Table manners play an important part in making a good impression they are visible signs of our manners. The point of etiquette is to make you feel comfortable dining with others - not uncomfortable
General social and dining
- Follow whatever dress code is requested or suggested by the host/hostess.
- Arrive at least 10 minutes early unless otherwise specified. Never arrive late!
- It is proper to bring a small hostess gift, one that the hostess is not obliged to use that very evening; flowers, candy, wine, or dessert, are not good hostess gifts.
- Wait for the host or hostess sits down before taking your seat, if the host/hostess asks you to sit then sit. At a very formal dinner party, wait until the host indicates where you should sit if there are no name cards at the table. The seating will typically be man-woman-man-woman with the women seated to the right of the men.
- A prayer or 'blessing' may be customary in some households. The dinner guests may join in or be respectfully silent. 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.
- Serving tea or coffee signifies that the formal part of the evening is over. Guests may now feel free to leave, or linger if encouraged to do so.
- After a formal dinner party, a thank you note should be sent to the hostess.
- Do not talk with food in your mouth; no one wants to see that. Wait until you have swallowed and your mouth is free of debris.
- Always taste your food before seasoning it because the hostess has gone to a lot of work making sure the food served is delicious. It is very rude to add salt and pepper before tasting the food.
- Don't blow on your food to cool it off. If it is too hot to eat wait until it cools.
- Always scoop food, using the proper utensil, away from you.
- Cut only enough food for the next mouthful (no more than two bites at a time). Eat in small bites and slowly.
- Do try to eat a little of everything on your plate even if you do not like the food, just keep your negativity about the food silent. It is acceptable to leave some food on your plate if you are full and have eaten enough.
- Do not "play with" your food or utensils. Do not hold food on the fork or spoon while talking, or wave your silverware in the air or point with it.
- Try to pace your eating so that you don’t finish before others are halfway through or so you don’t hold everyone up. Never continue to eat long after others have stopped.
- Once used, your utensils should not touch the table again. Always rest forks, knives, and spoons completely on the side of your plate or in the bowl.
- If the food served is not to your liking, it is polite to at least try to eat a small amount of it; don't make it an issue - keep silent. It is never acceptable to ask a person why they have not eaten all the food.
- If you have dietary restrictions, it is inappropriate to request food other than what is being served. If you have serious dietary restrictions or allergies, let your host know in advance of the dinner.
How to use napkins:
In a restaurant as soon as you are seated, remove the napkin from your place setting, unfold it, and put it in your lap. Do not shake it open. At some very formal restaurants the waiter may do this for the diners.
The napkin rests on the lap till the end of the meal. Don't clean the cutlery or wipe your face with the napkin. NEVER use it to wipe your nose!
If you excuse yourself from the table, loosely fold the napkin and place it to the left or right of your plate. Do not refold your napkin or wad it up on the table either. Never place your napkin on your chair. At the end of the meal, leave the napkin semi-folded at the left side of the place setting
At a private dinner party the meal begins when the host or hostess unfolds his or her napkin. This is your signal to do the same. Place your napkin on your lap, completely unfolded if it is a small luncheon napkin or in half, lengthwise, if it is a large dinner napkin. Do not shake it open. The napkin rests on the lap till the end of the meal. The host will signal the end of the meal by placing his or her napkin on the table. Once the meal is over, you too should place your napkin neatly on the table to the left of your dinner plate.
Passing dishes or food:
- Pass food from the left to the right. Do not stretch across the table, reaching over other guests for food or condiments, ask for what you need.
- If asked for the salt or pepper, pass both together, even if a table mate asks for only one of them. This is so dinner guests won't have to search for the other shakers when needed.
- Set any passed item, such as the salt and pepper shakers, a bread basket, or a butter plate, directly on the table not hand-to-hand.
- Grabbing a roll out of the breadbasket or taking a shake of salt when it is en route to someone else is a no-no.
- Always use serving utensils to serve yourself, not your personal silverware.
Restaurant reservations are like any other appointment, if you make a reservation stick to it. Call ahead if you’re going to be more than 15 minutes late, and cancel as far in advance as possible if your plans change so that someone else can get a table. Some restaurants take credit card numbers to hold reservations and charge no-show fees.
- Food is served from the left. Dishes are removed from the right.
- Always say please when asking for something. At a restaurant, be sure to say thank you to your server and bus boy after they have removed any used items.
- Butter, spreads, or dips should be transferred from the serving dish to your plate before spreading or eating.
Sharing the restaurant bill:
- Always assume that if you’re dining in a group of more than 6 people (3 couples), that the check is going to be divided evenly among everyone.
- If you know you’re going to ask for a separate check, tell the server before you order so that the process is simplified later.
