Yes, There Is A Correct Way To Fold Your Napkin At A Fancy Restaurant

In the third season episode of Nickelodeon's "Spongebob Squarepants," entitled "Squilliam Returns," Spongebob transforms into the perfect high-end waiter by clearing his mind of literally everything except for fine dining and breathing. Unfortunately for us non-animated, non-porous humans, our brains don't have quite the same ability to dump unnecessary knowledge when dining at a five-star restaurant, leaving us all at risk of committing a faux pas during a fancy meal.

Sure, you'll probably remember to keep your elbows off of the table and avoid talking with your mouth full, but will you recall the important drinking rule you need to know before taking a sip or how you're supposed to fold your napkin? Even though it sounds like one of those fine dining rules that make absolutely no sense, there is a correct way to do so.

First things first: When dining high-end, you should place your napkin in your lap immediately upon sitting down. Ensuring that the cloth is below the table, fold it in half with the crease facing toward you and lay it across your legs with the fold at your waist. Then, as you use the napkin throughout your meal, you want to dab rather than wipe to ensure you don't smudge anything across your face.

How to use your napkin to silently communicate with your waiter

When dining at a fancy restaurant, your napkin is not to be used for blowing your nose, wiping sweat from your brow, or cleaning water marks from your silverware. Its purpose is to dab excess food off of your mouth, with a secondary role as a sort of communication device for waitstaff.

In fine dining, there is a "silent code" involving you, your napkin, and your server that can tell them whether you're done with your meal. For example, say you're halfway through your plate and need to leave the table but want to return to finish your food. Without announcing you're headed to the restroom (another important rule of fine-dining etiquette), excuse yourself from the table and place your napkin directly on your chair. This will signal that you will only temporarily be leaving and that they should not clear your place.

Likewise, when you have finished eating, you'll want to place it to the left of your plate to signal that you are done and that they can take away your dishware and utensils. As with the strict napkin rule that the royal family has to follow, you'll want to make sure to loosely fold the cloth to ensure soiled areas aren't on display.