Is Your Dining Etiquette Up to Par?

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Most of us probably feel like we are good diners—and most of us are. We say please and thank you, those of us who have children pick up bits of Cheerios from the floor and table, we stop our conversation and listen to the server when he or she is reciting the nightly specials (hopefully with the prices included), and we leave an appropriate gratuity.

However, there are a few guidelines that we all need to remind ourselves of every once and awhile.

• Tip on the total amount, prior to coupons or gift certificates. Hopefully your server didn’t give you discounted services, so you should respond in kind by tipping on the total bill, not just the discounted portion.

• Order drinks as a group. If you’re part of a large party, make life a little easier for your server and order one round of drinks at a time instead of each person sending the waiter or waitress back and forth multiple times.

• Push your chair in if you get up to go to the restroom. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen someone trip in a crowded restaurant because another diner didn’t push in his or her chair.

• Don’t hover. When you’re waiting for a table, don’t hover over the table, especially in a bar area where seating is often first-come, first-serve. Let other diners finish their dinner—treat them the way you would like to be treated.

• Respect reservations. If you are prone to making reservations at more than one restaurant because you can’t decide where you want to dine and you’re afraid you won’t get a table, you are not only costing the restaurant money if you choose another place, you are also taking away the opportunity for another guest to enjoy that establishment. Especially on holidays and Saturday nights, be sure to cancel 24 hours in advance to be courteous.

Well, Sarasota, with all these new restaurant openings, you’ll have plenty of chances to practice your proper dining etiquette. And don’t forget to put your fork and knife together neatly to one side of your plate when you’re done!

Judi Gallagher is a Sarasota-based chef who is the culinary director for ABC7 and hosts a daily cooking segment called “Chef Judi’s Dish.” She is also the contributing food and wine editor for Sarasota Magazine, and the co-publisher of, a national online publication that celebrates the table. Learn more about Judi at

As the Culinary Director for ABC 7, I whip up cooking segments on ABC 7 News at Noon, along with recipes, cooking tips, reviews and great food finds on MySuncoast Dining at