- Take into account any significant ($15 or more) price differences in orders. If someone only orders soup and everyone else orders 2 to 3 courses, it’s not fair to make them pay the same.
- If there are a couple people not drinking alcohol while the rest of the group is, separate the beverage total to take this into account and don’t overcharge the non-drinkers.
Silverware and dinnerware:
Use the silverware farthest from your plate first. Eat to your left, drink to your right. Any food dish to the left is yours, and any glass to the right is yours. Starting with the utensil that is farthest from your plate, work your way in using one utensil for each course. The salad fork is on your outermost left, followed by your dinner fork. Your soup spoon is on your outermost right, followed by your beverage spoon, salad knife and dinner knife. Your dessert spoon and fork are above your plate or brought out with dessert. If you remember to work from the outside in, you'll be fine.
- Use one of two methods when using the fork and knife
- The American Style is knife in right hand, fork in left hand holding food. After a few bite-sized pieces of food are cut, place knife on edge of plate with blades facing in. Eat food by switching fork to right hand (unless you are left handed). A left hand, arm or elbow on the table is bad manners.
- The European Style is knife in right hand, fork in left hand. Eat food with fork still in left hand. The difference is that you don't switch hands-you eat with your fork in your left hand, with the prongs curving downward. Both utensils are kept in your hands with the tines pointed down throughout the entire eating process. If you take a drink, you do not just put your knife down; you put both utensils down into the resting position.
- Once used, your utensils, including the handles, must not touch the table again. Always rest forks, knives, and spoons on the side of your plate.
- For more formal dinners, from course to course, your tableware will be taken away and replaced as needed.
- To signal that you are done with the course, rest your fork, tines up, and knife blade in, with the handles resting at five o'clock an tips pointing to ten o'clock on your plate.
Any unused silverware is simply left on the table.
At a restaurant, always leave a tip. Tips can vary from 15% to 25%.
- Bartender: 10% to 15% of bar bill
- Car attendant: $2.00 to $5.00
- Coat check: $1.00 per coat
- Waiter: 15% to 20% of the bill; 25% for extraordinary service
- Wine steward: 15% of wine bill
Remember that the amount you tip reflects the total price before any coupons, gift certificates, etc. Just because you get a discount, does not mean that your server did not serve up the full order. If the owner of the restaurant serves you himself, you should still tip him. He will divide the tip among those who work in the kitchen and dining room.
- Loud eating noises such as slurping and burping are the number one sin of dinner table etiquette!
- Unfold your napkin and place it on your lap. When you are finished, place it loosely on the table, not on the plate and never on your chair.
- Keep elbows off the table. Keep your left hand in your lap unless you are using it.
- Guests should do their best to mingle and make light conversation with everyone. Do not talk excessively loudly or take control of the conversation give others equal opportunities to have the floor. Avoid talking about inappropriate topics that are sad or bound to cause a debate talk about cheerful, pleasant things at the table.
- Don't clean up spills with your own napkin and don't touch items that have dropped on the floor however you can use your napkin to protect yourself from spills. Then politely ask your server to clean up and to bring you a replacement for the soiled napkin or dirty utensil.
- Do not blow your nose at the dinner table; excuse yourself to visit the restroom. If you cough, cover your mouth with your napkin to stop the spread of germs and muffle the noise. If your cough becomes unmanageable, excuse yourself to visit the restroom. Always wash your hands before leaving the restroom and returning to the dining room.
- Turn off your cell phone or switch it to silent or vibrate mode before sitting down to eat, and leave it in your pocket or purse. It is impolite to answer a phone during dinner. If you must make or take a call, excuse yourself from the table and step outside.
- Do not use a toothpick or apply makeup at the table.
- Say "Excuse me," or "I'll be right back," before leaving the table. Do not say that you are going to the restroom.
- Whenever a woman leaves the table or returns to sit, all men seated with her should stand up.
- Do not push your dishes away from you or stack them when you are finished leave plates and glasses where they are.
When to start eating:
- In a restaurant wait until all are served at your table before beginning to eat.
- At a private dinner party when your host or hostess picks up their fork to eat, then you may eat. Do not start before this unless the host or hostess insists that you start eating.
- Never turn a wine glass upside down to decline wine. It is more polite to let the wine be poured and not draw attention. Otherwise, hold your hand over the wine glass to signal that you don't want any wine.
- Hold your wine glass by the stem, not the rim.
- When a different wine is served with each course, it is acceptable to not finish each glass.
How to eat specific food types:
Appetizers, Hors d'oeuvres, and Canapés:
- Food that is served at a cocktail party or during a pre-meal cocktail hour is intended to be eaten with the fingers. This includes olives, pickles, nuts, canapés, deviled eggs, and chips.
