Here are some etiquette basics, for those dining at a restaurant.
Restaurant reservations are like an appointment. If you make a reservation, stick to it. And its best to arrive at least 10 minutes early unless otherwise specified. Call ahead if you're going to be more than 15 minutes late.
Cancel reservations as far in advance as possible if your plans change, so the restaurant can offer someone else the table. Some restaurants take credit card numbers to hold reservations and charge no-show fees.
Once you are seated, remove the napkin from your place setting, unfold it, and put it in your lap. Do not shake it open. At some very formal restaurants, the waiter may do this for the diners, but you may place your own napkin in your lap, even in this circumstance.
Leave the napkin on your lap till the end of the meal. It shouldn't be used to clean cutlery or wipe your face, let alone to wipe or blow your nose!
If you excuse yourself from the table (to go to the bathroom or use your cellphone), loosely fold the napkin and place it to the left or right of your plate. Do not refold your napkin, leave it in a crumpled wad on the table, or place your napkin on your chair.
At the end of the meal, leave the napkin semi-folded at the left side of the place setting. It should not be crumpled or twisted; nor should it be re-folded as if unused, or left on the chair.
When to start eating
In a restaurant, wait until all are served at your table before beginning to eat. Ata dinner party, you can start whenever your host or hostess picks up their fork to eat. Do not start before this unless the host or hostess insists that you start eating.
Tasting the Wine
How to properly taste the wine.
Using a Cellphone or Smartphone
This may be a generational thing, but unless the person on the other end is part of this dinner, you should put the phone away. Talking to, texting, or twittering others is disrespectful of the other guests at the table. If its an urgent business or personal call, then you should excuse yourself and retreat to a quiet area of the restaurant, away from the group.
This goes DOUBLE if you are on a date. Unless you don't mind them chatting up the hottie at the next table while you are talking/texting on the phone. Save the blow-by-blow for your friends until after the date is over (or sneak it in--quickly--while you are in the bathroom, if you must!)
Dividing up the bill
Typically, if you're dining in a group of more than 6 people (3 couples), that the check is going to be divided evenly among everyone.
If you are dining with other couples, and you want to have separate checks, tell the server before you order so that the entry into the computer is done right, from the start. If you have a large group, many restaurants will only create one bill for the entire table, and its up to each individual (and the host/coordinator) to ensure the bill is properly paid.
Adjust the split if there are any significant ($15 or more) price differences in orders. If someone only orders soup and everyone else orders 2 to 3 courses, it's not fair to make them pay the same.
If there are a couple people not drinking alcohol while the rest of the group is, separate the beverage total to take this into account and don't overcharge the non-drinkers. Or, if someone drinks significantly more, or one of the couples has a more expensive bottle of wine.
At a restaurant, always leave a tip, which can vary from 15% to 25% of the pre-tax amount. A quick math tip: look at this as a multiple or equal of the tax, depending on where you live (in Alberta triple the GST is 15%, where there is HST then the tax or 1.5 times the tax is about right).
While some guides suggest tipping the wine steward and the bartender separately, typically the waiter will "tip-out" (divide the tip with) the others (including the hostess, the maitre d' and in some restaurants the kitchen staff) out their tip. If the owner of the restaurant serves you himself, you should still tip him. He will tip out those who work in the kitchen and dining room.
Remember that the base amount for the tip reflects the total price before any coupons, gift certificates, etc. Just because you get a discount, does not mean that your server did not serve up the full order.
Don't forget to tip the coat check person $1 per coat, and the valet parking $2 to $5 for the car.