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Top Eating Out and Dining Etiquette Mistakes

Updated on September 8, 2011

About Me

I travel frequently for both work and pleasure. Traveling forces you to have to eat out a lot, and, often with people you really don't care to eat out with :)  I've dined out with probably thousands of people from all walks of life. From my experience, it basically seems most people have no clue about eating out etiquette. My experience has allowed me to identify the common eating etiquette breaches that most people make.

In this article I bring the 10 most common of these breaches to attention. These are not listed in any particular order. Hopefully, you’ll learn from this article and won’t make the same mistakes! If you know someone that makes these mistakes, feel free to share this article with them!

Don't use your fingers or thumb unless it's part of the culture where you are visiting!
Don't use your fingers or thumb unless it's part of the culture where you are visiting!

1. Using Thumb / Fingers

I don’t know why this is, but nearly everyone seems to use their thumb to “push” food onto their fork. This makes no sense to me. Why use your thumb to put food onto a utensil? The easy solution for this is to use your knife to push food onto your fork. Don’t use your fingers – you’re supposed to be an adult that knows better, right?

Smelling the Cork is for Posers!
Smelling the Cork is for Posers!

2. Smelling the Cork

So, you’re sophisticated and order a nice wine with dinner. That’s great, but when the waiter or waitress opens the bottle and gives you the cork, do you smell it? If so, you’re a poser. The cork will smell like cork. You should take a look at the cork to see if it’s falling apart, which means air probably got into the wine or to see if the wine shows through the whole cork – again, air got into the wine due to a faulty cork, bad seal. The initial taste will tell you if the wine is good or not if you can’t figure out the cork thing! Don’t smell the cork or you’ll give yourself away as a poser!

Take Off the Hat, Dufus!
Take Off the Hat, Dufus!

3. Baseball Cap

Not sure why men think it’s cool or appropriate to wear a baseball cap while dining out – it’s not. Take the cap off…

4. Sending Things Back

By this, I mean doing things like sending the food back or the wine back because it’s not up to your “sophisticated taste”. This is acceptable to do every now and then, but if you make a habit out of “sending things back”, you’re just annoying and a pretentious ass.

5. Group Tipping

If you’re out to dinner with a group, don’t skim the tip because you’re paying a single check and you think no one will notice. I once traveled with a guy that would always offer to pay the bill for the group with his credit card. We’d all give him cash, including tip, and he’d charge the bill to his credit card and not tip anything and pocket our tips – he usually made out in the positive. Once I noticed this, he didn’t pull that trick any longer and we made him tip. With a group, pay your part….it’s better to over pay, than to be known as the cheapskate…also, don’t forget the taxes!

Don't Cut Your Steak All at Once...this is for Babies!
Don't Cut Your Steak All at Once...this is for Babies!

6. Cutting Steak all at Once

So, you order a nice New York Strip or Rib Eye…do you cut it all at once into small pieces? Hell no! You cut a piece off when you’re ready to eat it. Do not cut your steak into little bite size pieces all at once…you’re not a child anymore that needs your food “cubed”…cut the steak as you eat it.

You're Not Really as Special as You Think!
You're Not Really as Special as You Think!

7. Special Requester

If you don’t like tomatoes that’s fine…ask for the salad without tomatoes. Don’t constantly special order everything though. You’re not really that special…especially, if you’re going to Applebee’s or some lame chain. I’ve traveled with people that special order everything, all the time. They want the chef salad, minus the tomatoes, minus the onions, minus the egg, minus the ham, with everything else on the side. Then, they usually complain that it wasn’t “what they ordered”. These people are annoying and high maintenance. We try to avoid eating out with them.

8. Delayed Payer

Often when dining in a group that I traveled with, we would just alternate who picked up the bill. Every now and then, however, we’d run into a travel mate that was always real hesitant to offer to pay or would go to the bathroom for a really long time when the check came. Don’t be this person…we’re on to you…if it’s your turn to pay – pay!

Aren't I attractive, with my overly full mouth!
Aren't I attractive, with my overly full mouth!

9. Bite Size

Don’t cram as much food as possible in your mouth. Take small, reasonable bites that you can chew and swallow relatively quickly. Also, don’t talk with food in your mouth…this is gross!

10. Fast Water Drinker

Yes, you know who you are – the person that only orders water, drinks it as quickly as possible, pushes the empty glass to the end of the table, and bitches about how long it takes for a refill! If you ordered a glass of wine and it’s empty, this is understandable, but if it takes a few minutes to get a refill on water, so what…it’s free anyway!

Looking for more etiquette tips? Check out my other articles:


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    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I was searching for an article that mentioned something more along the lines of saying "Please" and "Thank you" and actually reading the menu instead of being a jerk to the wait person. Maybe even a few words about how to ask for more of anything politely, or how to special order something because maybe you have type 1 diabetes or celiac disease or an allergy or something it seems you just find annoying but can actually hurt those people who have gradually ventured out into the world once again.

      Thanks for some words on bad tippers, but here's a tip: the guy you traveled with who pocketed the tips? That's just plain stealing, not a dining "mistake."

      As for hats, it was so wonderful of you to post a photo of a doofus with a doofus hat to prove your point, but I'm just going to guess that you also have no idea how cold it can be without hair - because that's a "choice" I made in my 20's, not to wear an ugly toupee.

      You probably should have just titled this "Top Eating Out and Dining Pet Peeves of Mine".

      So get over yourself. Now I even wonder if you do say "please" and "thank you" - it's apparent that courtesy to everyone didn't rate in your top ten. Anyway, your post was pretty much a waste of time...

