Dining Etiquette Guide

Dining Etiquette Guide
4th Year Professional Development Seminar
Etiquette Dinner
Tuesday, November 7th, 2017
6:00 p.m.
Daniels Auditorium

Attendance is for registered students only. Registration is now full for this event.

Made possible by a generous contribution from our co-sponsor, Enterprise Rent-A-Car

Dining etiquette is critical in today’s world. In today’s global economy, business is increasingly conducted outside the office. Many business deals, hiring decisions, and promotions are made at the dinner table. We will should you how to mater the rules of dining etiquette. You will have the confidence to concentrate on your host, guests, clients, or colleagues. You want to focus on the conversation instead of worrying about which fork to use.

A video on basic dinning etiquette 

A video on soup etiquette


Where to sit

Being a guest

  • Wait for host to signal where to sit
  • Ask where you should sit
  • Sit with chair several inches from the table’s edge
  • Sit erect and avoid sliding down in the chair
  • Be sensitive of the space and do not crowd neighbors
  • Extend the best seat to client or to the most important guest
  • Seat yourself with back facing the door or the main part of the room

Being a host

  • Arrive early to be the first person present
  • Check the table and the menu before guests arrive
  • Introduce yourself to the waiter who will be serving
  • Decide where you would like guests to sit
    • As guests arrive signal them where to sit
    • Seating at the table should be arranged by rank, authority, or importance
  • Greet guests upon their arrival
  • Make the appropriate introductions to ensure that everyone is acknowledged

When to begin

  • Meal begins when host unfolds their napkin
    • Look for hints from the host and follow
  • Place napkin in lap upon sitting
  • Fold napkin in half with the fold toward waist, next to your body
    • It is not necessary to fully open it
    • Napkin remains on lap throughout the entire meal and should be used to gently blot your mouth
  • Don’t clean the cutlery or wipe your face with napkin
  • Don’t tuck napkin into shirt like a bib, pants or skirt
  • Don’t use it to wipe off lipstick or to blow nose

What to order

  • Select simple foods that are easily eaten with a fork and knife (meats, simple salads and soups).
  • Try to avoid spaghetti or other things with red sauce, huge deli sandwiches, greasy hand-held items like pizza, and gassy foods like beans, broccoli, or cauliflower
  • Follow your host’s lead
  • Always use utensils even with finger foods like pizza or fries
  • Do not order alcohol unless the host suggests it
    • Never have more than one alcoholic drink
    • Hold a chilled beverage by the stem; a room temperature beverage by the globe

When to talk business

  • Begin with small talk, and establish a rapport
  • Follow your host and begin discussing business when they do
    • Some prefer to wait and talk business only over dessert and coffee
    • Others may want to plunge right in
  • A pleasant conversation and meal will often do more for your business relations than a nuts-and-bolts discussion
  • Be sensitive when entertaining clients from other cultures
    • Americans in general tend to rush over meals
  • Show a genuine interest in getting to know your host and/or guests better
    • Ask thoughtful questions about safe topics such as sports teams, hobbies, movies and other general interests
    • Avoid personal questions that may make host/guest feel uncomfortable

Plate and utensil placement

  • Bread plate and butter knife are located on your left
  • Glasses are on your right. A clue to remember what is yours: Liquids on the right, solids on the left.
  • Utensils: Start with knife, fork, or spoon that is the farthest from your plate
    • Work from the outside in, using one utensil for each course

Cutting food

  • Always take one bite at a time
  • Cutting eating American or Continental style: grasp your knife and fork in a relaxed, natural manner, never with clenched fists

Dealing with unpleasant food

  • Raise fork to your mouth and subtly use your tongue to remove the object from your mouth
    • If it went in with a utensil, it comes out on a utensil
  • Place the item to the side of plate
    • Never place the item in napkin—it’s too easy for it to fall out and stain clothes or end up on the chair
  • Food stuck in teeth: try to remove the lodged item with your tongue
    • If necessary, excuse yourself from the table and use restroom
  • It’s a good idea to go to the restroom after the meal to check teeth and freshen up
  • Toothpicks should be used discreetly and in private; never at table
  • Try to keep your actions unnoticed, and let conversation and company take center stage

