Food for Thought: Dining Etiquette

Cvent Holiday Party 2010Patti Shock is a professor in the Harrah College of Hotel Administration at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She blogs for Cvent on F&B issues and other meetings-related logistics.

It is quite common to do business over a meal. Whether you are at a catered meal or at a restaurant hosting a client, being hosted by a supplier, or at a job interview, it is important to follow the rules of etiquette. You do not want to be considered a boor - a person with rude, clumsy manners and little refinement. You may lose the piece of business or the job, and never know the reason why.

Before you are seated:

  • Hold your drink in your left hand at a reception. This leaves your right hand dry and free to shake hands.

When you first sit down:

  • Do not place any bags, purses, sunglasses, cell phones, or briefcases on the table.
  • As soon as you are seated, unfold and place the napkin on your lap, with the fold toward you.
  • Order simply and avoid ordering messy items or items you eat with your hands.
  • Don’t order the most expensive item, even if you are the host.
  • Keep utensils in the same order they appear on the table. Don’t rearrange them to suit your needs, even if you are left handed.

At the table:

  • Once the food arrives, if you are the host, don’t eat until your guest does.
  • Which butter dish is yours? An easy way to remember is to think of the car BMW. From left to right, Bread, Meal, Water.
  • Set the utensils on your plate, not the table, when you are not using them.
  • Do not use both hands simultaneously to hold utensils and cups.
  • Don’t talk with your mouth full.
  • Don’t chomp on ice.
  • Take small bites. Cut your salad into bite size pieces, if necessary.
  • Tear a small piece off of the bread, butter it and eat it – one piece at a time. Never butter a half or a large piece and take bites from it.
  • If someone asks you to pass the salt, pass both the salt and the pepper. They should never be separated on the table.
  • Bread, and anything else that needs to be passed, should be passed to the right.
  • Try to pace yourself to finish at the same time as everyone else at the table.
  • If you leave the table, excuse yourself and place your napkin on your seat.
  • When eating soup, gently stir soup to cool it instead of blowing on it. Dip the spoon into the liquid and move it away from you to remove any drips from the bottom of the spoon on the far side of the bowl. Soup is taken from the side of the soup spoon; it is not inserted into your mouth. Do not slurp or make noises when eating soup.
  • It is considered good manners to wait until you have finished chewing and have swallowed your food before taking a sip of your beverage.  
  • When eating meat, always cut one small piece at a time.
  • Do not apply makeup or comb your hair at the table. Do not use your napkin as a tissue.

Remember, you are constantly being judged, when you are in public, and people notice your good or bad manners.

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