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Dining out for Valentine's Day? Brush up on your manners!

Hilarie Blaney Modified: July 24, 2013 at 3:20 pm •  Published: February 11, 2011

“Anyone can eat, but we go out to dine.” Robert Wallace, Maitre d’, Oklahoma City Golf & Country Club.

Are you dining out for Valentine’s Day? The restaurants will be busy so make your dining experience more enjoyable by brushing up on some table manners. I visited with Robert Wallace about the expectations found in restaurants, in patrons and servers alike. Robert has over 20 years in the restaurant industry, gaining his first skills at The Metro, which provided in-house training and today has some of the finest and most consistent service among metro area restaurants. “Your primary memory should be your spouse’s company or other dining guests. The best service is the service that you do not remember,” Robert shared.

The server is available to provide confidence in ordering, they will guide you through the menu. They should be prompt and attentive, as we all know the details always count! When the servers are approaching your table to deliver your meal, they will serve on your left and clear your dishes on your right, by paying attention to this you can avoid a spill.

The table setting tends to paralyze the uninformed diner, but fear not. The table setting is simply a map of what you’ll be served. Follow the map and your meal will unfold just as your chef has intended. The best rule of thumb is to use the silverware on the outside first. If you see a large spoon on the right, you will be served soup. If there is no large spoon, start with the smaller fork on the outside left. A dinner fork and knife are closer to the plate, therefore would be used last. By using the setting in the order of its placement you’ll ensure a better dining experience, as your server will be able to attend to more pleasant needs rather than retrieving new silverware for your table.

Remember that your napkin shouldn’t touch the table until you are ready to stand up and leave the restaurant, not just when you are finished dining. If you leave the table for any reason other than to leave the restaurant, put your napkin in your chair to signal to the server that you are coming back. Some servers will refold the napkin and place it on the arm of your chair.

During a romantic conversation the server should not interrupt you. The Silent Code of Service includes placing your silverware at the 4:00 position when you are finished with your meal, telling your server that he/she can remove your dishes without interrupting you. Your server wants to be as unobtrusive as possible and allow you to enjoy your intimate dinner. Another SCS: close your menu when you have decided on your meal choice, this tells the server you are ready to order.

Quick dining tips:

  • Use the correct silverware. Your place setting is a map to your meal.
  • Only place your napkin on the table when you are standing to leave the restaurant.
  • Your water glass will be to your right.
  • Close your menu when you’ve made your selections.
  • Never snap your fingers to get a server’s attention. Instead, use eye contact to get their attention.
  • Place your silverware at 4 o’clock when you’re through with your meal.
  • Gentlemen, pull out the chair for your valentine! It’s romantic no matter where you’re dining.


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