Times may have changed, but courtesy never goes out of style. In today's world sometimes it's complicated to figure out how to do the right thing. Local etiquette expert Karen Hickman answers your questions or helps solve your dilemmas on Fridays in The News-Sentinel and at www.news-sentinel.com.
Q. Karen, is it acceptable and considered polite to share a dessert in a restaurant? It seems many people would just like a bite of dessert, and getting one to share seems to make sense.
A. Sharing food in a restaurant is acceptable, but there are a few things to keep in mind if you do. First, consider the people you are with and make sure it is something they don't mind doing. Many people do not like the idea. And it isn't something I would recommend doing if you are at a business-related meal or with people you don't know well.
However, some types of food beg to be shared and are served family style, such as Chinese food. Most people expect to share what they ordered with others in a Chinese restaurant because of the generous portions and the opportunity to taste multiple dishes.
Some other things to consider:
•Always ask the others at the table if they'd like to share something before you order and put it on your bill.
•Don't ask to have a bite of someone else's dessert, or any other part of his or her meal, unless the person offers or you know him or her very well.
•Request extra forks and small, clean plates to cut down on the mess.
•Ask for serving utensils so no one has to give up a fork.
•For hygienic reasons, divide the food before anyone has taken a bite of it.
•Make sure the restaurant doesn't mind, and consider having the dish split in the kitchen if that would make it easier to share.
•Add a little extra onto the tip if your server has gone to extra trouble.
•Don't take more than your share.
•Don't eat off someone else's plate, and don't ask to clean up that person's plate.
There are a lot of people who are into food these days, and going to new restaurants and trying and sharing new dishes can be fun and part of the experience. Just be sure you are dining with fellow foodies, or you may get a raised eyebrow from your dinner partners.
Karen Hickman is a certified etiquette/protocol consultant and owner of Professional Courtesy LLC. Do you have a question for her? Email firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll forward it to her.