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The Etiquette Scholar blog answering you dining etiquette questions.
Table Manners Tips
There is no getting away from the need for good table manners, and knowing how to act at a dinner table is going to make your job of being a guest or gracious host a lot easier and more enjoyable – not to mention the favorable impression you’ll make on others.
Read through the following 100 table manner tips to brush up on your dining etiquette skills. For a comprehensive table manners guide, read our step-by-step table manners section.
Table Manners Tip #1 - Make Good Use of Your Napkin
Wait for the host or hostess to take his or her napkin off the table and place it in his or her lap before you place your napkin in your lap.
Unfold your napkin in one smooth motion without "snapping" or "shaking" it open.
Wipe your fingers as necessary. Also use a small area of the napkin to blot your lips fairly often.
Table Manners Tip #2 - Posture
You needn't sit stiff as a rail at the dinner table, but hunching your shoulders over the plate (a posture often associated with using a fork like a shovel) is a definite "do not." Likewise, slouching back in your chair (which makes it look as if you're not interested in the meal) is bad table manners when eating with others.
Table Manners Tip #3 - Utensil EtiquetteIn most situations, use the "outside-in" rule to tell which knife, fork, or spoon to use at the dinner table. Use utensils on the outside first and work your way in with each new course.
Table Manners Tip #4 - Elbows
As for not putting your elbows on the table, this drummed-into-us taboo applies only when you are actually eating. It's a different story when no utensils are being used; in fact, putting your elbows on the table while leaning forward a bit during a mealtime conversation shows that you're listening intently.
Table Manners Tip #5 - Fidgeting
When waiting for the food to arrive or after the meal, you may want to keep your hands in your lap, if only to resist the temptation of fiddling with the utensils or other items. Refrain from drumming your fingers, jiggling your knee, or other fidgety habits, and always keep your hands away from your hair.
Table Manners Tip #6 - Removing Unwanted Food from your Mouth
Food is removed from the mouth in the manner in which it is put into the mouth. Food put into the mouth with a utensil is removed with a utensil. When fingers are used to eat food, for example, plums or chicken wings, the pit or bone is removed with fingers. The exception is fish eaten with a fork: because tiny bones fall between fork tines, they are removed with fingers.
To remove spoiled food, cover the mouth with one hand, remove the morsel with the other hand, place it on the plate, and cover it with another portion of food (if possible). In a private residence, rather than embarrass the hostess by telling her that a particular dish contains foreign matter or is tainted, eat from the unspoiled portion. But if this is not possible, move the portion around on the plate so it looks as if you are eating, and leave the tainted part alone. In a restaurant, tell the server so he or she may make a replacement.
Table Manners Tip #7 - Tasting
Accepting another person's offer to taste a morsel of her dish - or offering a bite of yours – are acceptable table manners as it's handled unobtrusively. Either hand your fork to the person, who can spear a bite-sized piece from her plate and hand the fork back to you, or (if the person is sitting close by) hold your plate toward her so that she can put a morsel on the edge. Don't be tempted to hold a forkful of food to somebody's mouth or reach over and spear something off someone else's plate.
Table Manners Tip #8 - Excusing Yourself
When you need to get up to go to the restroom, it isn't necessary to say where you're going-a simple "Excuse me, please; I'll be right back" is sufficient. At other times, a brief explanation is in order: "Please excuse me while I check with the babysitter." Leaving without a word is rude.
Table Manners Tip #9 - Cutting Food
Cut your food into only one or two bite-sized pieces at a time. Doing this makes sense, since a plateful of cut-up food is not only unattractive but cools and dries out more quickly than food that is mostly intact. (The exception to the rule is when you help a young child cut his food.)
Table Manners Tip #10 - Seasoning Food
When at a dinner party or restaurant, proper table manners dictate that you taste your food before seasoning it. Hastily covering a dish with salt or drowning it in ketchup implies that you think the cook's creation needs improving on.
Table Manners Tip #11 - Chewing Food
Once you start to eat, don't literally bite off more than you can chew: Take a manageable bite, chew it well, and swallow it before taking another. Also remember that smacking, slurping, and collecting food in a ball in one cheek are major faux pas. When you have a mouthful of food, it is bad table manners to do two more things: taking a drink and talking. If you have more than a few words to say, swallow your food, rest your fork on your plate, and speak before you resume eating.
