Do and don’ts of dining etiquette?
“Food is dear to everyone’s heart, so the first golden rule of table manners is respect.” ― Cristina Ho
Making a good impression during lunch or dinner interviews as well as in social business settings requires proper etiquette. Although your finest resource is frequently common sense, the following advice will help you come off as a polished professional.
- Have at least one hand available. If you’re standing, never hold a drink or something to eat in both hands. Holding a drink in your left hand will allow you to extend a firm, yet not oppressive, handshake while using a dry hand.
- While you can eat and drink while seated, it is always preferable to stand when you greet someone.
- Maintain clear eye contact. Don’t forget to say hello to the host or hostess and refrain from joining in on conversations. Ask individuals about their careers and personal lives.
- Avoid approaching two people who are deep in conversation. Wait until there is a break before introducing yourself. Look for visual cues to participate in the conversation. Avoid approaching two people who are deep in conversation. Wait until there is a break before introducing yourself. Look for visual cues to participate in the conversation.
- Always provide your contact information and be aware of when it is time to leave. Continue on to the next group or person, follow up with promising contacts, and evaluate how you can improve your performance.
1) Sitting Down/Arrival
- Arrive on time and call ahead if you anticipate being late.
- Bags, purses, sunglasses, cell phones, and briefcases should not be placed on the table.
- Maintain proper posture and keep your elbows off the table.
- Wait 15 minutes before calling to check on the status of your dinner companions’ arrival.
2) Table Layout
- When faced with a variety of eating utensils, remember to “start on the outside and work your way in.” If you have two forks, for example, start with the fork on the outside.
- Never talk with your utensils, and never make a fist with one.
- When not in use, place the utensils on your plate, not the table.
- Typically, you should place your napkin on your lap (folded in half with the fold towards your waist) as soon as you sit down at the table, but follow the lead of your host.
- The napkin should be kept on your lap throughout the meal. If you leave the table, place your napkin on your chair or to the left of your plate as a signal to the server that you will be returning.
- The end of the meal is signaled when the host places their napkin on the table. You should also place your napkin on the table.
4) Ordering and Getting Served
- If your host doesn’t specifically ask you to, avoid ordering the priciest dish on the menu, the starters, or the dessert. Even if the interviewer orders alcohol, it is still recommended to refrain; nevertheless, if alcohol is consumed, it should be done so moderately.
- Ordering messy or challenging foods should be avoided (i.e. spaghetti, French onion soup).
- Unless the person who hasn’t been served encourages you to start eating before everyone has been served, wait until everyone has been served before starting to eat.
5) Amidst The Meal
- Eat your meal carefully, taking only a few tiny bits at a time.
- Avoid talking while eating by chewing with your mouth shut.
- Dispatch food to the right (i.e. bread, salad dressings). If you are the one passing the bread basket, give some to the person to your left, then take some for yourself, and finally pass it to the person to your right.
- One in each hand, pass the salt and pepper around. You shouldn’t pause to utilize these things if someone has asked you to pass them.
- Prior to adding seasoning, taste your food.
- Use no more than two packets of sweeteners per meal, and avoid using more than that.
- Buttering only a few nibbles at a time, bread should be consumed by ripping it into small pieces. Never eat bread whole or with a knife.
- Instead of blowing on your soup to cool it, gently stir it. Away from you, slop your soup.
- You are not required to finish your meal. Leaving some food on your plate is considered courteous.
6) Different Eating Styles Should Be Aware Of
- Continental or European Style: When eating, use your left hand to hold your food while using your right hand to cut it.
- American-style eating involves cutting the meal with the right hand, holding it with the left, and then swapping hands to use the right hand for consumption.
7) After You’ve Completed
- Do not stack or move your plates once you are done; instead, leave them where they are.
- Lay your knife and fork on the dish side by side, diagonally across the surface, with their tips pointing at 10:00 and 4:00 on a clock. This lets the wait staff know that you’re done.
- Typically, the person who orders the meal pays for it and leaves a reasonable tip (15% for average service, 20% for great service).
- Never forget to give your host a thank you.
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