General Dining Etiquette Guidelines
In your professional life, you may find yourself eating with a potential employer or someone you hope to make a good impression on. Your interaction at the table is important and you should feel relaxed and confident. Don’t be preoccupied with your place setting or wonder if anyone notices how confused you are. Your attention should be on the person you talking to. Don’t pass up an opportunity to make a great impression!
The information below will cover:
- The Place Setting
- Eating Styles
- Table Manners
The Place Setting
- Dinner plate - The center of the place setting. When finished eating, do not push the plate away from you. Instead, place both your fork and knife across the center of the plate, handles to the right. . Between bites, your fork and knife are placed on the plate, handles to the right, not touching the table.
- Soup bowl - May be placed on the dinner plate. If you need to set your soup spoon down, place it in the bowl. Do not put it on the dish under the bowl until finished.
- Bread plate - Belongs just above the tip of the fork. Bread should be broken into bite -sized pieces, not cut. Butter only the piece you are preparing to eat. When butter is served, put some on your bread plate and use as needed.
- Napkin - Placed to the left of the fork with the fold on the left. Sometimes placed under the forks or on the plate.
- Salad fork - If a salad fork is used, it belongs to the left of the dinner fork.
- Dinner fork - Placed to the left of the plate. No more than three forks to the left of the plate. If there are three forks, they are usually salad, fish, and meat, in order of use, from outside in. An oyster fork always goes to the right of the soup spoon.
- Butter knife - Place horizontally on bread plate.
- Dessert spoon - Above the plate.
- Dessert fork - Above the plate.
- Dinner knife - To the right of the plate. Sometimes there are multiple knives, perhaps for meat, fish, and salad, in order of use from outside in.
- Tea spoon - To the right of the dinner knife.
- Soup spoon - If needed, to the right of the tea spoon.
- Water glass - Just above the tip of the knife.
- Red wine glass - To the right of the water glass.
- White wine glass - To the right of the red wine glass. A glass of white wine is held on its stem to preserve the chill. It should be served at 45 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
Coffee cup and saucer not pictured - If needed, bring at time of coffee service.
Place settings can be confusing. The general rule for silverware
is to work from the outside in as the meal progresses.
American Style: Knife in right hand, fork in left hand holding food. After a few bite-sized pieces of food are cut, place knife on edge of plate with blades facing in. Eat food by switching fork to right hand (unless you are left handed).
Continental/European Style: Knife in right hand, fork in left hand. Eat food with fork still in left hand. The difference is that you don't switch hands-you eat with your fork in your left hand, with the prongs curving downward.
- Use the silverware farthest from your plate first.
- Once used, your utensils, including the handles, should not touch the table again.
- Always rest forks, knives, and spoons on the side of your plate or in the bowl.
- For more formal dinners, from course to course, your tableware will be taken away and replaced as needed.
- To signal that your are done with the course, rest your fork, tines up, and knife blade in, with the handles resting at five o'clock an tips pointing to ten o'clock on your plate.
Table Manners 101
Basic Table Manners
- Sit up straight at the table. It makes a good impression.
- Engage in table conversation that is pleasant but entirely free of controversial subjects; Weather/general health/ vacation plans/professional background.
- Turn off your cell phone or switch it to silent or vibrate mode before sitting down to eat, and leave it in your pocket or purse. It is impolite to answer a phone during dinner. If you must make or take a call, excuse yourself from the table and step outside of the room or restaurant.
- Meeting materials or briefcases should be placed under your chair until it is time to discuss business.
- Always say please when asking for something. Be sure to say thank you to your server and bus boy after they have removed any used items.
- Do not season your food before you have tasted it.
- Use the silverware farthest from your plate first and work your way inwards with each course.
- When you are not eating, keep your hands on your lap or resting on the table (with wrists on the edge of the table). Elbows on the table are acceptable only between courses, not while you are eating.
- Never chew with your mouth open or make loud noises when you eat. Although it is possible to talk with a small piece of food in your mouth, do not talk with your mouth full.