Table Manners Tip #12 - Don't Drink with a Full Mouth
To avoid leaving food on the rim of the vessel, make sure the mouth is free of food and blot the lips with a napkin before taking a sip of beverage.
Table Manners Tip #13 - Take Small Bites
Take only enough food to chew and swallow in one easy bite. Moreover, it makes conversation easier.
Table Manners Tip #14 - Holding a Wineglass
Wineglasses are held by the stem, not the bowl.
Table Manners Tip #15 - Reaching
Just how close does something on the table have to be before you reach out and get it yourself? That's simple: within easy reach of your arm when you're leaning only slightly forward. Don't lean past the person sitting next to you or lunge to perform what's known as the boardinghouse reach. A request to "please pass the [item]" is required for everything beyond that invisible boundary, as is a thank-you to whoever does the passing.
Table Manners Tip #16 - Unfamiliar Food
You're faced with unfamiliar foods. If a food you're not sure how to eat comes on a platter of appetizers - a type of sushi, perhaps, or crab in the shell - you, as a polite diner, have three choices of how to proceed: (1) Wait until someone else starts to eat and follow suit. (2) Ask how the food should be eaten (fingers or fork, for example). (3) Avoid the food altogether.
Table Manners Tip #17 - Eating Quietly
The essence of good table manners is unobtrusiveness, a courtesy that includes eating quietly. Noise impedes conversation. Scraping a plate or loudly chewing ice is unpleasant to listen to and considered impolite.
Table Manners Tip #18 - Wayward Food
If a piece of food keeps eluding your fork, don't push it onto the tines with your finger. Instead, use a piece of bread or your knife as a pusher.
Table Manners Tip #19 - Ordering Wine at the Right Price
A good wine list should have a wide selection of wines priced at the same level as an entrée or slightly more. To discreetly inform the sommelier how much you would like to spend without announcing it to the table, start by selecting a wine in the category you are interested in and find a wine at the price point you are comfortable with. Show the sommelier your selection and ask for his opinion, but place your finger on the price, rather than the name, when pointing the wine out. This communicates to the sommelier the price range you are comfortable with.
Table Manners Tip #20 - Something Caught in your Teeth
A toothpick is an offensive sight in operation. When food is caught between the teeth that is annoying or uncomfortable, wait to remove it privately.
Table Manners Tip #21 - Declined Credit Card
- Do not call attention to the situation, or get defensive
- If card continues to be declined, and do not have enough ready cash to pay, ask to pay by check, visit the nearest ATM, or return the next day with cash.
- If the restaurant declines these suggestions, the gentleman has no option but to return to the table and throw self on the mercy of companions.
- Repay there kindness within 24 hours, repaying them in cash. Do not let such debts linger.
Table Manners Tip #22 - Sneezing, Coughing, Blowing your Nose
When sneezing or coughing at the table is unavoidable, cover your nose or mouth with a napkin and proceed as quietly as possible. Except in an emergency, don't use a napkin to blow your nose. Use a handkerchief instead and turn your head to the side.
Table Manners Tip #23 - Reservations
- Call a day or two ahead or a week or two ahead if the restaurant and day are popular.
- Reconfirm the reservation by calling on the day of your visit.
- Call the restaurant during meal hours to speak to the official reservationist.
Table Manners Tip #24 - Hot Beverages
To test the temperature of a hot beverage, take a single sip from the side of the spoon. When the sip proves too hot, give the beverage time to cool before lifting the cup to the mouth. When an extremely hot beverage is sipped, take a quick sip of water to decrease the effect of the burn
Table Manners Tip #25 - Finger Food
When finger food is taken from a tray, place it on the plate (to do otherwise defeats the purpose of the plate). Don't lick your fingers; use a napkin (that's what it's for).
When in doubt about whether to use fingers or a utensil to eat a particular food, watch those about you and proceed accordingly. If you're still in doubt, follow common sense and use a utensil, usually a fork, which is the most versatile implement.
Table Manners Tip #26 - Ready to Order
To show you are ready to order, close your menu and place it on the table.
Table Manners Tip #27 - Paying the Check in a Restaurant
If you are the host, inform the waiter or maitre d’ that you are to receive the check. Once the meal is finished, ask the waiter, not the busboy, for the check. The host should also pay for any coatroom charges or gratuities as guests retrieve their coats.
If there is no established host at a business lunch or dinner, the most senior professional is generally responsible for the check.
You may also eliminate the need for the check to be brought to the table at all. Upon arriving, ask the maitre d’ if you can charge the meal to your credit card and instruct them to add their standard service charge.
