Career, Dining, Food

Etiquette 101

November 9, 2008

For most of us, sitting down at a table and eating breakfast, lunch or dinner is a time of relaxation and leisure. It is during this time, that we also exhibit some of our most ‘un-attractive’ manners and table etiquette. From talking with food in our mouth to leaning or slouching in our chair, many of us forget the table manners that our parents tried so hard to teach us.

While some may see no need for table manners in our own ‘personal space’, it is important to have some knowledge of them in the event that you need them as for example during a business luncheon or a formal dinner. So let us refresh on some key pointers that will help us seem ‘civilized’ at the least.

Table Setting by tracyhunter.

Continental vs. American

No, the title is not in some reference to a sporting event but rather in reference to the two different styles of eating etiquette.

The first, Continental, is considered to be the less formal of the two and some believe to more ‘efficient. Using the Continental style of eating, the fork is never moved from the left hand when eating. When eating and cutting food, the index finger is placed on the back of the fork and the knife is kept in the right hand. It is also noted that when cutting the food, the cut strokes should be made in one direction only (top to bottom). When using continental just remember, right hand – Knife & left hand – Fork.

The second, American style, which is most commonly used in the United States, is similar to Continental style. Similar to Continental style, the fork is in the left hand and the knife in the right hand when cutting. Your index finger rests on the back of the handles and you should cut several pieces of your food. After cutting, you will rest your knife on the edge of the plate with the sharp edge looking into the plate.

The big difference between American and Continental style is that after you rest your knife, you switch your fork to your right hand.


Whether you use the Continental or American style of dining, here are some helpful tips that may help you make a great impression in front of your boss or parents in-law.

  • -Used utensils shouldn’t touch the the surface of the table. Balancing them on the corner of your plate is a better place.
  • -Most dishes will be accompanied by the appropriate knife. For example: steak and seafood. Don’t use the butter knife to cut that 12 oz. New York Steak
  • -Most upscale restaurants go for the cloth napkins, which means you only get one. Try dabbing the mouth when needed which will your napkin last longer. (This doesn’t apply to Buffalo wings. We all know that’s just impossible.)
  • -If something is even remotely out of your reach, ask for some assistance from someone at the table.
  • -Sit up straight and don’t lean your elbows heavily on the table.
  • -It is best to wait till your party is served all there dishes out of courtesy.
  • -Be on time. Being early also shows that your dinner/meeting with your guests is important to you.
  • -In most cases, if you are the one inviting, it is suggested that you pick up the tab. No clear rule here
  • -Napkin should be placed on your lap when you sit at your table and placed on your chair or to the left of your plate when going to the restroom or stepping away from your meal as to show you will return.

The next time you sit down to a business luncheon or an important dining engagement remember to enjoy your dining experience. Also don’t forget one of the key elements to succeess: always be confident and composed. With that said, bon appetit!

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