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What is Fine Dining?

Fine dining is a restaurant experience that is typically more sophisticated, unique, and expensive than one would find in the average restaurant. Industry analysis, trends and opportunities for fine dining restaurants.

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  • Traditionally the most expensive dining experience
  • Typically multi-course
  • Elegant a la carte or prix fixe menu options
  • Popular during holidays or special occasions

Popular Fine Dining Restaurants

The Top 10 Fine-Dining Restaurants in America

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Fine Dining Service Rules

Unlike casual restaurants, fine dining service rules are strict, as a high standard is expected. Fine dining establishments hire staff that can deliver elegance, experience, and knowledge to the dining experience. 

The Setup and Greeting

  • Flatware and silverware is arranged from the outside in, starting with the first course.
  • Tablecloths are clean and evenly placed.
  • Any cutlery, plates, and napkins are removed for empty seats.
  • When guests arrive, greet all members of the party warmly and formally. “Good evening, sir,” is appropriate, while “How’s it going tonight?” would not be.

The Meal

  • To avoid leaving fingerprint marks, glasses and silverware are held by the base.
  • Servers never reach over a guest across the table. It’s best practice to take the plate from the closest point.
  • Servers remove used plates and silverware at the end of every course.

After the Meal

  • Servers only clear a plate when everyone in the party is finished with the course.
  • When clearing off the table, servers stack plates one at a time off of the table to avoid making noise.
  • If the meal is not prix fixe, servers bring out dessert and drink menus before offering the check.

Fine Dining Etiquette


Depending on how “fine” the fine dining restaurant is, there may be a dress code required for guests. Typically, any mandated dress code will be specified beforehand so as not to single out any patrons, but it is not uncommon for restaurants to turn guests away at the stand if they are not in the proper attire.


Guests at a fine dining restaurant are expected to uphold a certain level of civility at a fine dining restaurant. Some of the unspoken rules include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Proper attire should be observed.
  • While not enforced in every fine dining restaurant, young children are traditionally expected to not be a part of the fine dining experience. Learn more about the pros and cons of child-free dining.
  • Speaking loudly or making too much noise is discouraged and seen as disruptive.
  • Since fine-dining is usually multi-course, expect to take your time at the venue. Guests should not expect to feel rushed in a fine dining restaurant, no matter how busy it is.
  • Limit menu customizations. The menu has been painstakingly designed by an expert chef, so changes, substitutions, and/or special requests are usually not the norm.

How Fine Dining Restaurant Concepts Compare to Others

Fine Dining vs. Casual Dining

Casual dining restaurants are full service, just like fine dining, but are less experiential and less expensive.

Fine Dining vs. Fast Food

Fast food is typically pre-made and focuses on speed, while fine dining is made to order and could last several hours.

Fine Dining vs. Fast Casual 

The guest experience at a fast casual restaurant is quicker, whereas in fine dining restaurants, guests sit and experience a meal from start to finish.

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Fine Dining Restaurant Staff

Staffing a fine dining restaurant is drastically different than many other restaurant types. Those who work in a fine dining restaurant often see it as their career high point. Thus, those looking to hire for a fine dining establishment should seek out those with years of experience in hospitality.

Read More:
The List of Restaurant Positions & Jobs You Can Hire
10 Restaurant Interview Questions You Should Ask
20 Waiter and Waitress Duties and Responsibilities 

Fine Dining Food/Menu

Prix Fixe

Prix fixe menus are set menus with one or limited options in the multi-course meal. Some restaurants will have one choice for each course, while others may have a few options for customers to pick and choose from.

Learn More 
How to Build a Prix Fixe Menu in Your Restaurant

A la Carte

A la carte menus in fine dining restaurants let guests build their main course plate from an extensive menu. For example, Davio’s steak entrees do not come with side orders included – the price reflects the main part of the meal. However, their menu has an extensive list of sides and appetizers – such as mashed potatoes and asparagus – available for separate purchase that the entire table can enjoy.

Traditional Entree Menu

Some fine dining restaurant stick with a more mainstream model of ordering, where entrees include side orders to be matched with the main part of the meal. For example, the filet might be paired with roasted potatoes and a side salad, while the New York strip might come with french fries and seasonal vegetables.

In both the traditional and a la carte menu choices, additional courses like appetizers and desserts are optional.

Fine Dining Menu Contents

The menus at fine dining restaurants tend to be more expensive, elegant, and unique than menus at more casual restaurants. Here are a few examples of what you mind find.

Read more:

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Starting a Fine Dining Restaurant

Opening a fine dining restaurant – or any restaurant, for that matter – can be a costly endeavor. The process involves financial investments, market research, and passion for the industry.

Sadly, there’s no one-size-fits-all to opening a restaurant. The process and funding is drastically different for every location. Start below with the free resources and reading material.

Read More
How to Build a Restaurant SWOT Analysis
What Do You Need to Open a Restaurant? The Beginner’s Checklist
8 Different Ways to Procure Restaurant Financing & Loans

Fine Dining Restaurant Resource

Restaurant Hiring Kit

Free Ebook and Interview Templates


Employee Retention Handbook

86 your restaurant's employee retention problem


The Restaurant Staffing Guide

How to Hire, Manage, and Lead the Perfect Team


Restaurant Employee Handbook Template

Building your custom Employee Handbook


Restaurant Opening Calculator

How Much Does It Cost to Open a Restaurant?


Restaurant Opening Checklist

10 Step Opening a Restaurant Checklist