Gone are the days when dining etiquette standards are too tight that you must know how to use the 10 utensils on the table before you can finally eat something. Today, as long as you know how to use a spoon, fork, and knife, and you’re not speaking with a full mouth, you’re good.
Sure, the standards have loosened in recent decades, but having known the basics can still go a long way, especially when you’re invited to a formal gathering or a business lunch meeting with clients.
Where do you put your napkin? How would you excuse yourself to go to the restroom? Is there a more formal way to eat bread? You’ll be a step ahead of your peers if you know the answers to these common queries.
If you’re dining at a fancy restaurant for the first time, here are some handy fine dining etiquette rules you should keep in mind to avoid getting embarrassed.
1. Always present yourself in a refined manner
The first rule: dress nicely. In a formal setting, men should wear a dress shirt and/or a jacket, blazer or suit. Women should be wearing a modest dress or top off a casual attire with a blazer. Wear shoes instead of sandals.
The second rule: remember the basic table manners. Sit up straight. Keep your arms and elbows off the table. Cut meat one at a time. Take smaller bites. Keep your tone soft.
2. Never put your valuables on the table
It’s just common sense. Don’t put your phone, keys, purse, and other items on the table. You should also refrain from using your phone when the people around you are conversing.
3. The menu should never be lifted off the table
Don’t bring it closer to your face. The menu should always be touching the table in a formal setting. If you’re reading the menu, make sure the bottom or any part of it, still touches the table.
4. Refrain from clinking glasses
Unless your host or client asks you too. Simply raise your glass for cheers – clinking glasses could damage the fine glassware. Additionally, if you’re having a five-star meal in a formal setting (with fine ladies and gents, of course), the less noise you make, the better.
5. Never ask for an oyster fork
If you’re served with oysters without a fork, chances are that the oysters are already loosened and ready to eat. If there’s still a bit of oyster stuck on the shell, use a knife to loosen it.
6. Sip from the same place on your glass
When you drink, make sure to drink from the exact spot on the glass for the rest of the meal. You’d want to avoid leaving that unsightly lip ring from natural oils or your lipstick. You should also place the glass back in the same place where you picked it up.
7. Place your napkin on your lap – not on your chest
Wait until your host places the napkin on his/her lap first before you start eating. Napkins should be folded in half with the crease facing toward you. When using the napkin to clean off stains, make sure to dab, not wipe.
If you need to stand up to use the restroom, the napkin goes on your chair. Once you’re finished eating, the napkin should be neatly placed on the left-hand side of where your plate was.
8. Don’t take pictures of your food if you’re with a distinguished guest
It’s okay if you’re with someone you know too well, as long as it’s not distracting other restaurant patrons. An expensive, world-class meal from a fine restaurant in Cork city Ireland deserves to be on your Instagram, right?
But if you’re with clients, business partners, and other distinguished, you may want to keep your phone.
9. Always keep the bread on the plate unless you’re going to eat it
Don’t hold the bread in the air while talking to a colleague – like you do with your everyday sandwich. It should stay on the plate. The only time it should leave the plate is when you’re about to eat it.
Break off the piece you plan to eat, butter that piece while it’s still on the plate, and lift the piece to put in your mouth.
10. Always leave one bite left on the plate
Leave a small bite or a piece of vegetable on your plate. This is a widely practiced etiquette that implies you enjoyed the meal, but you weren’t starving that you cleaned the entire plate. Conversely, you shouldn’t leave too much food on your plate, as this sends the notion you didn’t like what was served.
11. Observe the right placement of the discards
Yes, even your leftovers should be placed properly. Place the “discards”, like a lemon rind, garnish, and fishbones, on the upper left part of your plate. The bottom right of your plate should be for sauces and butter.
12. Don’t reach across the table to sample someone’s food
If you’re at a formal business meal or you’re with someone you don’t know well, experts suggest refraining from sharing. Mind your own food, no matter how curious you are with the taste of your companion’s meal.
13. Never complain about the food portions
Don’t complain about your food aloud, especially when it comes to portion sizes. Meals served in fine restaurants are known for their small portions and refined plating. Never say, “that’s not worth the expensive price tag.” Whining will only make you look inferior.
14. Never say you’re going to the restroom
Simply excuse yourself by saying a discreet “excuse me”, then stand up. You don’t have to tell why.
15. Always show courtesy to the servers
Keep the rim of your plates clean for the server who’s responsible for clearing the plates and holding the edges. If you need to ask something or send back bad food to the kitchen (like rancid, overly salty, burnt, or undercooked food), call them out politely. Words like “kindly” and “please” could go a long way.
Author Bio: Carmina Natividad is a resident writer for Greenes Restaurant Cork, a fine restaurant in Cork City Ireland, known for their top-notch local cuisines and talented kitchen team. This self-proclaimed foodie enjoys discovering hidden gems and writing engaging articles about food, travel, and lifestyle.