25 Things You Should Never, Ever Do at a Fancy Restaurant

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Etiquette — good manners — is a code of behavior, a set of (highly variable) rules governing how we should behave, theoretically at least, in order to bring the least offense to our fellow citizens. It’s about being polite — about not imposing on other people or invading their space, about not embarrassing them or yourself.

What is or isn’t good etiquette, of course, is fairly arbitrary, and the specifics vary considerably from society to society and even in the same place they constantly evolve, reflecting cultural changes and altered practical concerns.

There are many kinds of etiquette — the etiquette of the workplace, of the golf course, of the concert hall, of Buckingham Palace. And of course there’s the etiquette of the dining table.
Presumably, most people know the basics: use your napkin, keep your elbows off the table, don’t shovel your food into your mouth, and such.

A celebrated authority on etiquette, the Emily Post Institute, has published a list of the top 10 table manners, including the aforementioned three. These should be the rule no matter where you’re eating, whether it’s at a picnic table or a burger joint, or one of the best restaurants in America.

Dining at a fancy restaurant — one with serious food, attractive design, and formal service — comes with its own set of rules, though. These are rarified atmospheres, places where people come for a memorable experience and not just good food. They’re almost always expensive, too, which means that for at least some of their customers, that experience will be a rarity — a special treat for a birthday or anniversary or another occasion that won’t get repeated very often.

Bad manners on the part of somebody at the table or near enough to notice can ruin that would-be memorable experience and should be avoided at all costs. Some rules of restaurant etiquette that would once have been commonplace have been largely forgotten today, as even good restaurants grow ever more informal, and even nice, intelligent people focus more on themselves and their cellphones than on others. These are some dining-out etiquette rules than should come back.

They’re not the only things we should be aware of when we’re enjoying a fine meal in rarified surroundings, though. Remembering these 25 things when we’re dining in a fancy restaurant will improve the dining-out experience for everyone there — ourselves included.

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