Dining Etiquette: An Easy to Follow Guide

In the restaurant industry, there are many times when meetings are held over dinner, which means that having proper table etiquette is a must. Table manners play an important part in making a favorable impression on your guest or host. Dining etiquette presents a signal to dinner partners as to the state of your manners, which are essential to professional success, and can make or break a business deal. Manners not only represent you as an individual, but your company as well. This guide will provide you with an outline of proper table manners that are guaranteed to make a great first impression.

Proper Napkin Use

The one thing to remember about napkin use is not to unfold your napkin until the host does so to theirs. When the host unfolds their napkin, this is your sign to do the same. You should then place the napkin on your lap, either folded in half or completely unfolded, based on the size of the napkin. Small luncheon napkins should be completely unfolded, while large dinner napkins should be folded in half when placed on the lap. The napkin should remain on your lap throughout the entire meal, being used to gently blot your mouth only when needed.

Should you need to excuse yourself from the table during the meal, your napkin should be placed on your seat as a sign to your server that you will be returning. Once the meal is over, your napkin should be placed neatly on the right side of your dinner plate as a signal that you are finished with your meal; however, you should not refold or wad your napkin.

Ordering Your Meal

When ordering your food, you should always ask your server about any items you are not quite certain about. The server should be able to answer any questions you may have. If you have food allergies or are not fond of a particular type of food, it is always better to ask before you order if you are not sure about the ingredients.

As a general rule, the host will recommend that their guests order first; however, the server may determine how the ordering should proceed. As guests, you should not order the most expensive items on a menu or those with more than two courses unless the host suggests these items. If your host recommends a certain food, it is considered polite to try this, unless you have a foodallergy to the recommended product.

Correctly Using Silverware

When attending a formal dinner, you are often presented with multiple pieces of silverware. More than one fork may seem a bit confusing, but deciding which utensil to use first is actually relatively simple if you just remember these few tips. Beginning with the knife, fork, or spoon that is farthest from your plate, simply work your way in, using one utensil per course. Most often, a salad fork is placed on the outermost left of your plate, followed by a beverage spoon, salad knife, and dinner knife. A dessert spoon and fork are either placed above the dinner plate or will be brought out with dessert.

Signaling the End of a Meal

Often, people tend to push their plate away, towards the center of the table, when they are finished with their meal. Instead, you should leave your plate exactly where it is on the table. The proper way to signal to the server that you are finished with your meal is to place your fork and knife diagonally across your plate. The knife and fork should be placed side by side, pointing at angles of 10 or 4 on a clock. You will need to ensure that your fork and knife are placed in such a way as to remain on the plate when the server removes it from the table.

A used piece of silverware should never be placed back on the table. Unused silverware should be left on the table; there is no need to place utensils on a plate or saucer if they have not been used.

Chelsea B. Sanz
Chelsea B. Sanz

Chelsea Sanz has lived in East Tennessee since her family moved here from South Florida just before she started high school. While she initially begrudged her new home state, she eventually realized she had come to not only love it, but to “bleed orange” as University of Tennessee Volunteers fans here like to say. She and her boyfriend Hunter, a trail worker for Great Smoky Mountains National Park, enjoy exploring the nation’s most visited national park and coming up with their own farm-to-table recipes.

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