While there isn’t a set of manners better or more important than another per se, I believe table manners are some of the most necessary. After all, we eat several times per day, often in the company of others-business clients; colleagues, family and friends. As such, I have chosen this for today’s topic.
Knowing and exhibiting proper table etiquette will allow you to ease through dining experience with polish and grace and are essential to professional success. The purpose of manners and etiquette is always to make others and yourself feel more comfortable, not less comfortable.
20 Table Etiquette Tips
1. Be properly dressed for the dining occasion. It is always better to arrive overdressed vs. under dressed.
2. Never speak with food in your mouth, and always chew with your mouth closed-I listed this first because it is without a doubt the most essential.
3. Always turn your cell phone off before preparing to dine with others.
4. Do not smoke at the table. It can ruin a good meal for others still eating and may not be accepted by everyone, especially non-smokers.
5. Place your napkin in your lap upon being seated and keep it there until you have completely finished eating.
6. Keep elbows at your sides and off of the table. Use good posture, avoid slouching or lean back in your chair, even if it’s late and you’re extremely tired.
7. If water is placed on the table, proper etiquette dictates that the closest person to it should offer to pour for everyone, being sure to serve themselves last. The same applies to coffee and tea also.
8. Resist the urge to order a dish that would be hard to eat with a knife and fork, you’ll only draw unwanted attention to yourself. Also, do not pick up anything with your fingers, except for bread. Foods like chicken wings or corn-on-the-cob should never be served or ordered at a formal dinner.
9. Do not order the most expensive items on the menu unless you are specifically told that it is okay to do so. Likewise, do not order an alcoholic drink unless your host does first. Should they choose to, it is acceptable for you to also have one but etiquette dictates that you should limit yourself to just that one. Should a server arrive at the table and ask you before the host has ordered, you can mention that you are still deciding.
10. Only season your food once you have tasted it first. When passing the salt and pepper it’s important to remember that they travel together like a bride & groom, so be sure to pass them both to the next person who requests either one.
11. Should you require something from across the table, always ask someone to pass it to you, it is never acceptable to reach across the table.
12. When at a formal table setting, always pick up and use utensils from the outside in towards the dinner plate. One you’ve picked up a utensil, it shouldn’t touch the table again. If it falls to the floor, do not pick it up and be sure to ask for a replacement.
13. While eating, be sure to slice food pieces small enough that you can eat what is on your fork in one bite. Do not leave half of the food on your utensil.
14. Cut one piece of food at a time and eat each piece before cutting another. Avoid cutting up food into small pieces on your plate all at once as if preparing to serve it to a toddler.
15. Never comment negatively about the food that is being served in someone’s home, but in a restaurant do mention what you would like changed so that you can enjoy your meal, especially as it pertains to items that are under cooked or overcooked.
16. Never move food from your plate to another person's plate or take food off of someone else's plate. Appetizer plates are fine for sharing and in such case your server should offer each person at the table some of each. In casual settings it would be appropriate for each person to take a bit of the appetizers, leaving enough for other guests.
17. Always try your best to keep pace with the other people you are dining with. Social etiquette requires that you shouldn’t finish your meal long after or before your dining companion does.
18. It is never okay to fix one’s hair, use a toothpick or otherwise pick teeth at the table, or apply lipstick or other makeup. The ladies’ room is the appropriate place to floss teeth, and get freshened up.
19. Try to visit the restroom if necessary upon arrival, before the meal begins or after all food has been cleared from the table. It is poor etiquette to leave the table in the middle of a meal. Only do so if it is an emergency.
20. When leaving the table, always be sure to push in your chair.
This is by no means a complete list as this is a topic that could bring about a whole book of recommendations and considerations. Instead of writing a really long post, I thought I’d ask you what tips you learned while growing up that really stuck with you, or that you now teach your own children as it pertains to table manners? I’d love to hear how you are doing things in your home.
Next week we'll be continuing this topic as we discuss formal and informal place settings and how to properly set a table.
Thank you for reading!