Too often I am asked to form my opinion on simple niceties and etiquette when in mixed company and I would like to share some key points. Kidz, here we go!!!
GROUP DINING AT RESTAURANTS:
If there is a special event or celebration for groups, always assume that if you’re dining with more than 6 people (including yourself) that the check is going to be divided evenly amongst everyone. NOTE: If it’s a birthday, be sure to include your portion of the bill for the person you are celebrating. If you know that you have no interest in splitting the check, be sure to tell the server before you order. This will help the process move without error on server’s part.
Take into account 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.
Try to keep some class about yourself and respect service businesses. At a restaurant, always leave a tip. Tips can vary from 15% to 25%.
WAITER/SERVER: 15% to 20% of the bill; 25% for extraordinary service
WINE STEWART: 15% of wine bill
BARTENDER: 10% to 15% of bar bill
COAT CHECK: $1.00 per coat
VALET: $2.00 to $5.00
Trust me, napkins are not mere decorative items; please use them as you consume your meal. As soon as you are seated, remove the napkin from your place setting, unfold it, and place on your lap. Please, do not shake it open (so not cute!). Several formal restaurants may have their servers apply your napkins after you are seated, but it is not inappropriate to place your own napkin in your lap, even when this is the case.
The napkin should remain on your lap until the end of the meal. Don’t clean the cutlery or wipe your face with the napkin. NEVER use it to wipe your nose; it’s for your food maintenance around your mouth ONLY! If you excuse yourself from the table, loosely fold the napkin and place it to the left or right of your plate. Do not refold your napkin or wad it up on the table either. Never 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 folded. The napkin must also not be left on the chair.
SOURCE: United States Dining Etiquette Guide