Table manners have evolved over centuries to make the practice of eating with others pleasant and sociable, and they play an important part in making good impressions. Below are basic principles of proper table etiquette….and how to avoid social embarrassment!
What is Etiquette?
A set of rules that govern the expectations of social and dining behavior in a workplace, group or society.
Table manners are visible signs that you are a polished and knowledgeable professional.
Displaying manners is an act of kindness and respect to your fellow human beings.
Table / Dining Etiquette should begin the minute you arrive at the venue and should emphasize people and interaction rather than the food itself.
Basic guideline, remember the letters BMW (not the car).
The bread plate and butter knife are located on your left and your glasses are on your right. A clue to remember what is yours: Liquids on the right, solids on the left. BMW is a clue to locate your Bread (left), Main course (centre) and Water (right).
When to start eating?
To start eating, wait for the host to give you cue to begin eating. At a business meal where there is no host, wait until each person is served before you start. If some guests have their food and they are waiting for yours to arrive, be courteous; acknowledge the gesture and tell them to please start so their food does not get cold. This would be appreciated and would show your good manners and consideration.
Place the napkin on your lap. You should not tuck it into your shirt like a bib no matter how much you want to protect it from spills. The napkin stays on your lap the whole time and use it to dap your lips, not wipe your mouth. If you need to leave the table during the meal, place your napkin on your chair and put back when you return. Once the meal is over, place your napkin loosely on the table to the right of your dinner plate.
Using the cutlery or silverware
In most restaurants you will only find one knife and one fork on the table. If there are more than one, you should use the one on the “outside” first.
Food is passed from left to right. It is helpful to remember that everything of importance is to the right.
For example, the guest of honour sits to the right of the host and food is passed on the right. There are two ways to use a knife and a fork: The American Style & The European / Continental Style
The American Style: When cutting food, the fork is in the left hand and the knife in right. After cutting off a small piece, the knife and fork is put down, then pick the fork up with the right hand to eat.
The European or Continental Style: When cutting food, the fork is in the left hand and knife in the right hand. After cutting off a small piece, you can eat with the left hand.
Bread: Butter should be in a plate. Break a piece of bread off with your hand then butter the small piece. Don’t spread the butter over the whole piece of bread.
Soup: Dip the spoon in the soup away from your body and sip the liquid from the side of the spoon. Don’t put the whole spoon in your mouth.
Desserts: Desserts that include solids, creamy or liquid may be eaten with the fork in the left hand and the spoon in the right. Eat with the spoon. The fork can serve as a pusher. If it is a cake or pie, you may use only the fork. For ice cream or pudding, use only the spoon. Leave the other utensil in place on the table.
Other Important Tips:
“Please pass the salt”. If somebody asks you to pass the salt, you should pick up both the salt and the pepper and place them on the table near the person next to you.
It is inappropriate manners to keep your utensils in your hand(s) whilst talking. If someone asks you a question while eating, after you swallow your food, place your utensils on the plate in the resting position, then start to talk, not before.
Taking something out of your mouth cover your mouth with a napkin and get it out— discreetly!
Turn it off or switch 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 a meal. If you must make or take a call, excuse yourself from the table and step outside.
When you leave the table at the end of the meal, place your napkin loosely next to your plate. Place all of your utensils on the plate with the tip of the fork and knife across the plate, pointing at 11 o’clock.