Outdoor Dining Etiquette: 9 Tips

Outdoor Dining Etiquette
As you venture outdoors to enjoy a meal, be punctual, dress appropriately, and maintain cleanliness. Respect the waitstaff and practice utensils and napkin etiquette. Don't forget tipping – it's not just about loose change but reflects your appreciation.

1. Dressing Right

man confused about what to wear
Man confused about what to wear

Dressing appropriately for outdoor dining is crucial for a couple of reasons. First, you want to be comfortable. Outdoor settings can be unpredictable, and the last thing you want is for an unexpected wind to ruin your experience because your choice of clothing wasn’t suitable for the situation.

Second, dressing appropriately shows respect to the venue and other patrons. The rule of thumb is to match your outfit to the location, the occasion, and the weather.

Wear relaxed yet stylish, airy summer dresses, smart shorts, and a light shirt if it’s a casual spot with picnic outdoor tables and paper napkins. 

If you’re dining at a high-end restaurant with white tablecloths and fine china, stick to something more elegant. A neat polo shirt, khaki trousers, or a chic sundress would work.

2. Be Punctual

Punctuality is a subtle hint of your respect for other people’s time. It’s essential because dining al fresco involves factors beyond our control – weather, closing times, the comfort of other patrons, and the freshness of your food.

Here are a few tips to ensure that you’re punctual:

  • Plan ahead: Check the traffic conditions, prepare your outfit the night before, or set your alarm a little earlier. 
  • Keep a buffer: Anticipate delays. Keeping a buffer of 15 to 30 minutes can save you from unexpected hold-ups.

Your delay can throw off the restaurant’s schedule, affect the dining plans of other patrons, and ruin the freshness and quality of your meal. 

3. Practice Good Hygiene

man washing hands
Man washing hands

We’ve all heard the saying, “Cleanliness is next to godliness.” Good hygiene ensures a pleasant and comfortable experience for you and everyone around you. 

To maintain good hygiene, start with washing your hands before eating. It’s simple, quick, and a small price to pay for avoiding germs.

Let’s talk napkin etiquette. A napkin helps to dab away at any food mishaps and shield your lap from spills or splatters. When you’re not using it, keep it on your lap, not strewn across the table.

4. Mind The Noise

An outdoor meal isn’t an open invitation to be loud. You’re sharing the space with other diners and the surrounding community. They’d appreciate sipping their coffee or walking their dogs without listening to someone’s loud laughter.

To ensure you’re not the noisy neighbor, here are etiquette rules to follow:

  • Talk softly: Your voice doesn’t need to compete with the ambient sounds. Lean in and talk at a moderate volume. 
  • Laugh in moderation: That joke your friend cracked is hilarious, but your laughter shouldn’t reach the next block.
  • Mind your surroundings: Be aware of your sounds while eating or moving your chair. 

5. Utensils Etiquette

Outdoor dining allows for a relaxed, informal setting but also demands certain etiquette when using utensils. Using utensils properly shows respect for those around you and makes the experience enjoyable.

Hold your fork in your left hand and your knife in your right hand. As you converse with others, resist the urge to gesture with your knife and fork. Use spoons for soups, stews, and other dishes that are hard to tackle with a fork. 

6. Respect The Waitstaff

Respecting the waitstaff is as important as remembering your table manners. They deal with everything from temperamental weather to the kitchen’s whims.

Showing respect to the restaurant staff is about acknowledging and treating their efforts with kindness. Remember their name when they introduce themselves, and use it when addressing them. It makes the interaction personal and shows that you see them as individuals.

Also, if you have dietary restrictions or particular preferences, for instance, vegan or vegetarian meals — clearly communicate it to them or the host.

Say “please” and “thank you.”  These simple words convey respect and appreciation for their work. If you have a complaint, voice it politely. They are there to help and would be more than happy to fix any problems. 

7. Co-dining Courtesy

people meeting and greeting each other
People meeting and greeting each other

Being considerate of others is the cornerstone of a pleasant dining experience. It’s about stepping into another person’s shoes and considering how our actions affect them. 

It means keeping your conversation volume reasonable to avoid disturbing the couple enjoying a quiet meal at the next table. It means refraining from playing loud music or allowing children to run around.

Here are a few quick tips for being considerate of other diners:

  • Mind your volume: Be aware of your conversation volume. Keep the noise to a level that won’t interrupt others.
  • Clean up after yourself: Don’t leave your table in a mess. Clearing up after yourself makes the job easier for the staff and shows respect to the next guest who will use the table.

8. Tidy Table

A neat table is a testament to good manners. It’s a visual display of your respect for your companions, the environment, and the people who’ll take care of the place after you leave. 

First, start with organization. Have a place for everything. Napkins, utensils, plates, and glasses should have their designated spots. This will minimize spills and chaos.

Secondly, manage your waste. Leftover food used napkins, and empty bottles should be disposed of properly. Many dining spots provide trash cans within reach. 

9. Tip Appropriately

Tipping is a potent way of expressing gratitude to the restaurant workers who hustle to make your dining experience seamless. The standard practice is tipping between 15% and 20% of your pre-tax bill. 

However, there’s room for flexibility. If the service has been exemplary or the weather conditions have been challenging, a heftier tip could be an excellent way to show appreciation.

A few additional considerations when tipping: if your bill includes a service charge, it’s your call whether to tip additionally. If you are part of a larger group, the tip might already be included in your bill. It’s proper etiquette to tip a little higher – about 20% of the total bill if it isn’t.

What are the do’s and don’ts of dining etiquette in an outdoor setting?

Do’s ✅Don’ts ❌
Arrive on timeBe glued to your phone.
Wear a casual, comfortable, yet presentable outfit.Begin eating before everyone is served food.
Place your napkin on your lap once everyone is seated.Litter the waste around.
A kind word, a little patience, and a lot of ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ goes a long way.Enjoy your food & drink and overindulge in it.
Let your host set the rhythm of the meal. Start and finish your meal in sync with them.Laugh and talk at a loud volume that disturbs others around you.


Tabitha is a curious and enthusiastic writer who believes in the power of words and the importance of good manners. Etiquette is her passion, and she enjoys sharing her knowledge with others. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys traveling, reading, and spending time with her family.

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