Start to Finish Guidelines
How to Use Napkins
- As soon as you are seated, remove the napkin from your place setting, unfold it, and put it in your lap.
- Do not shake it open
- The napkin rests on the lap till the end of the meal. Don’t clean the cutlery or wipe your face with the napkin. NEVER use it to wipe your nose!
- If you excuse yourself from the table, loosely fold the napkin and place it to the left or right of your plate. Do not refold your napkin or wad it up on the table either. Never place your napkin on your chair.
At the end of the meal, leave the napkin semi-folded at the left side of the place setting. It should not be crumpled or twisted; nor should it be folded. The napkin must also not be left on the chair.
When to Start Eating
In a restaurant:
- Wait until all are served at your table before beginning to eat.
At a private dinner party:
- When your host or hostess picks up their fork to eat, then you may eat. Do not start before this unless the host or hostess insists that you start eating.
Using the Silverware
- Starting with the knife, fork or spoon that is farthest from your plate, work your way in using one utensil for each course.
- Once you have used a piece of silverware, do not place it back on the table. Lay it on your plate instead. Place your knife and fork, with the tines down, as if they are pointing at the numbers 10 and 3 on a clock. This will show the waiter/waitress that you are still eating.
- When you are finished eating, place your knife and fork, with tines up, together on the plate. Try to position them so they will not fall off when the server is taking the plates from the table.
- Do NOT talk with food in your mouth! This is very rude and distasteful to watch! Wait until you have swallowed the food in your mouth.
- Always taste your food before seasoning it. Usually the hostess has gone to a lot of work making sure the food served is delicious to her standards. It is very rude to add salt and pepper before tasting the food.
- Don’t blow on your food to cool it off. If it is too hot to eat, take the hint and wait until it cools.
- Always scoop food, using the proper utensil, away from you.
- Cut only enough food for the next mouthful (cut no more than two bites of food at a time). Eat in small bites and slowly.
- Do eat a little of everything on your plate. If you do not like the food and feel unable to give a compliment, just keep silent. It is acceptable to leave some food on your plate if you are full and have eaten enough. If the food served is not to your liking, it is polite to at least attempt to eat a small amount of it. It is never acceptable to ask a person why they have not eaten all the food. Don’t make an issue if you don’t like something or can’t eat it – keep silence.
- Even if you have dietary restrictions, it is inappropriate to request food other than that which is being served by the host at a private function. If you have serious dietary restrictions or allergies, let your host know in advance of the dinner.
- Do not “play with” your food or utensils. Never wave or point silverware. Do not hold food on the fork or spoon while talking, nor wave your silverware in the air or point with it.
- Try to pace your eating so that you don’t finish before others are halfway through. If you are a slow eater, try to speed up a bit on this occasion so you don’t hold everyone up. Never continue to eat long after others have stopped.
- Once used, your utensils, including the handles, must not touch the table again. Always rest forks, knives, and spoons on the side of your plate or in the bowl.
- Unfold your napkin and place it on your lap. When you are finished, place it loosely on the table, not on the plate and never on your chair.
- Keep elbows off the table. Keep your left hand in your lap unless you are using it.
- Do not talk with your mouth full. Chew with your mouth closed.
- Guests should do their best to mingle and make light conversation with everyone. Do not talk excessively loud. Give others equal opportunities for conversation. Talk about cheerful, pleasant things at the table.
- Don’t clean up spills with your own napkin and don’t touch items that have dropped on the floor. You can use your napkin to protect yourself from spills. Then, simply and politely ask your server to clean up and to bring you a replacement for the soiled napkin or dirty utensil.
- Loud eating noises such as slurping and burping are very impolite. The number one sin of dinner table etiquette!
- Do not blow your nose at the dinner table. Excuse yourself to visit the restroom. Wash your hands before returning to the dining room. If you cough, cover your mouth with your napkin to stop the spread of germs and muffle the noise. If your cough becomes unmanageable, excuse yourself to visit the restroom. Wash your hands before returning to the dining room.
- Turn off your cell phone or switch it to silent or vibrate mode before sitting down to eat, and leave it in your pocket or purse. It is impolite to answer a phone during dinner. If you must make or take a call, excuse yourself from the table and step outside of the restaurant.
- Do not use a toothpick or apply makeup at the table.
- Say “Excuse me,” or “I’ll be right back,” before leaving the table. Do not say that you are going to the restroom.
- Whenever a woman leaves the table or returns to sit, all men seated with her should stand up.
- Do not push your dishes away from you or stack them for the waiter when you are finished. Leave plates and glasses where they are.
Bread and Butter
- Bread and butter may be on the table as you arrive or brought soon after you have been seated
- If the bread basket is close to your place setting, start it around the table before serving yourself. Offer others the last piece before taking it for yourself. At a larger table, offer left, then serve yourself and then pass to your right
- Bread,butter,jams, and finger foods, all go on your bread plate
- As with all communal food, once you have touched it, it is yours: Do not tear a piece of bread and then place the rest back in the basket
- Break off small pieces of bread, then butter a piece and eat it.
- When an uncut loaf (with cutting board and knife) is placed on the table, the host or whoever is closest – cuts three or four slices, leaving them on the cutting board, make sure to use a clean napkin to hold the loaf when cutting it.
- Appetizers are eaten with the outermost small fork to the left of the dinner fork. If you are having shell fish, use the oyster fork to the far right of the knives and spoons.
- If you are having soup, the server will probably bring the soup spoon with the soup: if it is already part of the place setting, it is to the right of knife or knives
- Pass any shared plates, such as antipasti, around the table, holding it so the next person can serve himself, using the serving utensils. If no appetizer plate has been provided, use your bread plate.