“Eating with a knife or with the fingers; soiling the lips; using the fork or the fingers as a toothpick; making audible the process of mastication or of drinking; taking soup from the point of a spoon; lolling forward upon the table or with the elbows upon the table; soiling the cloth with what should be kept on the plate; in short, everything that is odd or coarse should nowhere be indulged in…”
‘How to Behave: The Etiquette of Society’ (1879)
General tips on dining etiquette, whether it is at home, at a party, office gathering or restaurant etc.
1. At Home: Strict observation of the table manners should be made mandatory and should become a part of the learning process to the children in the family. They should be taught the intricacies of the dinning etiquette so that they will observe the rules when you go out as a family to restaurants, parties or even to a friends’ place.
2. Arranging Table: Whether it is for your family or to host a party at home, the table arrangement is the most important aspect of dinning etiquette.
a. Cover the table with a nice plain or a floral patterned table cloth.
b. Set a dinner plate in front of the chairs of your family members or the guests and place a folded napkin on the plate.
c. Place the forks to the left of the plate in such a way that the larger forks should be next the plate and the smaller salad forks should be on the outside of the line.
d. Place the dinner knife on the right of the plate and the spoons to the right of the knife.
e.Drinking glasses should be kept at the top right (above the silver ware) and coffee cup and sauce at the right of the glasses.
3. Host Signal: If you are invited to a party, wait for the signal from your host to begin your dinner, unless you are compelled to start eating before her. Keep pace with your fellow diners. Wait for the entire table to be served before you begin eating.
5. Glass etiquette: Your water or beverage glass should be kept at the right side of your plate. After every use, replace your glass to the same place, so that the others may not use it by mistake.
6. Use of Napkins: Napkins are kept in a restaurant or in a party, so that you may use them. Spread the half folded napkin on your laps right from the beginning of the meals till the end. You may use it in between bites as and when required. Loosely fold your napkin (casually hiding the soiled portion) and return it back to the left side of your plate once your meal is over.
8. Quantity of Food: If you are in a party or in a group, do not rush to stand in the food line and don’t fill your plate with food in abundance. You may always go for a couple of more helpings and hence, take an average quantity of food at one time than burdening your place with a lot of stuff at once. It may also help you in avoiding the spilling of food on your clothes or on the others.
9. Eat, not talk: Talking while the mouth is full of food should be avoided at any cost. In the same way, swallow your food before you sip or drink from your glass.
10. Avoid noises: The eating noises, the noise of the food utensils, the noise of burping etc. should be avoided while having dinner with other people. The noise of trying to cool your food when it is hot should also be avoided.
11. Body Language: Do not frown or crease your forehead, if you are unhappy with some of the other diners. Do not make face if the food takes a long time to arrive or arrives in scarce quantities. Do not focus only on one person; talk to every one. Smile once and smile often.
12. Like it or not: You may not like the food being served at a friend’s place or in a party; you may even be on a dietary control plan. However, pretend to eat a bit of everything. The host may not be aware of your liking or otherwise. Even if you feel that the food is not well cooked or not made up to the mark, do not ever criticize the host.
13. Take Help: Ask to pass on any food items from the others, if it is not reachable for you. It is far better than your trying to reach the utensils by stretching across and disturbing the other diners.
14. Conversation: Make light conversations while the dining is on; keep clear of controversial subjects like religion. If subject doesn’t happen to come up then refrain from getting into debate. Just nod politely and smile, irrespective of whether you agree or not. Your mobiles should be kept in vibration mode or should be switched off, so that the dining table conversation shall not get disturbed. You should eat in a relaxed pace in sync with your fellow diners.
15. Placing a order: If you are invited for a sit down dinner to a restaurant, try not to order the most extravagant items on the menu unless host recommends. Do keep in mind dining sensibilities of fellow dinners. If rest of the table is vegetarians, don’t order meat. Order alcohol only if everyone else does.
Q I am always at a loss when I have to make a light conversation with a group of diners. Nor I am a conversation starter. It’s a real handicap for me at times when I have been invited to parties. How to improve on my problem?
It’s not that hard really! You may look around at the people in the party and locate the familiar faces first and may talk to them. People would love to answer you if you show interest in others. But do not go overboard. People may take your casual queries into something serious.
You may talk about the soft music and the candles, praise a bit about your host, the food and the drinks, the party atmosphere etc.In all probabilities, you may get introduced to some one new and the chain might go on. It is better to talk about the general topics or common interests with a new acquaintance.
Q Sometimes I drop some food or spill water while serving myself. How should I tackle such an embarrassing situation?
If you happen to have a small accident at the table, don’t panic. It happens to the best of us. Stay calm, apologise and excuse yourself from the table. Go to the serving station and request them to attend to the situation, while you get yourself cleaned up.
It is quite important for us to observe the table manners as we would expect the others to do so.
Little bit of dining etiquette will serve us well. It’s not that tough, really!
Etiquette means behaving yourself a little better than is absolutely essential.
E-Book – Business Dining Etiquette
E-Book - Dining Etiquette
Book - Shine While You Dine