- It is both proper and polite to pluck the leaves with your fingers, leaving fork and knife aside for now. Pull off a leaf, holding it by the pointed end. Put the other end in your mouth and pull it between your teeth, scraping the length of the leaf (the edible portion of the leaves becomes greater as you get closer to the center of the artichoke). Just before you get to the very center, leaves will become almost white with purple tips. Be careful of these leaves because their purple ends are prickly. When the leaves are pulled, you will be left with the base, the heart, crowned with a fuzzy patch. Carefully scoop away the fuzzy stuff with your knife or spoon (though a properly prepared artichoke will already have the choke removed). With knife and fork, cut bites from the heart like pieces of prime fillet. If you're provided with a dip such as a vinaigrette or mayonnaise, put a small part of the edible portion of the leaf in the dip and scrape with your teeth as directed above. Don't overdo it on the dip or you won't taste the artichoke.
- Most etiquette books say that you can eat whole asparagus spears, without a sauce, by picking up with your hand, only pick asparagus up with your hands if the hostess does. Be safe and use your knife and fork to cut and eat them.
- If the avocado is served in its shell, it is eaten with a spoon, if it is sliced on a plate or in a salad, eat it with a fork.
- Bacon can be considered finger food if it is dry, crisp and served whole. If bacon is broken into pieces, served in thick slices, or cooked but still limp, it should be eaten with a knife and fork. The rule is simply that bacon with any fat on it should be eaten with a knife and fork.
- Berries are eaten with a spoon whether they have cream on them or not.
- Use your fingers to remove bread from the serving plate. When a bread and butter plate is on the table, use it appropriately.
- Break slices of bread, rolls and muffins in half or in small pieces never larger than one bite. Butter each bite at a time. Small biscuits do not have to be broken. It is never appropriate to cut a roll with a knife.
- When the rolls are served in a basket, take one, and always pass the basket to your right. Place the roll on the break plate, which is located on the left side. Never tear your roll in half or into many pieces.
- Use your own butter knife and the butter on your plate; buttering should be done on the plate or just above it. Use your butter knife for spreading and not as the butter server. The butter knife remains on the bread and butter plate at the end of the meal.
- To preserve the full flavor of caviar, scoop it out using mother-of-pearl utensils, and never use a metallic spoon metal oxidizes the eggs, which will create an unwanted (and pretty horrid) metal bite. If necessary use a wood or plastic spoon.
- Don’t mush caviar up while you’re serving yourself or others, lift the spoon carefully. Caviar should be scooped from the container vertically from top to bottom to avoid crushing the egg. If caviar is passed to you in a bowl or crock with its own spoon, serve a teaspoonful onto your plate. As the following accompaniments are offered, use the individual serving spoon in each to take small amount of minced onion and sieved egg whites and yolks, as well as a few lemon slices and a couple of toast points. Assemble a canapé to your taste with a knife, and then use your fingers to lift it to your mouth.
- If you're at a cocktail party or reception, where prepared caviar canapés are being passed on trays, simply lift one off the plate and pop it into your mouth.
- When served caviar as an hors d'oeuvre, no matter how much you might be tempted by its luscious flavor it's considered bad taste to eat more than an ample serving of about two ounces, or about two spoonful’s.
- When sliced cheese is served as an accompaniment to a dish, such as apple pie, it is eaten with a fork.
- If cheese is served as an appetizer, such as cubes on toothpicks, it is eaten with fingers. If served a wedge of cheese, such as on a cheese plate, a slice of cheese is cut from a wedge, placed on a cracker, and brought to the mouth with the fingers.
- When dining at the restaurant or in a public place, chicken should always be eaten with a fork and knife even if still on the bone.
- If you are at a barbecue, fast food restaurant where you bought the chicken, or at your own home it is perfectly acceptable to eat chicken with your fingers.
Clams and oysters:
- Hold the shell with the left hand and lift the clam out using your oyster fork.
Corn on the Cob:
- Corn on the Cob is usually not served in a formal setting, but if it is, it is perfectly acceptable to pick it up and eat it.
Crab, shrimp and lobster cocktails:
- These are always eaten with a cocktail fork.
- Crack them with a nutcracker and the meat taken out with a miniature or oyster fork.
- In a fine dining restaurant, use your knife and forks.
- When dining at a dinner party and the setting is very formal, you should use a fork. The best tactic is to watch what your host or hostess does, then do the same.
- If served with a hamburger in a casual atmosphere, use your fingers and pick up a whole French fry.
- If they are covered with something like cheese, gravy, chili, etc. use your fork.