Table Manners Tip #28 - Using Two Utensils
Food served on a plate is eaten with a fork, and food served in a bowl is taken with a spoon. When two eating utensils or two serving utensils are presented together, such as a fork and spoon, the fork is used to steady the portion, and the spoon to cut and convey the bite to the mouth.
Table Manners Tip #29 - Using the Wrong Utensil
At one time or another everyone uses the wrong utensil, and it is not a cause of concern. Rather, remedy the situation, quietly, without apology or calling attention to the error, and forget it!
Table Manners Tip #30 - Using a Utensil to Push Food
In formal dining the knife is used to push food against the fork. At informal meals, a knife or a piece of bread is used as a pusher, forexample, to push salad onto a fork.
Table Manners Tip #31 - Missing Utensils
In a private residence, when a place setting is laid without a necessary utensil, such as a knife, tell the hostess so she may correct it. When a serving utensil is missing, rather than use one's eating utensil, inform the hostess so she may remedy the situation for the benefit of all the guests.
Table Manners Tip #32 - Soiled Utensils
In a private residence, the table setting is a reflection of the hosts' ability. Rather than embarrass the hostess by wiping a soiled utensil clean, suffer in silence. But a restaurant table setting is an impersonal expression that does not reflect on the host; if a soiled utensil is laid on the table, ask the waiter for a clean one.
Table Manners Tip #33 - Dropped Utensils
At a formal affair when a utensil is dropped on the floor, leave it for the butler to retrieve -it is part of his job. He will make a replacement for you. At an informal meal, quietly retrieve a dropped utensil yourself: and if it may have caused stains or damage of any kind, offer to make a replacement or a repair.
Table Manners Tip #34 - One Thing at a Time
Do one thing at a time at the table. If you want to sip your wine, temporarily rest your fork or knife on the plate.
Table Manners Tip #35 - An Improperly Set Table
What to do if the table is improperly set. Don't rearrange an improperly arranged place setting and offend the hostess - that is would not be a display of good table manners. In a restaurant, where an improperly set table does not reflect on the skills of the host, quietly rearrange the ware for comfort.
Table Manners Tip #36 - What to do with your Hands
Where to place the hand when eating. To avoid creating an obstruction to your dinner partner, when holding a utensil, rest your other hand in your lap. When not holding any utensils, both hands remain in the lap.
Table Manners Tip #37 - Spilled Food
Spilled food. When a guest spills food at a formal affair, a butler takes the appropriate action. But at an informal meal, the diner quietly and quickly lifts the food with a utensil and places it on the side of his plate. However, if food is spilled on another guest, the diner apologizes and offers to pay for cleaning (but lets the other person wipe up the debris)
Table Manners Tip #38 - Garnish on a Platter
When a platter contains a combination of foods, such as meat, potatoes, vegetable, and garnish, take a moderate serving of each, including the garnish. However, if the removal of garnish will overly disturb the appearance of the platter, leave it. If a course is presented that contains another food underneath, such as toast or lettuce, take the entire portion.
Table Manners tip #39 - Servings from a Platter
When a platter of pre-sliced food is presented, and each slice is an ample size, take one serving. But if the slices are small, and it looks as if there are enough servings for each guest to have two, take two for yourself. As a courtesy to the last guest, make sure to leave enough food on the platter so he or she has a choice from several portions.
Rather than rummage through a platter and disturb the look of the presentation, take the portion nearest to you.
Table Manners Tip #40 - How Many Pieces of Food to Eat
How many pieces of food to eat at one time. To avoid a messy plate, cut one bite at a time, and not more than two pieces.
Table Manners Tip #41 - Assisting with Service
Assisting with service at the table. At a formal affair domestic help is provided and guests do not assist with service, except to move the shoulders slightly make service easier. At an informal meal, help generally is not provided and the guests assist with service by passing the dishes nearest to them. To avoid congestion, serveware is passed to the right and the guests do not delay service by helping themselves along the way (unless it is suggested that they do so).
Table Manners Tip #42 - Thanking for Service
Thanking for service. Each time service is provided at a multi-course meal, verbal acceptance is not necessary because it distracts from the conversation. Acceptance of the course is in itself thanks. But to refuse service, a verbal rejection of "No, thank you," is given. At a simple meal when a serving bowl is passed upon request, it is courteous for the receiver to say, "Thank you." It is not necessary for those who receive a dish in passage to say thank you.
