20 Dining Etiquette Rules No One Follows Anymore

Updated: Jan. 26, 2023

Sorry, Emily Post. These dining etiquette rules are officially outdated.

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woman photographing food by smartphone
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Turning off cell phones before a meal.

To show respect to your host and fellow dining partners, it’s considered good manners to silence your cell phone and place it out of sight before sitting down. Nowadays, many people are leaving their phones on the table and even using them during dinner. Dining is a social experience, after all, so many friends use their devices to share photos, messages and other digital content. Did you know cooks are using their phones in the kitchen, too? Here’s how.

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Closeup of unrecognizable people passing bread basket around at festive dinner table

Buttering bread one bite at a time.

If you reach for a dinner roll, you’re supposed to tear off one piece at a time—and butter each bite individually. But today, convenience is King and diners often choose to butter the entire slice at once—if they’re even eating bread at all. With keto, gluten-free and low-carb diets on the rise, it’s no surprise this rule is outdated. (If you’ve never heard of it, here’s an intro to keto).

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Breakfast scene at a diner with salt and pepper shakers, silverware, and coffee
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Passing the salt and pepper together.

If someone asks for the salt, you’re supposed to pass the pepper, too. Today, it’s not necessary—especially since those shakers are one of the dirtiest items on a restaurant table. Ick!

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Positive waitress taking table order and smiling at the tavern
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Serving women first.

Many restaurants used to always serve ladies before gents. But in today’s day and age, gender doesn’t matter. Many servers place dishes based on the order they come out of the kitchen or each guest’s position at the table. And that’s not the only thing that’s changed over the past few decades.

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Aerial view of winter green garland on a wedding receptions head table with gold place setting and candelabra

Setting a table with tons of utensils.

As a kid, you might remember attending a formal dinner and being overwhelmed by the wide array of utensils surrounding the plate. Today, many diners only find the silverware they actually need. (Sorry, fish knife). If you need more guidance, here’s how to set a table.

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Couple having lunch at rustic gourmet restaurant
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Waiting to eat until everyone is served.

In a formal dining situation (like a job interview lunch) you should probably still do this. But when out with friends or family, feel free to dig in—especially if you ordered something hot. However, at home, these quick-fix meals designed for big families won’t leave hungry mouths waiting.

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Hands of cropped unrecognisable woman and man passing salad bowl at vegetarian restaurant.

Passing dishes clockwise.

Dishes should make their way around the table, clockwise. But family dinner’s have become a lot more relaxed. And when one of these cheesy casseroles is on the table, who can resist serving a scoop ASAP?

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Rustic table setting: pink napkin folded on a plate, next to a champagne glass

Leaving your napkin on the chair.

If you need to excuse yourself from the table, it’s proper etiquette to place your napkin on your chair. Nowadays, many diners just place them next to their plate. Learn the proper placement of your napkins, forks, wine glasses and more with our helpful table setting guide.

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Happy loving couple enjoying breakfast in a cafe.

Keeping elbows off the table.

If your parents were strict about this rule as a kid, good luck ever breaking it. But for the rest of us, rest assured that it’s not a major faux pas anymore. Instead, read up on the dinner party mistakes that actually frustrate your host. 

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date, people, payment and finances concept
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Expecting the man to pay.

In years past, the check went to the man at the table—no questions asked. But in the 21st century, many women are more than willing to pick up the bill or split the tab. So don’t assume that one party is (or isn’t) paying based solely on their gender. Speaking of splitting the bill, here’s the reason it’s called “going Dutch.”

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Empty dirty plates with spoon and forks on the table with a bright tablecloth
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Waiting to remove empty plates.

Servers used to wait until the entire table was finished eating before clearing plates. Nowadays, servers or bussers grab empty dishes whenever they can. (And you don’t have to sit in front of a crusty plate for 20 minutes). By the way, these are the habits that annoy your waiter or waitress.

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Woman hands using black pepper and salt shaker on the slices of pizza

Waiting to season food.

To show respect for the cook, you should wait to season food with salt and pepper until after you’ve tried a few bites. And while this may still make sense in practice, it’s unlikely you’d offend anyone by adding a dash of pepper to your salad ASAP.

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Plate with crumbs food

Placing used utensils on your plate.

The placement of utensils on your plate used to communicate to waitstaff whether you were finished with a course or still eating. Now, many servers just ask.

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Young waiter serving big family during dinner or breakfast

Serving on the left, clearing dishes on the right.

In formal situations, waitstaff aims to serve dishes on the left and clear empty plates on the right. But c’mon, how many restaurants have space for that? Especially if you’re seated in a romantic nook or against the wall. Sorry, but you’ll be served on whatever side is accessible. Oh, and these “polite” restaurant habits are actually major mistakes. 

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Smiling woman talking with friends sitting at dining tablet at home
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Waiting for the hostess.

When dining at someone’s home, you should follow the hostess’s cues for when to start eating, how quickly to eat, etc. Today’s dinner parties are a lot more relaxed and guests can set their own pace. You should, however, treat your hostess to one of these fun gifts. 

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Two female friends drinking wine in restauran
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Sipping your glass from the same spot.

To avoid lip marks on your glass, try to hit the same spot every time you take a sip. While this rule might make sense if you’re wearing lipstick, it’s unlikely that anyone else is paying attention to your glass. After the party, learn how to polish wine glasses like a sommelier. 

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A dirty plate and an empty cup of coffee

Leaving a bite on your plate.

Traditionally, you should leave a bite on your plate to convey that you enjoyed the meal and were served enough to be satisfied. Today, diners (and especially children) shouldn’t be excepted to join the #CleanPlateClub or feel bad if they finish their meal. Instead, just eat until you’re full.

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Group Of Friends Meeting For Lunch In Coffee Shop
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Wearing the proper attire.

The days of restaurant dress codes are all but over. Only a handful of eateries still require men to don a jacket and tie before dining. Today, comfort is key. Dig old-school dining? Here’s the oldest restaurant in every state.

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Blonde woman eating green healthy tasty eco salad on city street terrace
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Ordering the same number of courses.

In days past, the number of courses you ordered was determined by the table, not each individual diner. Nowadays, order as many (or as few) courses as you like. Heck, you could even get an appetizer as your main meal! These apps are sure to satisfy.

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Cute Playful Preschooler Child at Christmas Dinner;

Asking to be excused.

As a kid, when you finished your meal you had to ask to be excused from the table. But today, many kids are free to get up whenever they please. Plus, daily family dinners are becoming more rare, so many kids end up eating in the car or in front of the T.V. When your family does eat together, unite the group with one of these classic recipes.