Resting Utensils Etiquette

Soiled utensils are laid on the plate or bowl it is provided with (not on the table). Never rest a utensil half on a plate and half on the table. The rules are, of course, different when using chopsticks.

You can rest your utensils in one of two ways when taking a break from eating:

  1. Put your fork and knife in the center of your plate with the tips facing each other in an inverted V (slightly angled); Or
  2. resting utensils on plate - taking a break - continental style
  3. Rest your knife on the top right of your plate (diagonally) with the fork nearby (tines up).
resting utensils on plate - taking a break - american style

These two resting positions, recognized by trained wait staff, signal that you're not ready to have your plate removed.

  • At most restaurants, used utensils are replaced with clean ones for the next course.
  • If, however, a waiter asks you to keep your dirty utensils for the next course, it's okay to ask for clean ones.

Soup Spoons.

  • Soup Bowl. If soup or dessert is served in a deep bowl, cup, or stemmed bowl set on another plate, place your utensil(s) on this underplate when you finish. If the underplate is too small to balance the spoon, the spoon is laid in the bowl.
  • Soup Plate. If the bowl is what is called a soup plate (shallow and wide), leave the spoon in the bowl.

Finished with a Course. When each course is finished:

resting utensils on plate - finished - continental style
  1. Place the knife and fork parallel with the handles in the four o'clock position on the right rim of the plate;
  2. The tips rest in the well of the plate in the ten o'clock position;
  3. The blade of your knife should face inward;
  4. The fork tines may be either up or down.
  5. This position signals to the server that you're finished. It also decreases the chance that the utensils could fall to the floor when the plates are cleared.

Temporary Placement During a Conversation. For temporary placement of the fork and knife in conversation:

Continental Style-

  1. The fork is laid on the side of the plate with the tines downward and the handle in the eight o'clock position.
  2. The knife handle is laid in the four o'clock position.
  3. If space permits, the tines are rested over the blade of the knife.

American Style-

  1. The knife is rested on the right rim of the plate with the handle in the four o'clock position.
  2. The fork is laid near the knife.
  3. Fork tines upward.

Placement when Passing a Plate. To prevent flatware from falling off when the plate is passed for a second helping,

  • The fork and knife are centered vertically in the six o'clock position toward the middle of the plate.
  • Leave enough room to grasp the plate in passage and to provide ample space for the extra serving.