Table Manners Tip #43 - Complimenting the Food
Complimenting the hostess on the food. In the early twentieth century, even modest homes had help. Meals were prepared by a cook and it was impolite to compliment the hostess on the cuisine because it was inappropriate. Today, few people have help, hostesses delight in food preparation, and a compliment on the cuisine is appreciated. However, there are those who still hold that the conversation is more important than the food and a compliment on the menu or a particular course distracts from the discourse and is inappropriate at a party. The decision, therefore, is individual.
Table Manners Tip #44 - Holding Dinner for a Late Guest
Rather than delay dinner for everyone to accommodate the arrival of a late guest, dinner is held no longer than 15 to 20 minutes
At a formal occasion, when a guest arrives late to a dinner or luncheon, a butler or maid answers the door (so as not to interrupt the table conversation), and the hostess remains seated. The latecomer goes to the hostess immediately, offers a brief explanation, and is served the course in progress. If the latecomer arrives during dessert, as a courtesy the hostess sees that a dinner plate is made up for him or her.
At an informal meal, the host answers the door and greets the latecomer, who makes a brief explanation to the hostess. When the latecomer is a gentleman, the other men at the table remain seated. But, if the latecomer is a lady, as a courtesy, all the gentlemen rise and the man on her left helps her into her seat.
Table Manners Tip #45 - Cocktail Glasses at the Dinner Table
A cocktail glass is not brought to the dinner table because water and several wines are served with the multi-course meal. The extra glass crowds the place setting and disturbs the symmetry of the table. Moreover, the taste of grain-based spirits nullifies the flavor of wine served with the meal. Simply leave the cocktail glass in the room where cocktails are taken.
Table Manners Tip #46 - Guests Entering the Dining Room at an Informal Dinner
At an informal dinner, the guests enter the dining room in whatever order is convenient. When seating arrangements are not designated by place cards, usually the hostess enters the dining room first to tell everyone where to sit.
Table Manners Tip #47 - Place Cards
Place cards identify the places people are to sit; they are used to eliminate confusion when more than six people dine together. At formal affairs, which usually involve a large group, individual places are always designated by place cards. But an informal dinner is a less structured occasion; when place cards are not provided, the hostess tells the guests where to sit or asks them to find their own places (although this is not always a good practice because mix-ups can occur as guests try to seat themselves in alternate male-female positions).
Table Manners Tip #48 - Place of Honor
History accords the place of honor to the right side because most people are right-handed. A gentleman draws out the chair for the lady seated on his right, pushes her chair into place, and seats himself. The host seats the lady on his right. The hostess is helped by the gentleman seated on her left. To avoid congestion, it is easier if ladies approach their chairs from the right.
Table Manners Tip #49 - When to Sit
When all the women are seated, the men sit down.
Table Manners Tip #50 - A Purse at the Dinner Table
Because a purse on the table crowds and disturbs the symmetry of the table setting, in a private residence it is left wherever the hostess suggests, such as in a bedroom or on a chair. In a restaurant or public place, to avoid having a purse stolen, it is held on the lap or placed close at hand on a banquette. For the brave at heart, it is laid on the floor by one's chair or hung from the back of the chair (if this does not inhibit service or tempt theft).
Table Manners Tip #51 - Lipstick at the Dinner Table
A lady should refrain from replenishing lipstick before coming to the table in order to prevent an imprint of lipstick on the rim of a glass or a napkin. To avoid leaving a soiled crumply napkin on the table for others to see, when you leave the table temporarily, place the napkin on the seat of the chair. If the chair seat is upholstered, to avoid staining the fabric, the napkin is laid soiled side up.
Table Manners Tip #52 - When to Begin Eating at a Banquet
At a banquet, where throngs of people are served, in the interest of enjoying the hot courses at the right temperature, eating commences as soon as those on either side are served.
Table Manners Tip #53 - When to Begin Eating at a Buffet
At a meal served buffet style, eating commences when one is ready.
Table Manners Tip #54 - Eat Slowly
Savor the meal and eat slowly; it encourages conversation and conviviality.
