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Table Manners Tips

Table Manners Tip #1

- Make Good Use of Your Napkin. Place your napkin in your lap immediately upon sitting down. Unfold it while it is in your lap.

Table Manners Tip #2

- Utensil Etiquette. In 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 #3

- 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, the pit or bone is removed with fingers.

Table Manners Tip #4

- Excusing Yourself. Simply say "excuse me, please; I'll be right back" when leaving for the restroom. Leaving without a word is rude.

Table Manners Tip #5

- Cutting Food. Cut your food into only one or two bite-sized pieces at a time.

Table Manners Tip #6

- 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 do not browse the Internet at the table.

Table Manners Tip #7

- Seasoning Food. When at a dinner party or restaurant, proper table manners dictate that you taste your food before seasoning it.

Table Manners Tip #8

- Speaking While Eating. 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 #9

- Reaching. Items are within reach if they are within easy reach of your arm when you're leaning only slightly forward. Don't lean past the person sitting next to you (read more about passing etiquette).

Table Manners Tip #10

- 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 a beverage.

Table Manners Tip #11

- Holding a Wineglass. White wine glasses are held by the stem, not the bowl. Red wine glasses may be held by the bowl.

Table Manners Tip #12

- Unfamiliar Food. (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 #13

- Eating Quietly. Scraping a plate or loudly chewing is unpleasant to listen to and considered impolite. Smacking and slurping food are major mistakes and a sign of bad table manners.

Table Manners Tip #14

- Wayward 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, for example, to push salad onto a fork.

Table Manners Tip #15

- Elbows. The "no elbows on the table" rule applies only when you are actually eating. When no utensils are being used, putting your elbows on the table is acceptable.

Table Manners Tip #16

- Ordering Wine at the Right Price. 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.

Table Manners Tip #17

- Something Caught in your Teeth. When food is caught between the teeth that is annoying or uncomfortable, wait to remove it privately.

Table Manners Tip #18

- Declined Credit Card.

  • Do not call attention to the situation
  • If your card continues to be declined, and you do not have enough 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, you have no option but to return to the table and throw yourself on the mercy of your companions.
  • Repay their kindness within 24 hours, repaying them in cash.

  • Table Manners Tip #19

    - 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 #20

    - 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. Leave the table and use a handkerchief instead.

    Table Manners Tip #21

    - 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 #22

    - Hot Beverages. To test the temperature of a hot beverage, take a single sip from the side of the spoon. When an extremely hot beverage is sipped, take a quick sip of water to decrease the effect of the burn.

    Table Manners Tip #23

    - Finger Food. When finger food is taken from a tray, place it on a plate. Don't lick your fingers; use a napkin.

    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, use a utensil, usually a fork.

    Table Manners Tip #24

    - Ready to Order. To show you are ready to order, close your menu and place it on the table.

    Table Manners Tip #25

    - 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 for the check.

    If there is no established host at a business lunch or dinner, the most senior professional is generally responsible for the check.

    Table Manners Tip #26

    - 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 #27

    - Tasting Another Person's Food. 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.

    Table Manners Tip #28

    - Dropped Utensils. 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 #29

    - 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 #30

    - What to do with your Hands. When holding a utensil, rest your other hand in your lap. When not holding any utensils, both hands remain in the lap. Do not fidget, and always keep your hands away from your hair.

    Table Manners Tip #31

    - Eating Soup. Spoon soup away from you towards the center of the soup bowl.

    Table Manners Tip #32

    - Spilled Food. At an informal meal, the diner quietly and quickly lifts the food with a utensil and places it on the side of his plate. If food is spilled on another guest, apologize and offer to pay for cleaning (but let the other person wipe up the debris).

    Table Manners Tip #33

    - Garnish on a Platter. When a platter contains a combination of foods, take a moderate serving of each, including the garnish. If a course is presented that contains another food underneath, such as toast or lettuce, take the entire portion.

    Table Manners tip #34

    - Gesturing. Do not gesture with a knife or fork in your hands.

    Table Manners tip #35

    - Servings from a Platter. When a platter of pre-sliced food is presented, take one serving. 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.

    Take the portion nearest to you.

    Table Manners Tip #36

    - Assisting with Service. At an informal meal, the guests assist with service by passing the dishes nearest to them. To avoid congestion, serveware is passed to the right.

    Table Manners Tip #37

    - Thanking for Service. Each time service is provided at a multi-course meal, verbal acceptance is not necessary. 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, say "Thank you."

    Table Manners Tip #38

    - Complimenting the Food. A compliment on the cuisine is always appreciated.

    Table Manners Tip #39

    - 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.

    Table Manners Tip #40

    - Cocktail Glasses at the Dinner Table. A cocktail glass is not brought to the dinner table because water and several wines are served with a multi-course meal. Leave the cocktail glass in the room where cocktails are taken.

