The New Rules for Dinner

By Jenn Rose Smith

We’ve all been there — seated at a table of fifteen girls trying to figure out the bill at an expensive restaurant. In the end, you’re not quite satisfied. You paid too much, ate too little, and could only talk to the girls seated directly next to you. It wasn’t quality time, and yet it took four hours (thanks to the friend who showed up 20 minutes late). This phenomenon seems to come up over and over again in our office conversations and we decided it’s high time someone set some new rules for dinner. We put our heads together and came up with seven principals to make our dining experiences better. Our guidelines apply to both dinner parties hosted at home and get togethers at restaurants, which seem to be the norm for our busy generation. Living up to these ideals is going to be a challenge for us as well, and in reality we won’t always be able to meet every expectation… they’re really not so much “rules” as they are goals to keep in mind when planning and attending dinner parties in the future. Thumb through our slideshow and let us know what you think in the comments section. And here’s to better dinners!

featured image via Babe Walker

No more than six at a table

This is something Camille and I have talked about at length, and we think it comes down to this: it’s hard to have more than six people really engaged in the same conversation. And good conversation is always an element of our favorite dinners. Somewhere between four to six people seems to be the magic number for a great discussion that everyone can experience together.

Photo from Entertaining With Gather & Feast

Don’t always split up couples

In formal society, it’s considered proper to arrange a seating chart with couples divided to promote good conversation (just think about the dining room scenes in Downton Abbey). But in the more casual setting of Austin, we usually like to sit next to our dates. Most of us are so busy with work, some of us haven’t seen our significant others all week. Camille is a big proponent of seating couples together, no matter how formal the meal.

Photo by Lucy Cuneo

Be on time

Blame it on texting, blame it on uber, but for whatever the reason our entire generation seems to be running about 15 minutes late at all times. (If you personally struggle with this, check out Camille’s tips for arriving on time). It’s always good to be punctual, but it’s especially important to be on time when there’s food involved — there’s nothing worse than a group of hungry guests letting their food get cold waiting for you.

Photo via Adenorah

Stay mindful of the menu

Whether you’re planning a meal to serve at home or choosing a restaurant for your next group dinner, don’t forget to consider the dietary preferences of others. When in doubt, send out a quick email to the group inquiring as to any dietary restrictions. Your vegan friend will be delighted when you choose a menu where vegetables are the star.

See our recipe for Roasted Shishito Peppers

Be sure and choose a restaurant that everyone in the group can afford

This one is tricky, and Chanel and I talk about it all the time. But if you’re going to organize your own birthday dinner at a restaurant and you expect your guests to cover your part of the bill, don’t. You invited them, remember? And most importantly, don’t set them up for it at a restaurant that’s way out of their comfort zone in terms of price. Be thoughtful and choose a restaurant that makes sense with your friends’ budgets for a relaxed dinner that everyone can enjoy.

Photo via Vogue

No texting at the table

This one seems obvious, but we’re all guilty. Nothing says “I have more important people to talk to than you” like texting at the table. Leave your phone in your purse and catch up on instagram after dinner. You’ll enjoy the food and the company so much more when you’re distraction-free!

Photo via Urban Outfitters

Keep the conversation inclusive

Be mindful of everyone at the table and do your part to keep the conversation open. Don’t spend too much time on subjects that alienate certain individuals (like talking about childcare when one person at the table doesn’t have children). Film, literature, fashion and travel are all great topics that most people can relate to. If you notice someone being left out of the conversation, take the lead and ask them a question they’ll be excited to answer. People love a chance to voice their opinions!

Photo from Entertaining With Nikisha and Carl