Table Manners Tip #55 - Asking for a Second Helping
The circumstances determine whether or not it is acceptable to ask for a second helping. It is not proper table manners at a formal dinner but is permissible at an informal one. If there are no helpers and the host has served the entree from a sideboard, he or the hostess will usually urge guests to pass their plates for a second helping. To do this, leave the silver on the plate, making sure it is securely positioned. Never hold your silver in your hand or put it on the tablecloth when you pass your plate. As a courtesy, when only one person takes a second helping a considerate hostess will take a little too - that way, her guest won't feel self-conscious or that he is holding everyone else up.
Table Manners Tip #56 - Smoking
Smoking at the table. A lighted cigarette is never taken to the table. Smoking is offensive to nonsmokers and dulls the palate. A table laid without ashtrays indicates that the hostess does not wish her guests to smoke. But if ashtrays are provided, before proceeding to smoke and as a courtesy to others, ask the hostess for permission. Because some people are allergic to smoke, wait until the table is cleared for dessert or hold off until dessert is finished. Never use a dessert plate or a saucer as an ashtray.
Table Manners Tip #57 - Electronic Devices
Turn off or silence all electronic devices before entering the restaurant. If you forgot to turn off your cell phone, and it rings, immediately turn it off. Do not answer the call. Do not text, and if you have a Blackberry or iphone, do not browse the Internet at the table
Table Manners Tip #58 - Hats and Caps
Assuming that you are asking about casual hats such as baseball caps, then the following applies: Although commonly seen in casual restaurants, it's really not proper etiquette to keep a hat on when eating. Some etiquette experts may advise taking off a hat when eating outdoors, too. However, wearing any type hat is becoming more acceptable in fast food restaurants.
Table Manners Tip #59 - Doggy Bags
It is fine to take leftover food home from a restaurant, except if on a date or business lunch or dinner.
Table Manners Tip #60 - Courtesy
Always say thank you when served something.
Table Manners Tip #61 - Food on Your Partner's Face
Your dining partner has food on his face? If you notice a speck of food on someone's face (or, in the case of a man, on his beard), you're doing them a favor by subtly calling attention to it. You might signal silently by cocking an eyebrow while using your index finger to lightly tap your chin or whatever part of the face is affected. As prevention for yourself, the occasional dab with your napkin will help ensure no wayward hits of food stay put for long.
Table Manners Tip #62 - Family Style Meals
Often, "family style" means that the host or hostess serves the meat, but the other dishes are passed around with each diner helping himself. These dishes, too, are passed counterclockwise. Men do not offer the dish to the women on their right first, but help themselves when the dish reaches them. A man may then, if he wishes, hold the dish while the woman next to him serves herself.
At a family meal, plates may be served in the kitchen and brought out to the table. It is better not to do this when guests are present, however. Guests should have the prerogative of serving themselves. Exceptions: individually arranged dishes, such as eggs Benedict, that must be put together in the kitchen.
Table Manners Tip #63 - Be at Ease
Being at ease at the table-whether for dinner, breakfast, or lunch-means being able to thoroughly enjoy the company and the cuisine. If you spend your minutes at the table being anxious about doing the right thing at the right time, the pleasure that communal meals can bring is dissipated. A review of the following will help make any host or guest at any table comfortable, relaxed, and proficient at gracious dining.
Table Manners Tip #64 - Chewing Food Well and Slowly
Do chew your food well, putting your utensils down between bites.
Table Manners Tip #65 - Escorting Ladies to the Dinner Table
At a formal dinner generally the host escorts the lady of honor into the dining room first. The remaining guests enter the dining room in whatever order they choose. The hostess enters the dining room last, accompanied by the man of honor. There are a few exceptions to this custom.
At a formal meal the hostess is the last to enter the dining room, and the ladies sit down without waiting for her. At an informal meal, the ladies sit before or after the hostess is seated, whichever is convenient.
Table Manners Tip #66 - Dignitaries Entering the Dining Room
If the guest of honor is a high-ranking male dignitary, such as the president of a country, he enters the dining room first with the hostess. The host enters the dining room second with the dignitary's wife.
When the guest of honor is a high-ranking female dignitary, such as the prime minister of a country, she enters the dining room first with the host. The dignitary's husband follows with the hostess.
Table Manners Tip #67 - Guarding Your Food
Don't encircle your plate with your arm.
Table Manners Tip #68 - Your Pinky
Don't crook your finger when picking up a cup or glass. It's an affected mannerism.
Table Manners Tip #69 - Leaving a Soup in Your Cup or Bowl
Don't leave your spoon in your cup, soup bowl, or stemmed glass.
Table Manners Tip #70 - Cutting Food Into Many Bites
Don't cut up your entire meal before you start to eat. Cut only one or two bites at a time.
