Do you always feel intimidated when you get invited to a classy dinner party or lunch meeting with clients or your boss? Having a good understanding of proper dining etiquette will help you feel more at ease and confident, so you can focus less on making a faux pas and more on the business at hand.
Remember these points of etiquette the next time you are heading out to a restaurant or dinner party:
Napkins: There is a lot of controversy about where to leave one’s napkin. When you leave the table to go to the restroom, you should leave the napkin on the seat of your chair. Some etiquette consultants say that’s very unhygienic because you don’t know who sat there and you should place it on the back of your chair. However, most of the gurus of etiquette, such as Leticia Baldridge and Emily Post, recommend you place it on your seat. The reason for that? When people are eating, the sight of someone’s soiled napkin tossed on the table is very unappetizing.
When you leave the table, a waiter should fold your napkin while you’re gone. At the end of the meal, you should fold your napkin (not necessarily neatly) and leave it on the table to the left of the plate to indicate that you are done.
Passing the Salt: You should always pass the salt and the pepper together even if only one is requested. Remember, the salt and pepper are married.
Bread: When at a business luncheon, do you know which is your bread plate? Is it the one on the left? Yes. Should someone take the bread from your plate, don’t say anything. You never want to embarrass anyone.
An easy way to remember which one is your bread plate and which one is your water is the acronym BMW. The bread is to your left; the meal is in the middle; and the water is on the right.
If the bread is in front of you, pass it to the right. Do not take a piece until the basket gets back to you. Hopefully, there will be bread left in the basket!
Finally, never, EVER talk while you are chewing your food. This is such an unappealing habit. If someone asks you a question right after you have put a forkful of food into your mouth, politely raise your hand and wait until you are done chewing before responding; be sure to say “excuse me” once you start speaking. This works both ways—be observant and don’t ask a question of someone right after they have just taken a bite of steak!
-Try to pace yourself as you eat. Do not wolf down your food or nibble at it like a bird. It is awkward when one person has finished their meal while the other has barely touched their plate (and it can also be a sign that one person is talking too much!). If you notice that you haven’t made much progress on your meal, ask your companion a question so that you can eat while you listen.
-It is considered polite to leave a small portion of food left on your plate, to show that you are completely satisfied. Cleaning your plate may indicate that they haven’t provided enough food.
-Do not do any personal grooming at the table. If you’ve just eaten a steak or corn on the cob and feel that you might have souvenirs caught in your teeth, don’t pull out your compact, gnaw on a toothpick, or pick at your teeth. Instead, excuse yourself, grab a toothpick from the hostess stand (or some floss if you’ve brought some), and head to the bathroom to check your smile. Don’t flash your teeth at the person next to you and ask if you’ve got anything in your teeth.
-Don’t cut your meat up all at once. That’s fine if you are a toddler, but not if you are a full-grown adult. Cut a bite-sized portion of your steak or chicken, chew it, then cut another.
-If you are part of a large group dining at a restaurant, it is best to clarify with everyone beforehand whether you will be asking for separate checks. If you are, make sure your server is apprised of that as soon as you order. It can be a major headache when one person pays the bill and is then charged with the duty of calculating the cost of what everyone owes them—it never adds up! Always account for tip and tax. Never suggest splitting the bill into equal parts if you notice that some dining companions have only had a modest amount of food. Money is tight for many people these days, and it’s rude and pretentious to have someone who ordered a salad and water to foot the bill for your porterhouse steak and bottle of wine.