The idea of etiquette is to make you feel comfortable by providing you with acceptable standards that take the guesswork out of acceptable public behaviour.
We eat three or four meals a day and for many of us this is often in the company of others. Whether dining in a first class restaurant with your manager, work colleagues, or sitting with friends and family, an understanding of dining etiquette prevents those awkward moments and makes time spent with others around a table more enjoyable.
In our current climate more and more business deals and job interviews are being done over a meal whether breakfast, lunch or dinner. Make sure you are not caught short, lacking the appropriate dining skills to impress your company.
After every one is seated at the table gently unfold your napkin and place it on your lap. If appropriate wait for your host or guest of honour to unfold their napkin before unfolding yours.
Your napkin should never be tucked into your top like a bib.
When using the napkin you should pat your lips and not wipe them. In order to keep your glass or cup looking clean around the rim you can also use your napkin to dab your lips before taking a drink. After the meal is over, the host signals the end by placing their napkin on the table. You should follow suit.
There is some debate about whether to wait until everyone is served before starting to eat or is it acceptable to begin to eat as soon as you are served. I think the formality of the situation may dictate the pace. It is always wise to take your lead from other guests. This rule is always waived if the host tells you to begin to eat your meal.
If you do not want a drink do not turn the glass upside down just quietly and politely decline or put your hand over your glass.
For items like peas, do not turn your fork up like a spoon, use your knife to push the items onto your fork, this can be done with a combination of other foods.
Choose either the American or Continental style of dining to eat your meal. Do not switch between styles during the meal.
Cut only enough food for the next mouthful.
If you want something passed to you ask, don’t reach over anyone to get anything. Offer people the handles when passing items such as water jugs, gravy boats and cream. Pass items like butter, dressings, salt, pepper, etc without being asked. When you are not eating, place your hands in your lap or rest your wrists or forearms on the edge of the table.
Do not put your elbows on the table.
Try to pace your meal to finish at the same time as your host or the majority of the group.
Meeting materials, handbags or briefcases should be placed under your chair or to the left of your feet, until it is time to discuss business. If business is to be discussed do this towards the end of the meal.
If you must excuse yourself during a meal, signal to others that you intend to return by placing your knife and fork in the position of an X with the knife and fork. It is impolite for more than one person to leave the table at a time.
For more information visit my website at www.etiquetteandmanners.co.uk The courses are also certified for continued professional development (CPD) if required.