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How to Develop Proper Dining Etiquette



Use of Dining Utensils


If individuals haven’t dined with co-workers or employers, chances are they will at one point in their professional career.  It is hard to determine exactly how the place setting will appear.  The following are guidelines that will help ensure proper use of dining utensils for any place setting.   

  • Use the farthest utensil from the plate and work in.

  • Use one utensil for each course.  

  • Use one of two methods when using the fork and knife:

American Style:  Knife in right hand, fork in left hand holding food.  After a few bite-sized pieces of food are cut, place knife on edge of plate with blades facing in.  Eat food by switching fork to right hand (unless left handed).
Continental/European Style:  Knife in right hand, fork in left hand.  Eat food with fork still in left hand.


Placement of Dining Utensils

  • Soup Spoon -- Commonly the only spoon provided for the initial place setting.  Located on the outer right.

  • Salad Fork -- Provided for the salad and may have thicker tines.  Located on the outer left. 

  • Fork – Provided for the main course of the meal.  Located on the inner left. 

  • Knife – Provided for the main course of the meal.  Located on the inner right.  

  • Dessert Spoon and Fork – If provided in initial place setting, they are located above the plate.  Or they may be brought out with dessert.   



Before the Meal

  • Observing - In order to prevent embarrassing mistakes, take a note of what others at the table are doing. 

  • Use of napkin -- When the host places napkin in his/her lap, then the guests may do the same.  If the napkin is small, then unfold it completely.  If the napkin is large, then fold in half and place length-wise across lap.   If the need to leave the table during the meal exists, place napkin on chair.

  • Ordering -- It is all right to ask the server any questions about the menu.  The server may indicate which order will be taken first.  If not, then if dining with an employer, he/she may suggest whose order will be taken first.  Since being a guest at the table, don’t take advantage of the host’s generosity by ordering the most expensive items on the menu, or ordering more than one course. 

During the Meal

  • Use basic table manners.

  • In smaller settings, wait until everyone has been served to begin eating meal.

  • Do not ask for a doggy bag in formal situations.

  • Do not order alcoholic beverages.  

  • Do not smoke when dining out.

  • Do not slurp soup from a spoon.  Spoon the soup away from the body and sip it from the side of the spoon.  If soup is too hot to eat, let it sit until it cools; do not blow on it.

  • If not able to reach something on the table, politely ask the person closest to the item to pass it.

  • Do not blow nose at the table – politely ask to be excused and head to the restroom.

  • Do not chew ice cubes.

  • Good posture is very important.  Do not lean forward on the table, and do not lean too far back in the chair.  Sit up straight with hands on lap or wrists on the edge of the table. 

  • Accidents can always occur, so try not to draw attention to them if possible:

  • If a piece of food drops off the plate onto the table, then pick it up and place it on the edge of the plate with one of the eating utensils. 
  • If something spills or something gets caught between teeth, then ask to be excused from the table and get to a restroom.
  • If silverware or the napkin is dropped and it is not able to be reached, let the server know and ask for a new one. If able to reach it, then pick it up and ask the server for a new one.  

After the Meal

  • Place setting -- After finishing a meal, leave plate where it is and lay fork and knife side by side and diagonally across plate.  The knife should have the sharp side of blade facing inward and the fork should have tines down.

  • Emergencies -- Only leave the table if there is an emergency.  

  • Appreciation -- Let the host know that the meal and invitation are appreciated.


  • Speaking too loud.

  • Playing with hair, earrings, and touching head.

  • Pushing away plate/bowl when finished.

  • Eating too fast/slow.

  • Picking teeth.

  • Poor posture.

  • Purses, keys, eyeglasses, cell phones on table.

  • Cell phones/pagers going off.

  • Elbows on table.

  • Talking with food in mouth.

  • Chewing with mouth open.


This page is maintained by the Career Services Office.  Last updated:  July 15, 2009