- If food gets caught between your teeth and you can't remove it with your tongue, leave the table and go to a mirror where you can remove the food from your teeth in private.
- You should not leave the table during the meal except in an emergency. If you must go to the bathroom or if you suddenly become sick, simply excuse yourself. Later you can apologize to the host by saying that you didn't feel well.
- Always scoop food away from you not towards you.
Try a little of everything on your plate.
- Do not ask to taste someone else's food. Similarly, do not offer a taste of your food to someone else.
- For hard to scoop items like peas, use your knife or a piece of bread to push the items onto your fork. Do not use your fingers.
- If hot food is burning your mouth, discretely drink something cool to counteract the food.
- Try to pace your meal to finish at the same time as your host or the majority of the group at the table.
- Do not blow your nose at the dinner table. Excuse yourself to visit the restroom. Wash your hands before returning to the dining room. If you cough, cover your mouth with your napkin to stop the spread of germs and muffle the noise. If your cough becomes unmanageable, excuse yourself to visit the restroom. Wash your hands before returning to the dining room.
- Do not slurp soup from a spoon. Spoon the soup away from you when you take it out of the bowl and sip it from the side of the spoon. Bring the spoon to your mouth instead of hunching over your soup bowl. If your soup is too hot to eat, let it sit until it cools; do not blow on it.
- If food spills off your plate, you may pick it up with a piece of your
silverware and place it on the edge of your plate.
Napkins and Bread
- Napkins belong in your lap. Large napkins can be folded in half or with a quarter folded over the top. They should never be tucked into your shirt like a bib.
- Wait for the host to unfold his/her napkin before unfolding yours. In a banquet setting or at a restaurant, simply place your napkin in your lap as soon as you are seated.
- Don't clean up spills with your own napkin and don't touch items that have dropped on the floor. You can use your napkin to protect yourself from spills. Then, simply and politely ask your server to clean up and to bring you a replacement for the soiled napkin or dirty utensil.
- If you excuse yourself from the table, loosely fold the napkin and place it to the left or right of your plate or over the back of your chair. Do not refold your napkin or wad it up on the table either. Do not place the napkin in the seat of your chair. You don't want to wipe your mouth with a napkin that has been left on the seat.
- Bread on the left, drink on the right. Here is an easy tip to help you remember. Hold both hands in front of you, palms facing each other. Using the tips of your thumb and forefinger, make circles on each hand. The remaining three fingers in each hand point upwards. Your left hand will form a "b" and your right hand will form a "d". Bread (b) is on the left, and drink (d) is on the right.
- Eat rolls or bread by tearing off small bite size pieces and buttering only the piece you are preparing to eat. When ready for another piece, repeat the same process.
- Butter, spreads, or dips should be transferred from the serving dish to your plate before spreading or eating.
- Cut only enough food for the next mouthful.
- If your neighbor has already taken your bread plate or drink, do not
point it out; quietly ask the waiter for another.
Table Manners 101
- Pass food from the left to the right.
- If asked for the salt or pepper, pass both together, even if a table mate asks for only one of them. This is so dinner guests won't have to search for orphaned shakers.
- Set any passed item, whether it's the salt and pepper shakers, a bread basket, or a butter plate, directly on the table instead of passing hand-to-hand.
- Never intercept a pass. Snagging a roll out of the breadbasket or taking a shake of salt when it is en route to someone else is a no-no.
- If you need something that you cannot reach easily, politely ask the
person closest to the item you need to pass it to you. For example, "After
you have used them yourself, would you please pass me the salt and
When You Are Done
- Do not use a toothpick or apply makeup at the table.
- Whenever a woman leaves the table or returns to sit, all men seated with her should stand up or a “halfway stand”.
- Do not push your dishes away from you or stack them for the waiter when you are finished. Leave plates and glasses where they are.
- It is inappropriate to ask for a doggy bag when you are a guest. Save the doggy bag for informal dining situations.
Learning dining etiquette happens with repetition. Create opportunities for you to practice these skills now before you find yourself nervously sitting across from a potential employer and feel intimidated by your surroundings. Feel confident and make a great impression.