    Table Manners Tip #41

    - Guests Entering the Dining Room. 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 #42

    - Posture. Do not hunch your shoulders over your plate. Likewise, slouching back in your chair (which makes it look as if you're not interested in the meal) is bad table manners.

    Table Manners Tip #43

    - 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.

    Table Manners Tip #44

    - Place of Honor. History accords the place of honor to the right side of the host because most people are right-handed.

    Table Manners Tip #45

    - 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, it is held on the lap or placed close at hand.

    Table Manners Tip #46

    - 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.

    Table Manners Tip #47

    - When to Begin Eating at a Banquet. At a banquet, eating commences as soon as those on either side of you are served.

    Table Manners Tip #48

    - When to Begin Eating at a Buffet. At a meal served buffet style, begin eating when you are ready.

    Table Manners Tip #49

    - Eat Slowly. Savor the meal and eat slowly; it encourages conversation and conviviality.

    Table Manners Tip #50

    - 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.

    Table Manners Tip #51

    - Smoking. A lighted cigarette is never taken to the table. Smoking is offensive to nonsmokers and dulls the palate.

    Table Manners Tip #52

    - Hats and Caps. Although frequently seen in casual restaurants, it is not proper table manners 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 #53

    - Doggy Bags. It is acceptable table manners to take leftover food home from a restaurant, except if on a date or business lunch or dinner.

    Table Manners Tip #54

    - 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, you're doing them a favor by subtly calling attention to it. You might signal silently by using your index finger to lightly tap your chin or whatever part of the face is affected.

    Table Manners Tip #55

    - 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 to the right.

    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 #56

    - Soiled Utensils. In a private residence, rather than embarrass the hostess by wiping a soiled utensil clean, suffer in silence. But in a restaurant, if a soiled utensil is laid on the table, ask the waiter for a clean one.

    Table Manners Tip #57

    - 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.

    Table Manners Tip #58

    - Dignitaries Entering the Dining Room.

    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. If the guest of honor is a high-ranking male dignitary, he enters the dining room first with the hostess. The host enters the dining room second with the dignitary's wife.

    Table Manners Tip #59

    - Leaving a Spoon in Your Cup or Bowl. Don't leave your spoon in your cup, soup bowl, or stemmed glass. Rest the spoon on the saucer or soup plate between bites or when finished.

    Table Manners Tip #60

    - 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 #61

    - 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.

    Table Manners Tip #62

    - 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 #63

    - Selecting Wine in a Restaurant. Remember the following food-friendly wines that 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.

  • Table Manners Tip #64

    -Ordering Wine by the Glass. Most restaurants offer a smaller selection of wines by the glass. When ordering wine by the glass, you should be aware that you may be getting wine from a previously opened bottle. You may want to 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 #65

    - Decanting Wine in the Bottle. 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, let breathe, and pour without disturbing the sediment.

    Table Manners Tip #67

    - 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 #68

    - Burps. When a burp is coming on, cover the mouth with a napkin, quietly burp, and say, "Excuse me." For an attack of hiccups, excuse yourself from the table until they have passed.

    Table Manners Tip #69

    - 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 #70

    - Hot Soup. If soup is too hot, stir it, don’t blow.

    Table Manners Tip #71

    - 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 #72

    - Orthodontic Appliances. Keep braces clean. Watch what you eat. Bring brush and floss.

    Table Manners Tip #73

    - 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 #74

    - Asking Questions. French, Italian, Chinese and other foreign restaurants may have menu items you are not familiar with. 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 #75

    - 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 #76

    - Time a Meal in a Restaurant. If 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 quickly.
  • If you want to lengthen 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 #77

    - Ordering Cheese in a Restaurant. If having cheese, ask the waiter if the cheese is currently in the refrigerator. If so, ask them to remove it at the beginning of the meal so that it will be at room temperature by the time you are ready to eat it.

    Table Manners Tip #78

    - 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 #79

    - Guarding Your Food. Don't encircle your plate with your arm.

    Table Manners Tip #80

    - Your Pinky. Don't crook your finger when picking up a cup or glass.

    Table Manners Tip #81

    - Being Served 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 to the right around the table.

  • Table Manners Tip #82

    - 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 #83

    - 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.

    Table Manners Tip #84

    - Take Small Bites. Take only enough food to chew and swallow in one easy bite.

    Table Manners Tip #85

    - 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 #86

    - 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.

    Table Manners Tip #87

    - 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 #88

    - 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 #89

    - Sending a Dish Back. Sending a dish back 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 #90

    - 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 #91

    - 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.

    Table Manners Tip #92

    - 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 #93

    - Greeting a Butler or Maid. 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 #94

    - 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 #95

    - 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 #96

    - 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 #97

    - 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.

    Table Manners Tip #98

    - Crackers in Soup. Do not put crackers in your soup during a formal meal.

    Table Manners Tip #99

    - Passing Salt and Pepper. When asked to pass the salt, pass both the salt and pepper.

    Table Manners Tip #100

    - Toasts. When someone offers a toast to you, do not drink to yourself.