Friday, November 15, 2013

What Not To Do at a Restaurant Table

Today's post was inspired by a friend's Facebook status update that I read last night regarding her dinner out with her hubby. It went a little something like this.... " L and I are at a restaurant having dinner and this well dressed couple comes in and sits at a booth across from us. The lady pulls out a brush and proceeds to brush her hair at the table-what??!

I think this is proof that being well dressed and even possessing a wealth of money cannot buy you class. It is also evidence that most of us still have areas to improve upon it the manners and etiquette department. Some things just appear so innocent like swiping your lips with a wand of lip gloss to freshen up your color after a meal or in this case, grooming one's hair before dinner. Essentially, anything that resembles grooming activities that you would normally perform in your bathroom at home are off limits at a dinner table whether it be at a restaurant, dinner party or elsewhere.

This got me to thinking about all of those seemingly harmless things that so many do at tables all across the globe on a daily basis, offending others along the way. Some have become common place and seem less taboo such as having a cell phone on the table, however I think we can all agree it's still a no-no. Below is a short list of what not to do.

1. Picking teeth with a toothpick, business card corner or a fingernail- if you must use a toothpick, be sure to do so after the meal once you've left the table, preferably in the restroom. Your best bet is to carry a small roll of floss in your handbag and reach for it while you freshen up in the ladies room after a meal or mid-meal if you can feel a large piece of food or spice lodged between your teeth which could become a conversational distraction to you and others.

2. Lip gloss or Lipstick re-application is something that women seem to do in public in a variety of places but it's best avoided at the table as with all other personal grooming habits-take it to the ladies room. Some may argue that if they don't need to use liner, don't require a compact mirror and can do it in a flash that it's not a big deal. Please see tip #5 regarding the mystery of a lady.

3. Smoking is acceptable and welcomed at many cafes, restaurant patios and in some venues however this is a no-no at the table when others are eating and drinking. I assure you, nobody wants to look at an ash tray with cigarette butts and ashes on the table nor do they care to breathe in the toxic plume while they're enjoying the array of flavors before them. Even if everyone is finished their final course, it is still appropriate and most considerate to smoke outside away from company in a well ventilated area away from others coming and away from busy restaurant front entrance. If you happen to smoke, read more tips on the post I wrote about smoking etiquette.

4. Nails and hands in general can carry a lot of germs. Never bite fingernails, pick at them, file them and absolutely under no circumstances would you apply nail polish to them at the table. If you need to file a chipped or torn nail, the restroom once again is the place to be.

5. Makeup application such as a quick powder of the nose or blotting paper should be done in private. Not only is it impolite at the table but it is not ladylike, a classy woman never gives away her beauty enhancement secrets at the table while in the company of other women or men.  There is a sense of mystery to beauty that is lost when we choose to reveal such details by putting them on display.

6. Chewing gum needs to be disposed of before sitting down to a meal. If you find yourself with gum in your mouth after you've sat down, be sure to excuse yourself to the restroom to remove it and wash your hands thereafter. Many will gently spit chewing gum into a napkin or take the wad of gum out of their mouth with their hands and put it into a napkin but that is not sanitary and nobody at the table wants those images before they eat.

7. Cell phones should remain off at the table. Some say vibrate mode is appropriate while dining but it will only trigger the person carrying it to look and see and possibly attempt to text or respond to the alert in some way. If it's a business lunch among colleagues and everyone agrees to the protocol, it is acceptable however others in the restaurant don't care to hear your phone conversations so in my mind even that's still off limits. The best bet in any environment, if you're going to take the time to 'do lunch' or enjoy a meal with others is to turn it off completely where you won't be tempted to become distracted and turn off those who you're dining with. There are of course exceptions to every rule as in the case of cell phone etiquette, for both parents who have left their children and in someone else's care or the husband/significant other of a woman who is expecting should set to vibrate.

8. Touching one's nose, blowing one's noses and even sneezing or coughing need to be done in private with a tissue in hand, the restroom again is the place to go to avoid spreading germs.

9. Passing wind in either form is completely forbidden at the table however I'm amazed at how many still do it, namely belching. In some culture's it's considered to be a compliment to the chef! While that may be fine in other countries, in North America it most certainly is not. It's disgusting to both those you are dining with and others who have to bear witness to it.

10. Hair brushing (which of course was the prompt for today's post) or even combing seems harmless but stray hairs can come out while primping and a restaurant is an environment where food is served to many, it is never appropriate to groom your hair or even re-position hair clips at the table where hair could end up on your own or another person's table or in their food.

Do you want more etiquette tips on dining out? Take a peek at some of my previous posts here:

Table Etiquette

Restaurant Tipping Etiquette

Where to Place Your Handbag When Dining Out

Reader Request: Is it Ever Okay to Take Food From Another Person's Plate?

Have you ever dined out and found yourself in the presence of someone doing something that should not be done at a restaurant table? Feel free to share it in the comments below, I'd love to hear your own experiences!

Thanks for Reading!


*image source


  1. Where did all of the class and poise of the early 19th century disappear to? It's like with our increasing freedoms we're sacrificing manners and charm. Brushing your hair at the table in a restaurant??? If not for the etiquette at least think of the hygiene!! Eeee, gasp! Thanks for your post. - Michelle from the Charm School Therapy blog.

    1. I agree with you, Michelle. I wonder the same thing myself quite often. That is exactly it, people have so much freedom and we've become more relaxed and accepting of this behavior as a society that we essentially perpetuate it. I'm with you, the hygiene aspect alone is a big issue. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. :)

  2. It is so sad that your list isn't common sense, but yes, I see it all the time, too. I'm getting so tired of all the kids whipping out their cell phones or gaming devices. I recently read an article in a magazine (Family Circle, maybe?) about that, and how by age 8 children should be able to sit through a meal without needing distractions. If only!

    1. Hi Sylvie, thanks for sharing! Technology is definitely a distraction. I can never understand why people need to escape and get in touch with other people (social media) when they have family and friends right in front of them. I understand that children can become bored by adult-only conversation but it's part of learning how to become social, training for adulthood. There is definitely an increase in distractions and a decrease in discipline (self and parent directed) today vs. a couple decades ago.


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