I'd turn it off before eating. It's scarcely flattering to your companions if you're wittering on to callers during the meal.
If you are having dinner with family or friends, and your cell phone rings, what do you do? (at someone's home or at a restaurant)
Unless I'm expecting a very important call, I would just turn it off. Kind of rude, just like people in a restaurant talking on phones while you're trying to have a nice meal.
It depends on several things.
Firstly, how important is it?
If it's important - e.g. You're expecting a call after a job interview or from your doctor - excuse yourself, explaining that it is important that you take the call and when you return apologise for the interruption and continue the dinner as normal.
If it might be important - e.g. You're getting a call from your parents or your boss - excuse yourself, but when you answer the phone ask if you can call back. If they say it is important, take the call and apologise for the interruption when you get back and continue the dinner as normal.
If it is not important - e.g. A call from a friend with gossip - decline the call and send them a text saying that you are unable to talk. If they reply saying it is urgent, call them back, if not, they will understand and you can call them back at a more convenient time for you.
Secondly, who are you with and what is the situation?
Are you eating with the people you live with and see every day? Take the call. Eating with acquaintances or maybe you're at a work event? Only answer if it is important. Family/friends you see all the time? Take the call. Family/friends you don't see very often? Take it if it's important. At a special occasion such as a wedding? Only take it if it is really important (e.g. From your doctor or boss).
Thirdly, does it really matter?
I understand that you don't want to seem rude, but if you're with friends or people who you see a lot, they won't mind if you step away for a minute to take a quick call.
Usually you can judge by people's reactions to the ringing phone whether they mind or not and they usually don't.
Hope this helps :)
Going into dinner I would turn my ringer off. I would discreetly check it once during dinner. If it was an emergency issue, I would excuse myself and call the person back. An emergency would be, my sitter to tell me a kid is sick, or someone in the hospital or dead. When I'm dining with family or friends I want to focus on them, not be distracted by my phone.
I turn my phone off, before going in to the restaurant (or someone's home, if I'm eating there).
This has happened to me twice - once with a friend and once when I was at a doctor's appointment. The phone rings because I forgot to silence it. I apologized to my friend and to the doctor and asked if I could silence the phone. Both said yes.
I turned the phone off - apologized once again and threw the phone in my purse. So embarrassing!
I think it's a good time to turn the phone off. You can check your messages after dinner.
personally, my concern would pertain to an emergency or urgency of some sort .. I would excuse myself, if the call came in that I felt important enough to be interrupted .. It's a matter of simple common sense.
I will not attend the call