American Restaurant Etiquette

Eating etiquette varies around the world. For example, in Japan, slurping is seen as a sign of enjoyment and deliciousness, while adding spices to food in Egypt is seen as impolite. Although your eating habits and culture should be respected and cherished, it is still crucial for you to learn about American eating etiquette, especially if you are coming to study in the States. 


Many restaurants will allow you to make a reservation beforehand, and it might even be mandatory for some places. So, make sure to check online by simply searching up the restaurant’s name and location before going there to see whether or not you can make a reservation. If they do not explicitly state anything about reservations, you can also call them to ask in case they allow phone reservations. This is also a really good idea if you are planning a dinner party for more than just two people. 

Wait to be seated

When you enter a restaurant, you must wait by the entrance for the host to seat you. No matter how busy the restaurant is, you should not seat yourself unless you are explicitly told to do so. 

How to order

Once seated, you will be given a menu and a waiter or waitress will come over to your table to ask for your choice of beverage. You can ask for tap water, if you don’t want to pay extra for drinks. After that, they will go get the drinks which gives you a few minutes to go through the menu and decide what you want. If you need more time to figure out what you want to order, you can just ask the waiter for a few more minutes. 

While eating

If you’re the first person to get your food, you should wait for the rest of the table to get theirs before you start eating yours. Americans often eat with a fork and knife, reserving the spoon for dishes like soup. Make sure to chew with your mouth closed and eat at a similar pace to everyone else in your party. If you need something, simply get the waiter’s attention with a polite wave. 

The bill

Once you are done eating, you can pay by waving to the waiter and asking them for the check. In the US, you must tip the waiter at the end of the meal and it is extremely frowned upon if you do not. Commonly, people leave 15% to 20% tip, depending on the service that they received. If the waiter was extra nice then you might want to leave them a bigger tip. 

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