General Dining Etiquette – Business & Social Etiquette Blog


Hello I’m Ellen Russell and in the course of my work I eat our regularly in both social and business settings. If you have a good grasp of dining etiquette you are free to focus on the person you are with. You are a lot more likely to feel confident or impress your dining companion if you can manoeuvre your way around a dining situation comfortably.

When eating with others it is appropriate to wait until everyone is served before starting to eat. This rule is always waived if the host tells you to begin to eat your meal. This applies particularly if the food is hot and would spoil if kept waiting. At a very formal function you would normally always wait until your host begins to eat.

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. Your napkin should be placed on your lap. When you are finished your meal place it lightly folded on the table.

Your napkin is for your mouth, never use it to blow your nose.

Choose either American or Continental style dining. Do not switch between styles during the meal. When eating American style it is fine to use the tines facing upwards having first cut up the food.

It is not appropriate at any time if eating Continental style to use your fork with the tines turned upwards. For instance when eating peas, use your knife to push the items onto the back of your fork, this can be done with a combination of other foods.

Cut only enough food for the next mouthful.

Food is served on your left and dishes are cleared from your right.  Pass food from the left to the right. Pass any communal items without being asked: bread, butter, dressing, salt and pepper are always passed together.  Offer people the handles of the dishes when passing items such as gravy boats and cream.

Eat your meal to finish at the same time as your host or the majority of the guests.

When you are finished your meal, place your knife and fork together with the blade of your knife facing inward.  Put the handles in the four o’clock position on the rim of the plate,  with the tips resting in the well of the plate towards the ten o’clock position. Again there is some debate as to whether the fork tines should face either up or down.

If  business is to be discussed wait until near the end of the meal.

For  more information visit my website at   The etiquette courses are on sale for less than the price of a glass of wine.  The courses are also certified for continued professional development (CPD) if required.

About the author

Ellen is our Business & Social Etiquette Blogger. You can reach Ellen on: Etiquette and Manners, Facebook, Linked In

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