Zagat recently spearheaded their own restaurant etiquette survey which is titled “10 New Rules of Dining Etiquette” and as Tom Zagat is making the media rounds talking about this “groundbreaking” survey I have my own humble opinions regarding the results.
1. Equality – according to Zagat, diners feel men are still treated better than women at most restaurants. Apparently this is due to the fact that the waiter believes the man is paying. I cannot say that I’ve experienced this but if you are a woman and feel this is the case, maybe it’s because the waiter is following your lead. If he / she believes the man is in control of the evening, he will cater to that person. If you want to clearly communicate your equality, perhaps you can provide your waiter with your credit card prior to the dinner. I’ve done this on a number of occasions to avoid any confusion as to who is handling the check at the end of the evening.
2. Whoever initiates the dinner date pays for it – this is really true in most invites but there is often confusion in how one phrases the question. If you ask someone out to dinner and state “would you like to go out to dinner?” it could be confusing to the intended person but if you rephrase the question to “I’d like to take you out to dinner” it avoids the confusion as to who will be picking up the check. Communication is essential in this scenario.
3. Zagat says to forget gender – people should order when ready. While I agree with this, I do feel there should be a disclaimer here that states you should gesture to the eldest person at the table (preferably the woman) to order first. I was always taught to respect my elders so if I’m out to dinner with my mother or mother in law, an aunt, god mother, etc. I always defer to them to order first. I don’t think it’s such a bad thing for a waiter to do the same.
4. According to Zagat’s survey 63% say using handheld devices during dinner is rude – I absolutely agree but it’s interesting how many diners weighed in on this to say it’s rude because I still see many diners attached to their devices while eating dinner! My suggestion here is that if you are expecting an important call, let your party know that ahead of time. It’s all about managing expectations and extending common courtesies to those around you.
5. Survey respondents say it’s fine to bring children to dinner in most restaurants – I have no issue with parents taking their children to a restaurant. My issue here is that many parents don’t understand how to ensure that their children behave once they are in the restaurant. I don’t find it cute when children are walking / running the restaurant floor because they no longer want to stay seated. I find it’s dangerous to them and the waiter if a waiter is coming out with a tray of hot food and doesn’t see the child at his / her feet.
6. According to Zagat survey it’s OK to dress casually and by they mean “don’t be a slob.” – the issue I have with this statement is that it leaves too much room for misinterpretation. The term “casual” means very different things to many different people. What I consider casual is very different from what some friends or colleagues might think. To me, there is something very civilized about getting dressed up to go to dinner. Last night I went to dinner with my husband and brother to a neighborhood restaurant that defines their dining style as “casual elegant.” The definition of elegant according to dictionary.com is tastefully fine or luxurious in dress, style, design, etc. so when you add the term “casual” (appropriate for wear or use on informal occasions; not dressy: casual clothes; casual wear) in front of it you can derive easily enough that the restaurant is suggesting your attire be “appropriate” casual yet refined. So I found it interesting how one woman who walked into this neighborhood (around 9 pm) interpreted the restaurant’s dress code as OK to wear a sun visor with what looked like a Lycra “skort” paired with a spaghetti strap top? Aside from the super casual attire that I wasn’t “appropriate” why did she opt to wear a sun visor at 9 pm? I was taught to NOT wear a hat at the dinner table!
7. Zagat survey says ” Honor your restaurant reservations or cancel them on time“ – Yes Yes and Yes! I completely agree with this. The survey says that if you make reservations and fail to cancel in advance, you’ll deservedly become persona non grata at the restaurant and while this is absolutely true, I look at it from a little different perspective. I feel that it’s equally important to factor in your fellow diners who might have tried to get a reservation but because the restaurant was booked they couldn’t. By cancelling a reservation, it now provides an opportunity for someone else to enjoy the restaurant.
8. Don’t overstay your welcome at a busy restaurant - I 100% agree with this. If you finished your dessert and coffee course an hour ago it’s time to move on!
9. Men go through doors first, and then hold them open for women – I agree! For liberal women everywhere I understand and respect your point of view but admittedly, I don’t every want chivalry to die out. I find something romantic about about it. My father was a very chivalrous man and taught my four brothers to be the same (my husband is this way too) so maybe it’s what I am used to since a child but I do find something very attractive and “hopeful” about men who still practice good manners.
10. The last Zagat survey rule states “the customer is always right” – while I am a business owner and completely agree with this statement, I do feel there needs to be a mutual level of respect as well as a mutual exchange of civility. Yes, the waiter needs to be hospitable but patrons need to be too. Thank you’s and a smile of appreciation go a long way!
Thank you to Zagat for bringing about this conversation! The survey highlights some great topics of etiquette.