    • Tonipet profile image

      Tonette Fornillos 

      9 years ago from The City of Generals

      Hello Kea. Lovely hub and I can relate to some of your experiences. Many times I've dined out with people who sounds high maintenance, complaining things about a dish when they could have just eaten what they ordered and enjoyed dinner. Those things just make me realize the real beauty of appreciating basic little things and acting like how we're supposed to. Yes, that's because we're adults and that we should know things better.

      I'm inspired by this hub, and everything you said? ALL TRUE! Thank you for this and I'm definitely sharing. A Must-Read and I enjoyed reading. Awesome hub and voted up!

    • kea profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago

      Yes, you should eat when the food arrives, especially if it's hot food. In Europe, no one waits for everyone to be served, because the food would get cold, as in your case.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      I was at a banquet and I pre-ordered a vegetarian meal. Everyone was served except for me and another lady at our table. The others at the table waited for us to get our food but after a few minutes it didn't come out yet. We gave the others our permission to eat so their food didn't get cold but they still waited. Afte 5 minutes we asked a server where our food was and told the others to please eat, they still waited. after 10 minutes and lots of encouragement to go ahead and eat the others at the table still would not eat. Their food was cold and we were so embarrassed. No matter how we tried to convince these people to eat they just wouldn't eat and they looked perturbed because of us. We were so embarrassed. Finally we got our food but we couldn't eat much because the situation had been so stressful we both had lost our appetite. I agree that you should wait until everyone at your table is served but if the peaple who haven't been served give the others permission ans especially after waiting for a couple of minutes, shouldn't the others honor their request and just eat?

    • Sun-Girl profile image


      10 years ago from Nigeria

      Excellent hub you actually shared here kea, thanks for this hub.

    • profile image

      Frankie B. 

      10 years ago

      I guess i'm just lucky my frinds are suart people , But thank YOU++++

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Hello, thank you for your suggestions here. I would like to add the following. I live in Australia, so they may sound a little weird.

      Whenever possible, make a booking in as much advance as possible. This will avoid your being turned away which can be embarassing. It is also polite as it enables the restaurant to have appropriate staff and other resources on the ready.

      In this part of the world restaurants need to have a license to serve alcohol from their own store. These licenses are very expensive so if you take your own, the restaurant will often charge you corkage-an amount per head to open and serve YOUR wine instead of theirs. This also covers cleaning of glasses, ice and buckets. When you consider all this, it seems fair. Why people take cheap crap wine to a licensed restaurant always baffles me. By the time you pay corkage you could have had a bottle or two of really nice wine instead of a bottle of rubbish. This also applies to people who take their own cake. Again, you will be charged 'cackage', this covers the fact that they have to put it on a cake plate, bring out china and cutlery and clear and wash the same. If you give restaurants enough notice, most will be able to provide a nice cake, again for the same price as your cheap cake with the cake age.

      If you simply HAVE to bring your own food and beverage to a restaurant -and there are valid times when one might have to do so, make sure you acknowledge and advise the restaurant, it is only good manners. If you always like to take your own wine, go to a BYO - an unlicensed premises. There are plenty of them around.

      If children are taken to a dining establishment, they should be kept under control at all times. Although a restaurant may be family friendly, it is not a kindergarten and you children should never disturb other guests with unruly behavior. If you child does misbehave do not shout or call out across the restaurant. Handle the situation as calmly as you can.

      Bon Apetit!

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      smelling a cork is something people do because if your bottle is corked, the cork will smell like mold. this is the proper thing to do when you are handed a cork.

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      I think this article is full of shit.

      1. Using Thumb / Fingers

      If I cannot use paranormal abilities to force food on my fork with brain waves, so I am gonna use finger(s), and serviiette afterwards to clean them.

      No dead penalty for this.

      When eating, I ENJOY FOOD, I dont give a heck for stupid rules.

      Anywas do you know how royal british family eat mangoes? They throw them onto the servants.

      I jappened to learn a fine way how to eat mango, but I don'tcare for etiqette.

      6. Cutting Steak all at Once

      Thi si the worst rule and the most stupid explanation. "Zou are not a baby". Oh yeah.

      I cut whole steak into pieces because I want to giv meat chance to chill litle bit because I HATE HOT HOT food.

      And when eating, I enjoy, and don't want to waist time for cutting in between.

      It has nothing to do with being a baby or something like that.

      And Ieat "Amerian style", I put the fork in my right hand.

      10. Fast Water Drinker

      And I am a water-lover.

      When I am thirsty, I must get a watter first, and only AFTER can I prder beer or wine.

      Esepccialy when the food is spicy, I get thirsty.

      It's a a question of humanisme and common reason to offer ypur guests a water. If a vagabond came in and asked for a glass of watter, I suppose he woud get it. Why not guests then??

      Water-haters are nazis.


    • profile image

      tasmanian devil 

      11 years ago

      Pushing your food on to you fork with your thumb is not only a restaurant ettiquette breach but crazy at any time. I had never considered ever doing this, I just didn't think of it. This practice is probably more common in America where people use their fork like a spoon and in their right hand. We in Australia use or fork in the left hand (if you are right-handed) and push food on to the fork with our knife.

    • kea profile imageAUTHOR


      11 years ago

      Thanks for the comment, one2recognize2!

    • one2recognize2 profile image

      Susan B Anna 

      11 years ago from New York

      Wonderful hub and can relate very well to most. The baseball cap, delay payer and group tipper especially. Hate to say it but associated with one of each.


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