At some point, every person will find themselves questioning their table etiquette, mostly out of nerves and desire to make a good impression. It’s inevitable, whether it’s a meet-the-parents dinner, a night out with your roommate’s parents, or a business dinner. It’s going to happen, so embrace it.
You’re not alone. Dining etiquette is certainly nerve-racking. There are so many different manners and rules that we start to over analyze everything we do (and we all know the end result of that is never good). The rules that you follow heavily depend on the setting of your dining experience and who you are with. My goal below is to outline general dining etiquette that you can use anywhere whether you are dining informally, formally, or at a friend’s house.
*Soon after sitting down, put your napkin on your lap.
*When you are ready to order, close your menu.
*If you need to use the bathroom or make a phone call, excuse yourself. There is no need to explain where you’re going (you can if you want) but a simple, “Excuse me, I will be right back” will do the job.
*You really shouldn’t groom yourself at the table (i.e. put on lipstick, etc). If you are in an informal setting or just with friends it’s perfectly alright to do so but in all other circumstances you should excuse yourself to the bathroom.
*If you are in a formal setting in which it seems like a hundred utensils line your plate and you have absolutely no idea what to do, work from the outside-in. Use the outermost fork for your first course, etc.
*If you are at a small table (of five or less people) wait for everyone to be served before you start eating. If you are with a larger party or in a business setting wait for everyone to be served or until the host or head of your party tells you to start eating, whichever comes first.
*If you are a guest in a family’s house, clear your own plate at the end of the meal.
*Remember posture! (Review here)
*We are all familiar with the no-elbows on the table rule but the truth is this only really applies while you are eating. While you are waiting for your food to arrive it is perfectly appropriate to have your elbows on the table.
*Cut small, easy pieces to chew. No slurping, playing with your food, or drinking/eating while talking. Yes, I’m going to say it: Don’t chew with your mouth open!
*Don’t lean past the person sitting next to you to reach for something, ask them to pass it to you.
*If a cough or sneeze is unavoidable, make sure to cover your mouth/nose. If you sense beforehand that you are going to sneeze/cough or if you are having a fit, try to leave the table.
*My biggest problem: eat slowly. Savor your food and the conversation. Don’t make it seem like you are in a rush to get home to your pajamas.
*Always say thank-you when you are served something. (Review here)
The best thing to do: don’t double guess yourself. If you seem confident in your actions, no one will notice if you are doing everything exactly right or not.
If you want to be completely overwhelmed with really awesome and useful dining etiquette for all occasions check out this great website I found, Etiquette Scholar.
Now, go practice your ‘lipstick confidence’ and treat yourself to a nice dinner.