• First, Miss Manners says you need to know how much you’re spending. So, if your waiter recites a list of “specials of the day,” don’t be shy – pipe up and ask how much they cost. It’s not rude or uncouth, it’s smart.
• Another bit of restaurant etiquette: It’s okay to focus only on the people you’re dining with. So if strolling musicians, flower vendors, or chatty waiters stop at your table, it’s okay to dismiss them with a pleasant nod.
• So, what should you do if your friends seem to think you’re picking up the tab? Miss Manners says it’s easy to miss the distinction between “We’d like to take you out for dinner” and “Let’s have dinner together.” So, when the bill arrives, you could ask “Shall we just split it?” as if the choice is between going dutch, and itemizing the bill according to who ate what. Or you could just pay the bill, and let them pay the next time you go out.
• Finally, if you find it awkward when your table companions request separate checks, think about this: It’s better than having conversations like, “But you had two desserts,”. or “Don’t you think 20 percent is an excessive tip?”. or “I’d like to put it on my card for the frequent flyer miles.”
If you’d like to go further, the book is Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior.