Dining Etiquette Basics

Dining Etiquette Basics

There may be times when you will meet with a business contact over a meal or attend a professional function where food is involved. It is possible that you may even attend a job interview held at a restaurant. For these reasons, it is important to know proper dining etiquette so that you may make a good impression.

Be polite to all restaurant staff that you encounter. The people you are dining with WILL notice your manners and the way that you treat others.

Cell phones should turned off or on silent mode. They should not be seen or heard during the meal.

Being seated: Wait to be seated by restaurant staff or your host. When you sit down, place purses, bags, or briefcases out of the way on the floor beside you or under your seat. Never place these items on the table.

Ordering: Do not pick up your menu until after your host has done so. Allow your host to order first. When choosing your meal, consider selections that will not be messy or awkward to eat. It is best to stick to something that you are familiar with, so you will know the proper way to eat the food. If your host is paying for the meal, avoid choosing the priciest selections on the menu. It is wise to avoid alcoholic beverages.

Your napkin: Once you've been seated at the table, unfold your napkin and place it in your lap. Never shake out your napkin, crumple it, or stuff it into your clothing. If you need to use it during the meal, just bring a corner of it up from your lap and gently blot your mouth with it and return it to your lap. If you need to leave the table during the meal, place the napkin in your chair until you return; do not put it back on the table. If you drop your napkin onto the floor, do not retrieve it. Instead politely ask your server for a new one. When everyone is finished their meal and leaving the table, you may return your napkin to the table (to the left of the plate, if the plate is still there).

Do not rest your elbows or arms on the table. Also try to avoid fidgeting in your seat, and try to maintain good posture. Feet should be flat on the floor in front of you.

Your silverware: In a formal place setting, there may be an assortment of utensils on either side of your plate. Forks will be to the left, while spoons and knife will be to the right, and there may even be utensils for dessert on the table above your plate. Each utensil serves a specific purpose (salad fork, soup spoon, tea spoon, etc.) and the ones placed farthest away from your plate on either side are the ones that will be used earliest in the meal as each course is delivered. You work your way in to the utensils closer to your plate as the meal progresses and courses are served. If you are confused about which utensil you should be using, follow your host's lead. Never place a used utensil on the table or tablecloth; they should rest on the edges of your plate, with knife at the top edge and forks and spoons on the side edges. If you drop a utensil on the floor, do not retrieve it; politely ask your server for a new one. When you are finished eating, you should place your fork and knife diagonally across your plate with the sharp edge of the knife facing away from you (in the 4 o'clock to 11 o'clock position) to indicate to your server that you are finished.

Things to remember while eating:
- Allow your host to begin eating or drinking before you do so.
- Bring your food toward your mouth rather than leaning in toward the food.
- Close your mouth while chewing and never speak with food in your mouth.
- Never blow on your food to cool it.
- Do not eat with your fingers unless the food is a traditional "finger food" such as a sandwich, berries, etc.
- Try to eat at the same pace as the others at your table.
- Never "double dip" into shared appetizers or dishes.
- Do not scrape your plate with silverware.

Eating Soup: Use your spoon to lift soup by dipping in the direction opposite yourself (rather than shoveling towards yourself) and gently move the bottom of the spoon against the inner rim of the bowl to remove any drips before bringing the spoon towards your mouth to sip. You may tip your bowl slightly away from you when trying to get the last bit of soup onto your spoon. Never pick the bowl up from the table or drink from it.

Excuse yourself to the restroom should you have to remove food from your teeth, take medication, or groom yourself in any way during the meal. These things should never be done at the table.

The Bill: Assuming that you are the invited guest who is being treated to a meal, if the server accidentally places the bill in front of you at the end of the meal, do not make a big deal out of it. Wait for your host to notice the mistake and take the bill. If he or she does not take the bill from you, politely offer to split the expense. Always be capable of payment, even if you are of the understanding that the other person is treating you.

Always thank your host for the meal and for taking time to meet with you!!