Dining etiquette varies across cultures. Seeking new experiences in dining by exploring different cuisines across the world is always an upscale experience. What is dining etiquette in France can be considered improper in Japan.
In France like in England, one can only make as little noise while eating or none at all but in Japan, you can drink directly from your bowl of soup and slurp while at it. These diversity makes the world of dining boundless with options and etiquette open to definition.
Since I won’t be delving into dining etiquette from different cultures across the world, here are some more fine dining plating tips. Something to keep you on your toes during your travels during and post-Covid-19. Also to help you explore different cuisines around your area and apply dining etiquette while at it.
Dining etiquette during Covid-19 may not be successfully unrolled using conventional rules per country. Just as Covid-19 has inevitably harmonized our routines, our dining etiquette during this period has also been inescapably synchronized.
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Whether you slurp your bowl of soup in Japan or tear your bread by hand in France and put it on the table, Covid-19 has humbled our approach to dining etiquette altogether. That is why CDC, hoteliers, Chefs, NGO and allies of the hospitality industry have come with a globalized set of guidelines on dining etiquette in a pandemic.
We never imagined masked servers walking around Michelin start restaurants looking like lab technicians. Neither did we ever imagine masked sommeliers helping us to select our favorite bottle of wine. Or silently praying that your server is Covid free.
The best place to offer us escapism is the very place that gives us a constant reminder that we are in fact in a pandemic. So how do we keep up dining etiquette during a pandemic and still get to have our escape?
Firstly, valuate the risks, make decisions knowing you understand the risks involved both for diners and restaurants. Here is a risk checklist map as provided by CDC.
Highest Risk: Indoor and outdoor dining with a full house without 2 meters space between tables. Tables with maximum sitting capacity.
High Risk: Restaurants and hospitality facilities reduce the number of tables and seats to at least 80% to create social distancing space between the tables.
Low Risk: Restaurants adopt drive-through, encourage take out and transition to delivery to close the missing clientele gap. Curb side pick up and out door only seating.
Lowest Risk: Service should be limited to drive through, delivery, take out and curb-side pick up.
Secondly, it won’t be dining etiquette if we don’t talk about cutlery. Terms and conditions of contactless dining apply to the lay out of cutlery in a restaurant. Fine dining etiquette in a pandemic is ideally a new concept that once explored is not only limitless in style but also futuristic in its implementation.
Which of the two set ups would you currently prefer?
A modern rectangular Bento Box cutlery case preset with impeccably designed plate covers with a bronze handle to cover your cutlery and meal.
Or Exhibit B
A formal fine dining set up with everything aesthetic, ambience and class but with uncovered dessert and exposed cutlery.
You can still achieve exhibit B by using covered dinner plates and cased cutlery.
Thirdly, both Michelin and non-Michelin star restaurants have to keep up with fine dining etiquette during Covid-19. Between the slew of guidelines provided and dining etiquette service guidelines, both diners and restaurants need to find a middle ground.
Fine Dining Etiquette Guidelines
No handshakes, only Namaste
The dictates of fine dining etiquette pre-Covid-19 recommended one to stand and greet their guest once they arrive. During Covid-19 stand but do not shake hands, etiquette experts Farley and Capricia Penavic Marshall advise we stick to Namaste for now, until post Covid-19.
Once diners get into a restaurant, depending on the policy of the restaurant they seem to remove their masks. It is good manners and protocol to wear your mask once a server approaches your table. Once you are done eating or just catching a breath or simply having a banter or leaving for the restroom, it is advisable to put your mask back on.
Here is what Julie King, owner of Villa Mexico Café in downtown Boston had to say at an interview.
“There are customers that are very respectful and they know what is going on with the pandemic and that they need to wear masks. When we go outside [to bring them food], they immediately pull the mask up and cover their face. If restaurant staff are required to wear masks and, at many restaurants, gloves for the entire day, we can all manage a few more moments of mask-wearing when placing orders table side. I always say, ‘It’s not a matter of you, it’s a matter of us,’ “We need to protect each other.”
Wait staff to observe their distance and movements to keep away from diner’s tables as a demonstration of respect and good manners. Wait staff should strategically stand where clients can see them but not close to them and as such diners should always keep their masks on while ordering.
Tip like a boss now more than ever, with seating capacity reduced by almost a half, and wait staff taking cuts it’s chivalrous and lady like to appreciate services offered to you. This applies to both in-dining, drive through and delivery services. Try increasing your tip.
Wait staff and delivery services are risking a lot to keep the world sane, entertained and fulfilled.
Always carry your pandemic kit
Restaurants should be the guiding model to diners by investing in sanitizers and state of the art temperature checks. By this hand, diners should always bring their Covid-19 kit, sanitizers, wipes, an extra mask for your replacement or to give someone who needs it. Some restaurants do provide this but anticipating safety in advance is wise.
Restaurants to put their menus on their digital sites and advise their diners to know what to order in advance. This reduces servers bussing around a diner’s table by taking orders once. It’s dining etiquette for diners to arrange their used dishes on side of the table to avoid servers going around your table.
Make a reservation
Walk ins usually work except there is a pandemic and with some countries experiencing a surge in numbers, restaurants are reducing the number of customers even more. It’s classy and mannered to call in first and reserve the best table at the patio and let the restaurant know how many you will be so they can make arrangements.
Lastly, Michelin star restaurants have had to make bold decisions to transition from fine dining etiquette to dining etiquette in a pandemic. Luxury food services are now competing with fast food models but where does the boundary of luxury foods and fast food get drawn?
Canlis three-star restaurant and other Michelin restaurants have adopted differently to conventional fast-food restaurants, like delivering food in chic and elegant packages with a couple stems of fresh yellow lilies, a candle and a live link to stream the restaurant’s piano to refine the mood.
Regardless, a delivered food box or one picked at a drive through will never match the experience of an artsy and skilfully plated caramelized mussels from your favorite chef. Questioning the fate of fine dining is a murky water territory for now, what we know for sure is that we are going to need more dinner boxes.
Michelin start restaurants can revive the culture of fine dining by investing in cutlery case and state of the art covered dinner plates.
Chefs across the world are missing in-house experience of diners flooding their restaurants and wearing them out with reservations. Fine dining has been quickly replaced with plastic delivery boxes and drive through without exploiting the nuances of fine dining.
Restaurants should strive to keep up the culture of fine dining during and post-Covid. It’s how and where business deals get made, proposals happen, birthday parties or simply kicking it with your friends. We don’t have to abandon fine dining etiquette for dining etiquette in a pandemic, we could always have both.