The Menu Rule You're Supposed To Follow At Fine Dining Restaurants

Your elders may have taught you that it's good manners to wait until the hostess or host has been seated before tucking into your meal. Likewise, you probably learned at a young age to keep your elbows off the table and to definitely not chew with your mouth open. Most rules of etiquette are followed as a form of respect for the host and your fellow diners. Abiding by them is simply common sense if we all want to enjoy a civilized meal.

But the simple rules we were given as children are just the beginning when you start to consider a meal beyond a modest dinner at home. Go out to a fine dining establishment, and you may well encounter a whole new world of culinary rules. Unless you're accustomed to haute cuisine, you may be making a simple error when you sit down to eat at a fancy restaurant.

So, before you commit another food faux pas, let's find out what is considered proper etiquette when choosing your meal in an elegant eatery. That's because there's a key menu rule you're supposed to follow at fine dining restaurants that you might not know about.

The menu rule

At one time, Emily Post was the authority on all things etiquette. Her 1922 book, "Etiquette In Society, in Business, in Politics and at Home," was the go-to resource for advice on dining and good manners.

Emily Post may have been the authority a hundred years ago, but today we turn to experts who have had the rare experience of advising the most privileged of fine diners — the British royal family. Writers for Food & Wine were given a crash course in dining etiquette from an expert with just this kind of experience. Among the lessons learned was the menu rule you're supposed to follow at fine restaurants.

This oft-overlooked guideline for dining at high-end establishments is easy to do and remember: when perusing the menu, never take it off the surface of the table. In other words, a part of the menu should be touching the table at all times. As for your next step, Etiquette Scholar tells us that after you've decided, you should close the menu and place it on the table to indicate to your server that you're ready to place your order.

Other fine dining protocols

Some dining etiquette rules have their roots in medieval times. For instance, the story goes that toasting by clinking glasses together was meant to spill some of the contents of your dining companion's glass into your own. The gesture was meant to ensure a guest that their glass didn't contain poison (via The American School of Protocol). However, there's no apparent source of the menu rule, and it isn't the only practice diners must follow while breaking bread with royals and other high-class folks.

According to Marie Claire, if you're dining with the elite, you must keep your index finger down the length of your fork and never allow it to squeak against your plate. Meanwhile, there's even a very detail-orientated way in which you'll want to fold your napkin to keep food particles hidden, a la royal diners (via Insider). This new knowledge will prepare you for your next formal dinner. All that's left to do is to wait for that invitation from Buckingham Palace.