Advice for Students

Dining Etiquette Savvy

May 08, 2013  |     |   0 Comment

dinnertableWhich fork and knife do I start with?  Is my bread plate on the right or left?  Which glass is mine? Do you ever feel that navigating your place setting is like navigating a mine field? Every dining experience – whether social or for business – should be a positive one.  Anxiety or self-doubt should never creep in.

Understanding and possessing proper dining skills is vital in any business or social situation if you wish to make a positive first impression and create an opportunity to build relationships. Good table manners allow you to concentrate on the important task of any business or social meal – and that is to participate.

The next time you attend a event that takes place over a meal, apply the following five “do’s and don’ts” to help build your confidence, enhance your image, and ensure every dining experience is a positive one!


  • Participate in conversation during the meal. Many people worry about how to eat and carry on a conversation at the same time.  Take small bites as you will find it is easier to answer questions or join in table talk.
  • Understand the table setting. Remember the acronym “BMW” – bread, meal, water. Your bread plate is to the left of your dinner plate (for your “meal”) and your water glass and wine glass to the right. Use your utensils from the outside in.
  • Place your napkin on your lap as soon as you sit down. If you leave for a few moments during the meal, place your napkin on the seat of your chair. At the end of the meal, do not refold the napkin. Pick it up from its center and place it loosely on the table to the left of your plate.
  • Never butter a whole piece of bread. Take some butter and place it on your bread plate. Use the butter knife if one is available. Break a bite-size piece off your bread and hold it on the corner of the bread plate while you butter.
  • Do leave your plate where it is when you have finished eating, with your knife and fork in the “I am finished” position. Envision the face of a clock on your plate and place your utensils at 10:20 with the tips of the utensils at 10 and the handles at 4. The prongs of the fork should be down, and the knife should be placed next to the fork on the right side with the blade facing inward.


  • Do not start to eat before the Host. The beginning of the meal is signalled when the Host places his or her napkin on their lap, and then picks up their utensils to start eating. Follow the Host’s lead.
  • Do not mop your face with your napkin.  It is not a facecloth. Your napkin should be used to blot your mouth as needed during the meal.
  • Do not spread your elbows when cutting food. Keep them close to your sides when eating.  Never place your elbows on the table.
  • Do not reach across the table or across another person to get something.  If it is out of reach, ask the closest person to pass it to you.
  • Do not gesture with your fork and knife in your hand. If you are not using your utensils, place them in the “I am resting” position.  This signals to your Host, or a server at a restaurant, that you want to pause during a course and do not want your plate taken away. The knife and fork are placed in an inverted “V” position.  They are crossed on the plate with the fork over the knife and the prongs pointing down, and the blade of the knife facing inward. The knife should be in the 10:20 position, as on the face of a clock; the fork prongs should be at two o’clock, and the handle at eight o’clock.

With practice, these techniques will become habits and enable you to wine, dine and shine at any business or social event that takes place over a meal!



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