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Dining Etiquette Tips for Everyday Use

From table manners and tipping, to place cards and posture, there are many rules and standards that are expected to be followed when dining in a formal setting. Though the rules may differentiate from place to place, these dining etiquette tips should serve as a basic guideline when enjoying any meal, whether you’re being served in a high-end restaurant, attending a fancy wedding, or out on a business lunch.

Personal Etiquette

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  • Understanding personal etiquette, such as how to appropriately act while out dining, will not only save you from embarrassing moments, but will help you enjoy your meal more as well. When it comes to posture, the best practice is to not extend your shoulders past your plate. Remember to never place your elbows on the table, but instead place your arms at your sides, and hands in your lap. Once served, bring your food to your mouth, never your mouth to your food.
  • Did you know that if a guest asks you to pass the salt, it’s complimentary that you pass both the salt and pepper together? Why? This prevents the salt and pepper shakers from becoming orphaned and separated on the table when the next person asks for them to be passed.
  • If hosting a dinner party, only wait 15-20 minutes for late guests to arrive, rather than delaying dinner for the guests who arrived on time. When accepting an invitation to an event, send the RSVP within a week, and arrive 10 minutes early the day of the event.

Social Etiquette

  • For banquets or receptions where hundreds of guests are being served, it’s considered polite to wait until those guests on either side of you have been served to then begin eating. In smaller settings, like dinner parties or restaurants, only start eating once everyone at the table has been served.
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  • When out on a business lunch or professional interview, avoid ordering something sloppy or difficult to eat. Monitor alcohol consumption, and do not order the most expensive thing on the menu, even if you’re not responsible for the bill. Usually, the person with the most seniority is expected to take care of the check, and it’s best to follow the host’s lead when ordering, and choose mid-priced options.
  • The amount you tip will reflect the price of your meal before any coupons or discounts are applied. Just because you received a discount, does not mean your server didn't serve a full order. It’s customary for meals with good service to tip 15% to 20%, and excellent service should receive 25% of the bill before tax.

Table Etiquette

  • Never go back to a buffet with a dirty plate. Leave your finished plate on the table for the waitress to remove, and then grab a new plate to continue eating with.
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  • Only cut off small, bite-sized portions when eating food from your plate. Cut only what you can eat at a time. Never rest your cutlery directly back on the table, and the only time it’s acceptable to cross your fork and knife in an “x” on your plate is when you need to communicate to your server that you are not done eating.
  • When taking a break between bites, lay flatware on the edge of your plate, and when finished, lay your utensils vertically in the center of the plate with the handles resting on the rim and the knife blade facing in.

Food Etiquette

  • When ordering wine in fine dining restaurants, order a half bottle per person to determine how much is appropriate to start. When dining out with more than 4 people, order both red and white wine to suit all your guests’ likes.
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  • Even though you may be tempted to shove an appetizer directly into your mouth off of a platter, remember to place it on your plate first. Appetizers, hors d'oeuvres, and finger foods must always touch your plate before touching your mouth, and should be enjoyed in multiple bites.
  • Use a butter knife (found near the bread plate) to transfer butter to your plate, and then to a piece of bread. Butter each piece as you eat, and never the whole slice at once.

Understanding these tips and being able to implement proper etiquette will make your dining experience much more enjoyable. Whether you're being served a four course meal, filling up your plate at a buffet, or simply drinking a glass of wine, proper dining etiquette can be used in a variety of ways.

Posted in: Management & Operation | By Molly Hess
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