Starting Any Meal on the Right Foot
Why is dining etiquette important? Knowing proper etiquette simply gives you more confidence to embrace new dining experiences, whether it’s having dinner in a fancy restaurant, at your best friend’s home, or even at the White House.
Whether you’re interviwing over a meal, having lunch with well-known business associates or sitting down to a formal dinner with complete strangers — who just happen to be your company’s most important clients — knowing the ins and outs of dining etiquette will help put you and others at ease. Good table manners are like the handrails on a rope bridge. You may not be dashing across the chasm like Indiana Jones, but if you hang on tightly, you won’t fall off!
Do you need a quick course in formal dining? Not just in basic eating, but you’ve got to know what to do with that place setting from Titanic? If you don’t know a Chardonnay from a Beaujolais, let alone how to locate your bread plate. Relax! You can easliy brush up on your dining skills so you at least know how to handle yourself with grace at any social engagement or business meal. Remember, meals are supposed to be relaxing and entertaining — even business meals!
To learn more on dining etiquette, eating certain foods, formal table settings, and wine etiquette, please visit our online store to purchase one of our Dining Etiquette Guidebooks, DVDs, or Etiquette books.
To schedule a private consultation or dining eituqette class for adults or children, please visit our ‘Find a A Consultant’ resource page, or contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 805.975.9511.
Formal Table Settings
Well done — you’ve been invited to the company’s annual awards ceremony at the ritziest room in town. But instead of thrills, you’ve got chills. They didn’t teach you how to go to one of these affairs in business school. When you ask your parents how to go to one of these things, they just laugh, recalling that in the commune, formal meant wearing shoes. No help there!
Read on for a few simple tips on formal placesettings!
The place plate, or main dinner plate, is in the center in front of each chair setting. In formal dining, you usually find a charger (underplate) as well. The bread plate is always to the left, slightly above the forks, with a small knife across the top. That knife is the butter spreader. If soup is served as a first course, the soup bowl will be on a service plate. A salad, if served as a first course, may be placed on the service plate, and the salad plate will then be removed. The charger or underplate is removed from the table before the dessert is served.
Toward the end of the meal, you may find a small plate with a doily and a small bowl above your dinner plate. These items are the dessert plate and finger bowl, respectively. A small fork and spoon — your dessert spoon and fork — will be resting on the edge of the dessert plate.
Forks are to the left of the plate, and knives and spoons go to the right (with the exception of the tiny cocktail fork, which is placed on the soup spoon or to the right of the soup spoon). The dessert fork and spoon are above the dinner plate.
If a salad is the first course (as is often the case in the United States but rarely the case in other countries), the salad fork, which is smaller than the dinner fork, will be farthest to the left. If fish is being served as the first course, a fish fork comes first. Next is your dinner fork for the entree. Salad sometimes is served as the third or fourth course, in which case your salad fork is closest to the plate. The butter spreader is on the bread plate on the left above the forks.
To the right of the plate, starting from the outermost utensil, are a cocktail fork, a soup spoon, a fish knife, a dinner knife, and (nearest the plate) a salad knife. The sharp edge of the knife is always turned toward the plate.
A dessert fork is placed horizontally above the place plate, tines right; a dessert spoon is placed horizontally above the place plate, bowl left. All these additional knives, forks, and spoons have specific functions — and to add to the confusion, a few look slightly different in Europe than they do in the United States. If you’re unsure which utensil to use or do not know how to eat a certain food, it is best to delay by having a sip of your beverage and watching what the others are doing.
In a formal setting, you usually have lots of glasses at the table. These glasses are to the right of your plate. Each glass is slightly different in shape and size. Their purposes are fairly easy to master; your waiter will fill the glasses with the correct beverages in the right order. As long as you are not drinking from an empty glass, you will be fine.
The glass farthest to the right may be a sherry if one is served to accompany the soup course. This glass will be the first one you use. When each course is finished, allow the waiter to remove the glass, as well as the plate, for that course. Next is the white-wine glass, which is used during the fish course or appetizer. Behind the white-wine glass is the red-wine glass. This glass is larger, with a fuller bowl that allows the red wine to breathe. The largest glass is the water goblet, which sits closest to the center of the dining table, often, just above the dinner knife.
Finally, behind and to the right of the water goblet is the champagne glass, if champagne will accompany dessert. You may also find a champagne glass in the first position, perhaps served with oysters as an appetizer.
The two most important rules to learn in dining, whether casual or formal, are:
* Drinks right, bread plate left. (Another version is liquids to the right, solids to the left.)
* Fork is a four-letter word, as is the word “left.” Knife is a five-letter word, as is the word “right.”
* Start by using the utensils placed farthest from the plate and work inward with each course.
By examining the formal place setting photo above, you should now have a good idea of what each course will be. Bon appetit!