DEAR HARRIETTE: My company's etiquette coach told me that when we go to a restaurant, we should tip our waiter before we order our food to insure proper service. I would like some clarity on this scenario. -- Fine dining, Manhattan, New York
DEAR FINE DINING: I'm thinking that your company's etiquette coach is referring to the maitre d' of a fine-dining restaurant, who is essentially the person managing the floor of the restaurant during the meal. Historically, it was common for guests who wanted extra-special service to tip the maitre d' anywhere from $50 to $100 in advance of the meal to ensure preferential treatment.
I honestly do not think this is necessary in most restaurants these days. If you go to a good restaurant and establish a friendly rapport with the maitre d' and your server, you should be afforded fine service. If you are hosting dignitaries or even a large group of people and you want to make sure the dining experience is as smooth as possible, you may want to have a side conversation with your server and ask him or her to ensure that all goes well. That's when a tip can come in handy.