20 Dining Etiquette Rules No One Follows Anymore
Sorry, Emily Post. These dining etiquette rules are officially outdated.
Turning off cell phones before a meal
To show respect to your host and fellow dining partners, it’s considered good manners to silence your cell phone and place it out of sight before sitting down. Nowadays, many people are leaving their phones on the table and even using them during dinner. Dining is a social experience, after all, so many friends use their devices to share photos, messages and other digital content.
Concerned you might be addicted to social media? Here’s expert advice on how to unplug.
Buttering bread one bite at a time
If you reach for a dinner roll, you’re supposed to tear off one piece at a time—and butter each bite individually. But today, convenience is king and diners often choose to butter the entire slice at once—if they’re even eating bread at all. With keto, gluten-free and low-carb diets on the rise, it’s no surprise this rule is outdated.
Passing the salt and pepper together
If someone asks for the salt, you’re supposed to pass the pepper, too. Today, it’s not necessary—especially since those shakers are one of the dirtiest items on a restaurant table. Ick!
Serving women first
Many restaurants used to always serve ladies before gents. But in today’s day and age, gender doesn’t matter. Many servers place dishes based on the order they come out of the kitchen or each guest’s position at the table. And that’s not the only thing that’s changed over the past few decades.
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Setting a table with tons of utensils
As a kid, you might remember attending a formal dinner and being overwhelmed by the wide array of utensils surrounding the plate. Today, many diners only find the silverware they actually need. (Sorry, fish knife).
Waiting to eat until everyone is served
In a formal dining situation (like a job interview lunch) you should probably still do this. But when out with friends or family, feel free to dig in—especially if you ordered something hot.
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Passing dishes clockwise
Dishes should make their way around the table, clockwise. But family dinner’s have become a lot more relaxed. And when one of these cheesy casseroles is on the table, who can resist serving a scoop ASAP?
Leaving your napkin on the chair
If you need to excuse yourself from the table, it’s proper etiquette to place your napkin on your chair. Nowadays, many diners just place them next to their plate.
Keeping elbows off the table
If your parents were strict about this rule as a kid, good luck ever breaking it. But for the rest of us, rest assured that it’s not a major faux pas anymore.
Expecting the man to pay
In years past, the check went to the man at the table—no questions asked. But in the 21st century, many women are more than willing to pick up the bill or split the tab. So don’t assume that one party is (or isn’t) paying based solely on their gender.
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Waiting to remove empty plates
Servers used to wait until the entire table was finished eating before clearing plates. Nowadays, servers or bussers grab empty dishes whenever they can. (And you don’t have to sit in front of a crusty plate for 20 minutes).
Waiting to season food
To show respect for the cook, you should wait to season food with salt and pepper until after you’ve tried a few bites. And while this may still make sense in practice, it’s unlikely you’d offend anyone by adding a dash of pepper to your salad ASAP.
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Placing used utensils on your plate
The placement of utensils on your plate used to communicate to waitstaff whether you were finished with a course or still eating. Now, many servers just ask.
Serving on the left, clearing dishes on the right
In formal situations, waitstaff aims to serve dishes on the left and clear empty plates on the right. But c’mon, how many restaurants have space for that? Especially if you’re seated in a romantic nook or against the wall. Sorry, but you’ll be served on whatever side is accessible.
Waiting for the hostess
When dining at someone’s home, you should follow the hostess’s cues for when to start eating, how quickly to eat, etc. Today’s dinner parties are a lot more relaxed and guests can set their own pace.
Sipping your glass from the same spot
To avoid lip marks on your glass, try to hit the same spot every time you take a sip. While this rule might make sense if you’re wearing lipstick, it’s unlikely that anyone else is paying attention to your glass.
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Leaving a bite on your plate
Traditionally, you should leave a bite on your plate to convey that you enjoyed the meal and were served enough to be satisfied. Today, diners (and especially children) shouldn’t be excepted to join the #CleanPlateClub or feel bad if they finish their meal. Instead, just eat until you’re full.
Wearing the proper attire
The days of restaurant dress codes are all but over. Only a handful of eateries still require men to don a jacket and tie before dining. Today, comfort is key.
Check out our guide to dressing properly for every occasion.
Ordering the same number of courses
In days past, the number of courses you ordered was determined by the table, not each individual diner. Nowadays, order as many (or as few) courses as you like. Heck, you could even get an appetizer as your main meal!
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Asking to be excused
As a kid, when you finished your meal you had to ask to be excused from the table. But today, many kids are free to get up whenever they please. Plus, daily family dinners are becoming more rare, so many kids end up eating in the car or in front of the TV.
Next, learn the polite habits that fast food employees secretly dislike.