which gives everyone permission to dig in. I try to wait anyway. I'm not comfortable eating when their food hasn't arrived.

My partner's family just pitches right in without waiting for anyone. He's half Korean, which may make a difference. Most people don't follow the formal etiquette anymore anyway.

When I'm with friends and family we usually share food with each other. Also, if there are appetizers, people are eating already, so you don't have to wait for all the meals to arrive if they don't come together.


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19 Aug 2009, 3:37 am

I think the general rule dont eat until everyone starts eating: I never picked up that rule because Im always so eager to eat. I didnt learn that till recently, even now that its more ingrained in my head its still hard to abide by.



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19 Aug 2009, 6:29 am

As a rule....

Small group (4-6), you should wait until everyone is served. The cook should be able to get the whole table's order at one time. If someone's order is delayed, you should ask if it's okay for others to start without them.

Large group (8 or more), it would be unreasonable for those not served to insist that others wait. Cook might not be able to get that large an order out at one time, and that means those served have cold food by the time the rest get their hot meals. Still polite to ask first.

I have a group that gets together, and we usually pray first, but since not everyone has been served, we "bless" the food as soon as the first table is served so nobody has to wait.



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19 Aug 2009, 6:34 am

I don't really have this problem, but it was also instilled in my VERY young to wait until everyone is at the table and ready to eat usually, or eating something at least. A family friend of ours-her aunt had a lot of very strict rules, and I think went to schooling for things. She always made us write thank you letters, and if I didn't do it, she'd call me to ask where it was. She was like that with a lot of things....

I do have this weird thing about the kids getting served first and no one eating until my kids have their plates. Maybe it's not so weird, I dunno. My boyfriend gets in trouble with me a lot for making his plate and starting to chow down while the poor kids are sitting there waiting for their food to cool off enough to eat it.



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19 Aug 2009, 7:36 am

The funny thing is she had her elbows on the table - to me that is bad table manners.


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19 Aug 2009, 8:49 am

pensieve wrote:
The funny thing is she had her elbows on the table - to me that is bad table manners.


Ha! I couldn't help but to laugh about the irony of that. Elbows on the table, I thought that was just a very common thing that is considered rude. That and keeping your hat on during dinner when out somewhere (another I don't really understand, but it's always been told to me that it's very rude).

I do wonder... if basically the idea of waiting for everyone to get their food and eat at the same time, is simply so that everyone finishes around the same time. That way, one person isn't sitting there waiting for the others to finish. I often find people feel uncomfortable when one person is finished and they feel pressure to finish their meals so that nobody is left in the dreaded "WAITING" mode for the others.

That way everyone can get dessert at the same time, finish at the same time, and leave at the same time essentially. It keeps things "orderly" when everyone is doing things at the same time so that nobody is stuck in that position or getting bored or anything of that matter.

I just thought about that because I was out recently with some of our neighbors (the mom and I are great friends, as well as all of our children). Our side finished up, and the neighbor starts saying "hurry up and eat, they are waiting on us now." and she kept apologizing over and over for taking longer to eat. We didn't mind, but it didn't matter how many times we said that, she still kept apologizing as if she was doing something wrong.



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19 Aug 2009, 9:01 am

pensieve wrote:
The funny thing is she had her elbows on the table - to me that is bad table manners.


That is nothing. Talking while chewing propelling bits of food into the faces of the listeners -- that is bad manners. After ten years of nagging my Goodwife finally got me to chew with my mouth closed and not talk while chewing.

We have been married now for 52 years (yesterday) although it seems like 72.

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19 Aug 2009, 12:12 pm

Quote:
Eating in a restaurant social etiquette


i do not have any idea of dining etiquette. i am not bothered to learn. i can not be arrested and charged for for having any dining etiquette misdemeanors so i care not to bother learning it.

pensieve wrote:
Don't start eating your meal until others have all received their meal.


when me and tammy are at the tavern to eat, we order our respective meals.
if my meal arrives first, then that is her bad luck.

usually i order something light like king prawns, and she orders something heavy like steak in mushroom sauce.
my meal is usually ready first, and i start eating it as soon as i can. i dislike to let the food cool off before i eat it. it tastes like "left overs" after about 5 minutes so i must eat
fast.

there is no chance that i will let my freshly served meal sit steaming in front of me unattended for the sake of "protocol".

moreover, after i have finished my meal, i leave the table. i can not remain sitting at the table if i am not eating because there is no reason to.

tammy often has her dish served up after i have finished mine, and i tell her where i will be when she finishes.
i do not stay to accompany her while she is eating because i just have no desire to.

once i am fed i move on from the table no matter who is there.

i do not care for "protocol" and "decorum" because my mind is not very exquisite.

if people have a problem with my manners they can ring the police.



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19 Aug 2009, 12:32 pm

pensieve wrote:
Don't start eating your meal until others have all received their meal.

I failed. I was second to receive my meal and just wolfed it down. Then my mum set me straight.

Do any other people wait until everyone has received their meal?

Yes, unless the other people say, "Oh, please, don't wait to start eating." Usually it's not a problem in a restaurant, as they tend to bring everything out at once for everyone. Sometimes, though, there will be a, "Your food is coming up in just a few minutes," from the server, in which case it's polite to wait for them until the person instructs you otherwise.


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19 Aug 2009, 1:34 pm

I learnt the hard way to always wait for everyone else to get their food before starting to eat.

A few years back I was in a pub one lunchtime with a few people from work. We had ordered some food, I had asked for a hamburger and one of my colleagues had asked for a lamb-burger. These both sound very similar when spoken aloud so when the waiter brought over the lamb-burger I claimed it and proceeded to tuck in, thinking he'd said hamburger. Five minutes later when my meal arrived, I had already eaten half of her fries, some salad and had a few bites of the burger. She was not best pleased as I sheepishly handed her back what was left of her dinner. I did apologise and offer to swap or give her some of mine but she refused and instead gave me the cold shoulder for a while.