20-40-60 Etiquette: Out of order?
QUESTION: How do you figure out who orders first at a restaurant?
CALLIE’S ANSWER: Whoever the waiter or waitress looks at first. Etiquette is to have women order first, then the men.
LILLIE-BETH’S ANSWER: This doesn’t seem like it would be an issue, but I can speak from experience — it is sometimes. I bungled this recently when a waiter looked at my daughter to order and I didn’t realize it exactly and jumped in ahead of her, making her feel interrupted and everyone feel awkward. I am not sure there are hard and fast rules, other than to go with whom the waiter asks and let the ordering flow naturally. And don’t interrupt your daughter when she’s ordering. Maybe the waiter should traditionally ask the older woman/person at the table first, but maybe not; in the end, everyone will get their food no matter who orders first.
HELEN’S ANSWER: Usually the waiter asks the person nearest to him. Sometimes one of the people at the table is ready to order and jumps right in and orders first.
I still think women at the table should order first, and it is definitely courteous to allow the oldest woman to go ahead. If there are all women present, allow the waiter to proceed in the way he has been trained. Probably the people who are the hungriest are the ones who are ready to go when they see the waiter.
GUEST’S ANSWER: Dave Cathey, The Oklahoman’s Food Editor: The best way to figure out who is ordering first is to pay attention with whom the waiter is making eye contact when he/she asks the question. A waiter will typically ask a lady at the table first. Sometimes children’s orders are covered first.
At a table for two men, I don’t know of any protocol. Perhaps whoever is paying decides who orders first. Same goes for a table for two women.
Callie Athey is 20-something, Lillie-Beth Brinkman is in her 40s, and social columnist Helen Ford Wallace is 60-plus. To ask an etiquette question, email email@example.com.