Put your phone away at the dinner table: let's return to the golden era of good manners

Our most annoying dining habits include two lovebirds attempting to recreate the Lady and the Tramp moment at a nearby table, and people using their phones for Facebook and Twitter during a meal

Britain is a nation that remains irrevocably tied to traditions of unflinching etiquette, politeness and sophistication.

Should anyone come a visit, however, and they might be in for a shock when it comes to modern dining etiquette.

From diners eating with their mouths open, to blinding fellow restaurant goers with exuberant flash photography in order to capture the essence of a meal before its eaten, there are a great deal of annoying habits that Britons admit they have a distaste for.

In a recent survey from restaurant booking site Bookatable.com, a staggering 46 per cent said that they are offended when people snap their fingers to get the waiter’s attention, with nearly half also saying they hate it when people eat with their mouths open.

Despite being a triumphant social media trend and an enforcer of bad habits, 40 per cent revealed that they are actually uncomfortable with fellow diners using their mobile phones at the dinner table.

We also seem to have a low tolerance for a noisy atmosphere, with 51 per cent of diners finding misbehaving children too much to bear and 49 per cent wanting to turn the volume down on particularly loud guests.

But while Britons clearly have zero tolerance for common occurrences in restaurants, this survey reveals that many have a desire to return to the ways of proper dining etiquette.

In the hope of taking us back to a golden era of good manners, here are my top tips on how to guarantee you’re behaving in an appropriate way next time you go out to eat.

Put the phone away

Whilst mobile phones are now crucial parts of our social and professional lives, meals out are one of those times when it’s time to take a break from our gadgets and gizmos.  Focus on those that are dining with you – it’s part of the deal when you go out to dinner with people that you are there to talk to them, not your Facebook friends or Twitter followers. 

If it looks good, eat it

50 years ago, a group of diners would have bowed their heads and said grace before eating.  Today, the new form of grace comes via taking a picture of whatever delicacy is in front of them.  It might be a great compliment to the chef that you wish to capture the beauty of the of the food, but most would be happier if you ate it before it went cold.

"I'm running late! Again!"

We all lead busy lives, but if you have arranged to meet friends for dinner at an allotted time then you should at least try your hardest to make sure you arrive at said time.  Though we now have mobile phones to let people know we're running late, it's still rude to put your time above others'.

This, in my mouth, tastes amazing

Restaurants may no longer have table settings with more set pieces of cutlery than items on the menu but that doesn’t mean to say that ‘old fashioned’ table manners are no longer relevant.  Mouth closed while chewing, elbows in and off the table, and not leaning over the food too much all still count.

Public displays of affection

As a nation we may not be as starchy as we once were, but there is still a large proportion amongst us who bristle at the sight of two lovebirds attempting to recreate the Lady and the Tramp moment at a nearby table.  Holding hands across the table (when food is not present) is fine, but snogging over the soup is best reserved for behind closed doors.

Have I got it yet?

A small pot of toothpicks on the table does not mean it is acceptable to use them at the table, even shielded behind your napkin. We can still see. Take a couple and retreat to the lavatory if you have something stuck.

Oi, where's my *$%!&* bill?

Whilst service in the UK can be hit and miss, there is never any excuse to be rude to a waiter – even if they are rude to you.  It’s common sense, but treating them with respect and letting them perform their duties swiftly and easily will make it a much more enjoyable experience. 

To tip or not to tip

If you aren’t happy with the service you are perfectly within your rights to ask for that extra tip total on the bill (often 12.5%) to be reduced or removed – but be prepared to explain why.  If you have been happy with the service then 10% is the norm for Britain, with waiters seeing all of that tip if you leave cash (with card tips they can sometimes get as little as 40% of what you leave).

Free-range children

In France, children as young as 5 or 6 are often seen in restaurants at nine, ten o’clock at night sitting perfectly at the table, enjoying the experience.  In Britain, many children struggle to stay still for longer than one course and tear around the restaurant getting in the way of waiters and annoying other diners.  Keep your free-range children at your table and if you know they won’t cope with the experience then don’t bring them.  Newsflash – not everyone thinks your children are as adorable as you do.

Feature written by William Hanson, Ambassador for Bookatable.com’s Rules of Modern Dining campaign

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