Eating soup

  • Dip spoon into the soup bowl, until it is about two-thirds full to avoid spilling
  • Spoon the soup from the edge closest and move away from you, towards the center of the bowl
  • Sip from the side of the spoon (without slurping.)
    • It is appropriate to eat the solid portion —such as vegetables—from the end of the spoon.
  • Tilt the bowl slightly (again, away from the body) to get the last spoonful or two of soup
  • Spoon should rest where it is least likely to fall
    • When resting, place spoon in bowl. This sends a message to the server that you are still eating.
  • When finished, place the spoon on the right side of the underplate where the soup bowl sits, never on the tablecloth
  • If a cup is used, place the spoon on the plate, if a soup plate is used; if not, leave it resting in the soup container

Eating salad

  • If the salad is served before or after the main course, use the salad fork.
  • If served large pieces or a whole wedge of lettuce, cut one bite at a time, using the knife provided
  • Don’t slice and dice the entire salad at once, or toss it
  • It is preferable to cut large salad pieces
  • If the salad is considered the main course, use the entrée fork

Where to leave the napkin

  • Place napkin on chair when excusing yourself
    • A napkin on the chair tells the waiter that you will come back.
  • If napkin is heavily soiled with food, it can soil clothes, ask the server to give you another napkin and put the clean napkin on chair
  • If the soil is not significant, refold the napkin and still put it on chair

Passing food around

  • Food is always passed in one direction to avoid having someone end up with two dishes at once
  • When the host indicates (“Please help yourself to the bread” etc), then the person closest takes the plate/basket, offers it to the person on the left, then helps them self and passes to the person on the right
  • Always include the service plate in passing; don’t lift the salad dressing bowl off the service plate and pass just the bowl
  • Hold the platter for the person you are passing to while they take food
    • If the platter seems easy to hold and serve from, pass it to the guest next to you once you’ve taken your share
  • Don’t touch other people’s food
  • Don’t use your utensils to obtain food from a service plate
  • Take a small enough portion so that there’s plenty left for everyone else
  • When you pass something with a handle, like a gravy boat, pass it with the handle side toward the person you are passing to
  • Pass the salt and pepper together. Never touch the tops of the salt and pepper shakers.
  • Butter should be placed on bread/butter plate, not on bread
  • Eat bread by tearing off a bite-sized piece and buttering it just before eating it

Letting the waiter know there is something in the food

  • If you discover an insect or a hair in your food, try not to make a big deal of it (especially if you’re eating at someone’s house)
  • Put your fork or glass down, and wait to signal the server to get you a fresh plate or glass
  • If you are in someone’s home, simply remove the foreign object, set it to the side of your plate, and (if you aren’t overly grossed out), continue eating
  • Do not mention to host in the middle of a dinner party that you found something gross in the food

Saying thank you

  • Thank your host for the meal at its conclusion
  • Remember your focus is on building the relationship
  • Send a “thank you” note via e-mail within 24 hours after the event to your host
    • A handwritten note is preferable if it can get to the host within two days of the

Paying the bill

  • Typically, the host of the table will pay for the meal
  • If someone else offers, graciously accept their offer and do not try to argue/bargain with them
  • If nobody offers to pay the bill and it has been more than two minutes, offer to the pay the check
  • If splitting the check is the final decision, pay half the bill instead of just your portion
    • This eliminates any awkward encounters.

Conversation starters

Silence can often be difficult at the dinner table. Here are some great conversation starters:

  • What professional development opportunities are you currently engaged in?
  • What is your current favorite book or television show?
  • Did anyone go on any exciting vacations this summer or have any upcoming vacations planned?
  • Tell me about your plans for after graduation.
  • What would you do if the world was going to end in 24 hours?
  • If you could invite anyone to dinner, dead or alive, who would it be?
  • What was your favorite college course and why?
  • Who is your biggest role model and why?

Adapted from





By Jenna Parker
Jenna Parker Recruitment and Marketing Coordinator Jenna Parker