Table Manners Tip #71 - Restaurant Buffets
When you are dining at a restaurant buffet, never go back to the buffet for a refill with a dirty plate. Leave it for the waitperson to pick up and start afresh with a clean plate.
Table Manners Tip #72 - Sugar, Cracker, or Cream Packets
If sugar, crackers, cream, or other accompaniments to meals are served with paper wrappers or in plastic or cardboard containers, the wrappers should be crumpled up tightly and either tucked under the rim of your plate or placed on the edge of the saucer or butter plate. Don't put them in the ashtray if smokers are present, since their lighted cigarettes could easily set the paper on fire.
Table Manners Tip #73 - Serving Coffee and Tea in a Restaurant
If coffee or tea is placed on the table without first having been poured by the waiter, the person nearest the pot should offer to pour, filling his or her own cup last.
Table Manners Tip #74 - Selecting Wine in a Restaurant
Memorizing the different characteristics of each variety, region, and country can be daunting. If you don’t have the time or inclination to study, just remember that the following food-friendly wines will pair well with almost anything and are generally available in several prices:
- If you’d like to order a red wine, choose a Pinot Noir. The Burgundy region of France and California produce quality Pinot Noirs. Pinots from Washington and Oregon are also good choices.
- If you’d like a white wine, select a Riesling from Germany or the Alsace region of France. Drier Rieslings pair especially well with most foods.
If you have the time and want to expand your horizons, you can obtain a copy of the restaurant’s wine list and review it beforehand. The lists are commonly available on the Internet, can be received by fax, or you can stop by the restaurant and obtain one in person. This will give you time to study the varieties, wineries, and vintages on the list. You can also learn how to correctly pronounce the names of the wines.
Table Manners Tip #75 -Ordering Wine by the Glass
Most restaurants offer a smaller selection of wines by the glass, so that you don’t have to purchase an entire bottle. This gives you a chance to experiment with a few different wines. When ordering wine by the glass, you should be aware that you may be getting wine from a previously opened bottle. You should ask the server when the bottle was opened. If it has been open for one or more days, you may want to make another selection.
Table Manners Tip #76 - Decanting Wine
Stand the bottle upright. Let it stand that way as long as possible so the sediment falls to the bottom of the bottle. A couple of days is ideal, but even thirty minutes is helpful. Remove the cork without disturbing the sediment.
Table Manners Tip #77 - Prayers
It is well to remember that you are in another person's house and their customs should hold. If your hostess asks you to join hands or bow your head is not asking too much for you to accomodate her in this regard. Conversely, if you feel strongly about your religious tradition and are in the home of a person who pointedly does not pray before meal time, do not be ostentatious in your ritual. Be meek and humble, say your prayer silently and reverently to yourself and proceed with the meal.
Table Manners Tip #78 - Sopping with Bread
Sop up extra gravy or sauce only with a piece of bread on the end of a fork; the soaked bread is then brought to the mouth with the fork.
Table Manners Tip #79 - Burps
When a burp is coming on, cover the mouth with a napkin, quietly burp, and softly say, "Excuse me." For an attack of hiccups, excuse yourself from the table until they have passed. Rather than draw attention to the condition on return (and interrupt conversation) do not apologize in a public way. Instead, say "Sorry" quietly to the hostess and let it go at that.
Table Manners Tip #80 - Yawns
In some cultures the breath is associated with man's spirit. To prevent the soul from escaping or an evil spirit from entering the body, the mouth is covered when a yawn cannot be suppressed. This custom prevails in our society today.
Table Manners Tip #81 - Hot Soup
If soup is too hot, stir it, don’t blow.
Table Manners Tip #82 - Nakin in Your Lap
The meal begins when the host starts to unfold her napkin. This is the signal for you to do the same. Typically, you want to put your napkin on your lap within the first 10 seconds after sitting down.
Table Manners Tip #83 - Napkin as a Signal at Meal's End
The host will signal the end of the meal by placing her napkin on the table.
Table Manners Tip #84 -Orthodontic Appliances
Keep braces clean. Watch what you eat. Bring brush and floss.
Table Manners Tip #85 - Dunking Food
Dunked food leaves crumbs on the rim of a cup or glass, and is frowned on at a private party or in a public place.