- Generally, olives are considered a finger food. It is perfectly acceptable to pick up and eat an olive with your fingers. Remove pit with your fingers. If you prefer not to use the finger method, use a small fork to stab olive and remove olive from your mouth.
- Depending on your dining situation, you can either choose to eat olives or leave them on the plate.
- In a highly formal dinner, don’t eat them unless you host or hostess does. The best tactic is to watch what your host or hostess does, then do the same.
- When olives are part of a salad, they are treated like the rest of the salad and eaten with the fork.
Pasta or Spaghetti:
- The perfect method for eating spaghetti or other long stringy pasta is to twirl it around your fork. Use a spoon to help if needed.
- It is acceptable to cut pasta with a knife and fork.
- Slurping in a mouthful of trailing pasta is often loud, never pretty and should not be done.
- If possible, serve warm pasta in warm, shallow bowls instead of on dinner plates. The sides of the bowl aids in turning pasta noodles on the fork.
- Use a knife and fork to eat fresh pineapple slices.
- Baked potatoes are most often served already slit. If not, cut across the top with a knife, open the potato wider with your fork, and add butter or sour cream and chives, salt, and pepper.
- You may eat the skin as you go along. Don't take the insides out and put the skin aside (or take the foil off). Eat it by scooping out the insides bite by bite.
- Using a fork or a spoon, push the grains of cooked rice out slightly toward the edge of the bowl, eating only from the pulled out ring of rice.
- Continue spreading from the center and eating around the edges in a circle. This will keep the risotto hot as you enjoy it.
- If you are served large pieces or a whole wedge of lettuce, cut one bite at a time, using the knife provided.
- If the salad is served before or after the main course, use the smaller fork. If the salad is considered the main course, use the entrée fork (large fork).
- Small sandwiches such as tea sandwiches or canapés may be picked up and eaten with your fingers.
- Large sandwiches if not cut in half, should be cut with your knife before lifting and eating.
- A hot sandwich or open-face sandwich that is served with gravy requires a knife and fork.
- Wraps such as burritos and other sandwiches in which the filling is wrapped in thin flat bread (usually tortillas or pita bread) are eaten with the hands. Any sandwich filling that falls from the sandwich to the plate is eaten with a fork.
- As appetizers shish-kabob are eaten directly from the skewer.
- As a dinner entree hold the tip of the shish-kabob in one hand and use the dinner fork to remove the pieces with the other. When all the food has been removed from the stick, place the emptied skewer on the edge of your plate and eat the meat with your utensils
- If large shrimp are served in a stemmed glass as a cocktail, pick them up with an oyster fork or whatever fork is provided and bite off a mouthful at a time, dipping into the sauce before each bite.
- If large shrimp are served on a platter with sauce and no fork, pick up with your fingers, dip into sauce and put to your mouth. When eating shrimp with the tail still on, hold the shrimp by the tail and dip it into the sauce once. Eat it in one bite if it is not too large. Otherwise, eat it in two bites. Do not double dip! Discard the tail as you would olive pits or toothpicks.
- Tail-on deep-fried shrimp is meant to be eaten with the fingers.
- If eating shrimp on a skewer, slide the shrimp off onto a plate.
- When eating shrimp with the tail that are part of some oriental dishes or fried foods, remove the tail with a fork and set to the side of your plate or on a separate "discard dish" if one is provided.
- Dip the spoon, moving it away from the body, until it is about two-thirds full, then sip the soup (without slurping) from the side of the spoon
- It is perfectly fine to tilt the bowl slightly (again away from the body) to get the last spoonful or two of soup.
- To eat bread while eating your soup place the spoon on the under plate, then use the same hand to take the bread to your mouth.
- At most sushi bars, the waitress will offer a hot towel to wash your hands so you can pick up sushi with clean fingers. At home use hot washcloths.
- With your Sushi order, you will be served some pickled ginger, a small mound of wasabi, and soy sauce. Eat a slice of pickled ginger after each variety of sushi to cleanse your palate.
- Do not mix the wasabi with the soy sauce.
- Do not rub your chopsticks together to remove any splinters. It is considered rude!
- It is preferable to eat sushi with ones hands rather than with chopsticks, but both ways are acceptable in America.
- Eat the whole sushi roll at once. It is not appropriate to eat part of a piece of sushi and place the other piece back on a plate. Once you have picked something up you should eat all of it.
- If the sushi is just too big to eat at once, bite the sushi in half and place the remainder back on the plate.
- Do not dip the rice portion of the sushi pieces into the Soy sauce as it becomes too moist and can cause sushi to fall apart. Simply dip the topping or the seaweed (Nori) in the soy sauce before eating.
- If a piece of fish is on top of your sushi, put the whole portion in your mouth, holding the sushi so the fish part touches your tongue (turn sushi upside down).