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

  1. 1
    Molly McConn | September 10, 2015 at 7:18 am

    I love this, Jenn! Just last week, I sat through a birthday dinner with about 15 people and the long rectangular table made it impossible for me to view the guest of honor and my best friends, no less have a conversation! If hosting at home isn’t an option, I think I’ll opt to reserve two small, round tables next to each other next time I dine out with a larger group. xx!

    • Jennifer Rose Smith | September 10, 2015 at 10:35 am

      That’s a great idea for a dinner where you have to invite more than six people, Molly. Excited this might be catching on.

  2. 2
    Vanessa @ Living in Steil | September 10, 2015 at 8:36 am

    These are great tips and I think a lot of us struggle with proper etiquette for group dinners. I like the idea of limiting guests to 4-6. More than that and it is hard to pay everyone proper attention and keep the conversation flowing.


    • Jennifer Rose Smith | September 10, 2015 at 10:36 am

      Agreed, Vanessa. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  3. 3
    Sara Lou | September 10, 2015 at 9:25 am

    You are speaking my language! I always hate it when an intimate dinner turns out to be too big to really connect with all of your close friends, I also try to space them out. I think some people are just not conscious of these facts…good on you for point it out!

    Sara Lou | http://www.saralouyoga.com

    • Jennifer Rose Smith | September 10, 2015 at 10:27 am

      Thanks, Sara Lou! This article was a long time in the making… we have been talking about these ideas forever in this office. It felt good to finally put them in writing.

  4. 4
    Andrea McAlister | September 10, 2015 at 9:34 am

    I have struggled with limiting to 6 or less at the table too many times to count. How do I invite my favorite people to dinner and not include so-and-so?

    • Jennifer Rose Smith | September 10, 2015 at 10:25 am

      I know. It is such a dilemma. Maybe the solution is just more get-togethers more often. Then there won’t be the pressure to invite every single friend every time.

  5. 5
    Jean Jones | September 10, 2015 at 11:18 am

    Nicely done and very interesting! I especially love Camille’s point about not splitting couples up at the table. A modern and warm touch that puts everyone at ease. Thank you for these New Rules!

  6. 6
    karin | September 10, 2015 at 2:12 pm

    This is a huge and interesting topic which has been done with great consideration ….best thing I heard lately.

  7. 7
    Lori | September 10, 2015 at 10:05 pm

    I did the 6 Guest Maximum thing years ago when I had a really small apartment. I had 2 Christmas parties, a week apart, with 6 people at each. This made for two intimate, fun, yet a bit different get-togethers. Now I’m wondering why I don’t still do that, despite having more space…

  8. 8
    Blondes & Bagels | September 18, 2015 at 9:33 am

    I love hearing that – for the most part – you should not be inviting friends to a dinner without considering how much they may have to pay. I was raised in a family that insisted if you invited and organized – you paid. This doesn’t seem to be the case for most and I’m often invited places and expected to shell out a great deal of money. Best to lead by example I suppose!

  9. 9
    Maretha | September 19, 2015 at 2:02 pm

    Lovely post Jen 🙂 Love the sophisticated design of your site


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