Table Manners Tip #86 - Asking Questions
Cheeseburgers, French fries, and soft drinks are easy for most people to pronounce, and you know what you’re getting. French, Italian, Chinese and other foreign restaurants may be another story. Unless you are fluent in these languages or have eaten at these types of restaurants before, you’ll probably need to ask questions about items on the menu or about service.
Table Manners Tip #87 - Restaurant Ordering Sequence
How to order will depend upon whether you’re the host or guest, what type of meal you’re going to be eating, how many people are at the table, and whether the guests are male or female. The host is the person that will be paying the check. His order is generally taken last. In a group, the server may decide how the ordering will proceed. Normally, women’s are taken first.
Table Manners Tip #88 - Time a Meal in a RestaurantIf attending diner before another engagement or are on a schedule, its okay to speed up the pace of the meal.
- Let your server know you are on a schedule and ask him to recommend something that can be prepared in a short amount of time.
- If you want to length a meal, let your server know you’d like to finish drinks before you order your first course and that there is no need to rush between courses.
Table Manners Tip #89 - Ordering Cheese in a Restaurant
If having cheese, as the waiter if the cheese is currently in the refrigerator. If so, ask this staffer to remove it at the onset of the meal so that the cheese will be at room temperature by the time you are ready to eat it.
Table Manners Tip #90 - Arriving at a Restaurant
As the host, you should always try to arrive at the restaurant before your guests. You may wait for your guests in the foyer of the restaurant or at your table, but if you choose to wait at your table, give the maitre d’ a description of your guests and ask him to direct them to your table.
If one or more guests are ten minutes late, ask the maitre d’ to seat the group and show the other guests to the table upon their arrival. Once seated, the punctual guests can order drinks and examine the menu. After waiting 15 or 20 minutes, the group should order their meals.
Table Manners Tip #91 - Approaching the Table in a Restaurant
When being seated, if the maitre d’ leads the group to the table, the guests should follow the maitre d’ and the host should follow the guests. If the maitre d’ does not lead the group, the host should lead.
Table Manners Tip #92 - Being Serviced in a Restaurant
- the waiter serves food from you left and beverages from your right side.
- when the waiter offers you a platter, help yourself with the serving fork in your left hand and the serving spoon in your right.
- foods and beverages are passed around the table clockwise.
Table Manners Tip #93 - When to Begin Eating
At tables with eight people or fewer, begin eating only after all the other guests are served and the host or guest of honor has started to eat. If there is no guest of honor or host, begin eating after everyone has been served. At large events begin eating only when the guests on each side of you have been served.
Table Manners Tip #94 - Handling Bread
If you find that the bread basket has been set close to your place setting, offer it to the table by passing it to your right. If the loaf is uncut, cut a few slices and return the loaf and slices to the basket. When slicing the bread, use the cloth in the basket to cover one end of the loaf before you grasp it. As the basket is passed, guests should slice it for themselves as needed. When the basket is returned to you, take a piece and place it on your bread plate. Use your butter knife to retrieve a healthy portion of butter and place it on the edge of your bread plate. It is customary to leave the last piece of bread in the basket. Ask the waiter for more if you like.
When eating your piece of bread, break off a small piece with your hands, butter it, and eat it. Do not tear off more than one piece at a time.
Table Manners Tip #95 - Sorbet
At some formal dinners, sorbet will be served after the first course or after the entrée. This is not dessert. It is a palate cleanser. Eat it before eating the next course.
Table Manners Tip #96 - Tipping
Even if you receive a complimentary meal or wine, you should tip the staff. Base gratuities on the estimated dollar value of the complimentary meal or wine you receive.
There is no need to tip the owner or proprietor of the restaurant, even if he or she serves you. You also do not need to tip the maitre d’ unless they have done a special favor or arranged a special meal for you.
In general there is no need to tip the busboy or the doormen, unless they perform a service other than opening the door. If this is the case, tip the doormen one dollar.
Table Manners Tip #97 - Problems with the Bill
If there is a problem with the bill, quietly discuss it with the waiter. If the waiter is uncooperative, excuse yourself from the table and ask to speak to the manager.
Table Manners Tip #98 - Dropped Food
If you drop food on the tablecloth or floor, discreetly use your napkin to retrieve it and ask the waiter for a new napkin. If you spill a glass of wine or water, use your napkin to clean up the mess.
Table Manners Tip #99 - Sending a Dish Back
If you need to send a dish back, don’t feel awkward. This is entirely appropriate if your dish is not what you ordered, if it isn’t cooked to order, if it tastes spoiled, or if you discover a hair or a pest in the dish. You should discreetly inform the waiter of the situation and ask for a replacement.
