Eating Etiquette

Etiquette affects almost every aspect of dining. Dining etiquette rules apply before you ever take your seat and continue after you excuse yourself from the table.
Table manners play an important part in making a favorable impression. They are visible signals of the state of our manners and therefore are essential to professional success. The point of etiquette rules is to make you feel comfortable – not uncomfortable.

“Manners are made up of trivialities of deportment which can be easily learned if one does not happen to know them; manner is personality—the outward manifestation of one’s innate character and attitude toward life…. Etiquette must, if it is to be of more than trifling use, include ethics as well as manners. Certainly what one is, is of far greater importance than what one appears to be.”
— Emily Post

Napkin Etiquette Tips:

  • Place the napkin on your lap after everyone is seated, and after the host has moved his/her napkin.
  • A large dinner napkin is folded in half, with the fold facing your body. A luncheon napkin should be opened completely.
  • Do not wipe your mouth with the napkin; instead, use the napkin to gently blot your mouth.
  • The napkin should remain on your lap during the meal. If leaving the table temporarily, place your napkin in your chair, and push your chair back under the table – this signals to the wait staff that you will be returning to the table. When you return to your chair, return the napkin to your lap. At the end of the meal, loosely place the napkin to the left of the plate.

“Good manners will open doors that the best education cannot.”
— Clarence Thomas

Menu Etiquette Tips:

  • Review the menu and quickly decide what you want to order.
  • Do not order the most expensive item on the menu.
  • Let the host take the lead in ordering, this will give you an idea of what to eat. If he/she is not first in line to order, ask the host: “What do you recommend?”
  • Try to order a food that is easy to eat (avoid spaghetti or messy sandwiches!).
  • Safe drink options include water, soda, or iced tea. It is best not to order alcohol even if the interviewer does.
  • Do not change your order or send food back to the kitchen.

Be polite to servers. Say “please” and “thank you.”
When to begin eating: So, let’s say the wait staff begins to serve the food. Remember to either wait until everyone is served to start eating, or begin when the host asks you to.

Posture and Pace: Always sit up straight and bring food to your mouth, rather than “craning” your head/mouth down to the food. Look around the table and pace yourself with that of other diners to ensure that no one else feels hurried.

 

Utensils Etiquette:

Start by cutting your food:

Typically, you’ll begin eating by first cutting your food. Do this by placing the fork in your left hand and the knife in your right hand. Both utensils are controlled by the thumb and index finger. Use the fork to hold the food while cutting a bite-size piece with the knife. It is never appropriate to cut more than one bite-size piece at a time, as shown here.

Next, pick up your food:

Lay the knife on the edge of the plate with blades facing in, as shown in this image. Before you begin eating your food, switch the fork to your right hand, and, finally, insert the piece into your mouth.

Signaling the wait staff that you are resting:

Once you pick up a piece of silverware, it should never touch the table again. When resting while eating, your knife stays at the one o’clock position with blade turned inward, and your fork stays at the four o’clock position with tines up.

Signaling the wait staff that you have finished:

When you have finished eating, the utensils are placed together on the plate with the fork tines up and the knife turned inward in the lower, right-hand portion of the plate between the four and six o’clock positions. This signals the wait staff that they can remove your plate and utensils.

Conversation Etiquette:

Maintain good eye contact throughout the meal and avoid dominating the conversation. Strive to come across as relaxed, friendly and interested in the conversation; stay positive!
Never speak with food in your mouth. Take small bites, finish chewing, smile, and then carry on conversation.
Stay away from too much personal information as well as controversial topics.

General Social and Dining Etiquette Rules:

Dress Code:

Follow whatever dress code is requested on the invitation or suggested by the host/hostess.

Arrival:

Arrive at least 10 minutes early unless otherwise specified. Never arrive late!

Hostess Gift:

It is proper to bring a small hostess gift, one that the hostess is not obliged to use that very evening. Gifts such as flowers, candy, wine, or dessert, are not good hostess gifts, as the hostess will feel that it must put it out immediately. You must not never expect your gift to be served at the dinner party.

Seating:

At a dinner party, wait for the host or hostess sits down before taking your seat. If the host/hostess asks you to sit, then do. At a very formal dinner party, if there are no name cards at the table, wait until the host indicates where you should sit. The seating will typically be man-woman-man-woman with the women seated to the right of the men.

Prayer:

A prayer or ‘blessing’ may be customary in some households. The dinner guests may join in or be respectfully silent. Most prayers are made by the host before the meal is eaten.

Toast:

Sometimes a toast is offered instead of a prayer. Always join in with a toast. If the host stands up during the toast, also stand up.

End of Dinner:

Serving tea or coffee signifies that the formal part of the evening is over. Guests may now feel free to leave, or linger if the host or hostess encourages them to do so.

Thank You Note:

After a formal dinner party, a thank you note should be sent to the hostess. Depending on how well you know your hosts, a telephone call is also acceptable.

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