Table Manners Tip #100 - Dropping Your Napkin
If you drop your napkin, retrieve it yourself if you can. If retrieval of the napkin would disrupt the meal, ask the waiter for a replacement.
Table Manners Tip #101 - Dropping a Utensil
If you drop a utensil, pick it up yourself if you can and let the waiter know you need a new one. If you cannot reach it, inform the waiter and ask for a replacement.
Table Manners Tip #102 - Job Interview Tip
On a job interview, follow the host’s lead when ordering food or drink and avoid sloppy or difficult-to-eat dishes. Do not participate in unpleasant or controversial topics of conversation as you never know when something you say might come back to haunt you. Of course, monitor your alcohol intake.
Table Manners Tip #103 - How Much Wine to Order in a Restaurant
A good rule of thumb to determine how many bottles to order is to start with a half bottle per person. If the group includes at least three people, you may try ordering a bottle of red and a bottle of white.
Table Manners Tip #104 - Greeting a Butler or Maid
Greeting a butler or a maid at the table. When a guest knows a maid or a butler, rather than draw attention to the fact and interrupt conversation, give a brief greeting, such as "Nice to see you."
Table Manners Tip #105 - Lemons
To keep from squirting your dinner companion in the eye when squeezing a lemon wedge, follow this method. First, impale the pulp of the lemon wedge on the fork tines. Next, cup your free hand over the lemon and gently squeeze the fruit.
Table Manners Tip #106 - Half a Duck
When served a half duck or chicken, use your knife and fork to cut the wing and leg away from the breast before you start eating any of the meat.
Table Manners Tip #107 - Using a Finger Bowl
If you encounter a finger bowl (used either after eating a hands-on meal such as lobster or at a more formal meal when dessert is served), dip your fingers into the water and then dry them with your napkin.
Table Manners Tip #108 - Cheese in a Restaurant
If a cheese course is ordered, a fromager or fromagere may bring the cheese tray or cart to your table prior to dessert. The fromager should help make cheese selections and suggest cheese and wine pairings.
Table Manners Tip #109 - Hot Towels
In some upscale restaurants, steamed hand towels are brought to diners at the end of the meal. Use the towel to wipe your hands and, if necessary, the area around your mouth. (Wiping the back of your neck or behind your ears is best not done in a restaurant.) Most waiters will take the towel away as soon as you've finished, If not, leave the towel at the left of your plate, on top of your loosely folded napkin.
One of the hallmarks of good etiquette is that it never calls attention to itself. When everything is going well as far as your actions, appearance, and words are concerned, your focus - and the focus of the people you are with - will be on the content of your discussion. Slip up with one of these factors, however, and the focus will suddenly shift to the failure. By being aware of your actions, appearance, and words, and working to improve your performance in all three areas, you can directly enhance the quality of your relationships.
The cardinal principle of etiquette is thoughtfulness, and the guiding rule of thoughtful entertaining is the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. After all, the prime objective as a host or hostess is to make your guests feel comfortable and welcome, not hold them hostage to a ridge set of etiquette rules. The hosts are there to smooth any anxious wrinkles and infect the occassion with the spirit of hospitality and generosity. We have assembled a dinner party etiquette guide for your use. Please see the sections that follow for all you need to plan and host the perfect dinner party.
Toasts range from routine ("To us!" spoken while clinking glasses) to the most touching -a five-minute homage from the father ofthe bride that could make grown men cry. In one form or another, toasting to love, friendship, health, wealth, and happiness has been practiced by almost every culture from the beginning of recorded history. Over 1000 toasts for any occassion.
The world is becoming a smaller place. Distant places are only hours away. Electronic communication, mass media, global travel, and international trade expose us to cross-cultural table manners where food may be eaten with fingers rather than utensils, and seating may be on the ground rather than at the table.
A beautifully set table contributes as much to the desirability of a meal as tempting aromas wafting from the kitchen. The inspired host can create magic with color, texture, romantic lighting, the gleam of polished silverware, and the shimmer of glass and crystal. Correctly placed items facilitate the process from start to finish.
- Seating Etiquette: Where to seat the ambassador from Kenya.
- Mike Lininger, Editor, Etiquette Scholar
If you find any typographical errors, inaccuracies, or inconsistencies, or if you just have something to add, please email us.