Teaching Table Manners and Formal Dining Etiquettes

Published: 20th February 2007
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In these times of fast food, it has become imperative to brush up our formal dining etiquette. Nowadays, formal sit-down dinners are becoming less frequent. There comes a business lunch or a dinner at a swanky restaurant where you are required to be sophistication incarnate displaying flawless table etiquette.

Behaving boorishly on that one important dinner due to a lack of adequate knowledge of table manners could be your undoing. It is not difficult to pick up the basics. So let us brush up our table manners.

In any invitation, there are two perspectives. You are either the host or a guest. The main table manners, however, are the same in both cases.

Let us have a look at some of the common table manners.

- It is perfectly okay to eat finger foods with your fingers. You can bite off pieces of larger savouries. If they are messy, use your fork or spoon. the following items - bread, cookies, corn on the cob, chips, french fries, hors d'oeuvres, sandwiches, small fruits, berries, and cubed cheese are finger foods.

- Never put an entire sandwich, however tiny, into your mouth. Eat it in small bites.

- Take care not to dip the serving tongs into your teacup while adding sugar.

- After stirring sugar into your tea, place your teaspoon on the saucer.

- Never blow on your tea. A hot cup of tea should be kept on the table to cool off. And don't slurp when you drink anything.

- As soon as you are seated, pull out the napkin from its setting, unfold it and place it on your lap. Never truck your napkin into your collar. At the end of the meal, allow the waiter to clear all your plates. Then lay the napkin at the centre of the table.

- If you have to leave the table inadvertently during the meal, put your napkin on the left of your plate or leave it on your chair with the soiled part facing down.

- If you happen to drop your napkin on the floor, do not pick it up. Signal to the serving staff to supply you with a fresh one.

- Dab your napkin lightly on your lips. Never scrub your mouth with your napkin.

- Do not stretch across the table to pick up politely ask the person nearest to it to pass the item to you. If you are requested to pass something, pick up and place it near the person next to you. Things are not passed hand-to-hand. In addition, it is incorrect for anyone other than the original requestor to use the item passed.

- Never talk with your mouth full of food. Cover your mouth if you need to cough or sneeze.

- Do not rest your elbows on the table. It is okay to put part of your upper arm on the table.

- If you have something in your mouth that you want to spit out, put it on the fork and place in on your plate discretely.

- The correct way of using a spoon or a fork is by balancing them between the first knuckle of the middle finger and the tip of the index finger while using the thumb to steady the handle. The knife is used with the tip of the index finger gently pressing out over the top of the blade.

- Hold the fork with your left hand and spoon (or knife) with your right. However, you can dispense with the spoon (or knife) if you use the fork, how held your right hand.

- To indicate that you have finished your meal, place the fork and knife (or spoon) horizontally on the plate, parallel to each other, facing away from you.

- To eat your soup, half fill your soupspoon and moving it away from your body sip it from the side of the spoon.

- When presented with the finger bowl, delicately dip your fingers in the water and gently dab them with the napkin.

When invited to a dinner, arrive on time and leave on time. Do not wait till the host starts dropping not-so-subtle hints like "what a big day I have tomorrow." Many a times you decide to invite a prestigious guest for a meal at a high-end restaurant. The person is important to you. There are certain do's and dont's, if followed diligently, would leave a favourable impression on your guest.

There are a few things you must ensure to make the occasion a resounding success.

# Choose a restaurant conducive to your meeting. Keep in mind the taste and profile of the guests and the occasion before selecting the place. If you are meeting to discuss something important, give the resto-bar a miss. Opt for a muted, classy place instead.

# Make reservations in advance. It would be unseemly to land there and find no place. If you have visited the restaurant before, book a table suitable for your meeting.

# Inform your guest about the venue and time and confirm that the reservations have been made under your name.

# Always reach the place 10 minutes before the appointed time. Check whether everything is in order.

# Inform your waiter that you are waiting for someone and request the waiter to direct him or her to your table on arrival. It would be a good thing to find out the waiter's name.

# While waiting, you can order a non-alcoholic beverage for yourself.

# Have a look at the menu and find out the specialities of the day.

# Do not talk about personal issues while the waiter is present. Once he has taken the order and moved away, draw your guest out with small talk on general topics like the weather or the guest's interests etc.

# Offer the menu to your guest. Give your suggestions regarding the options only when asked.

# Turn your cell phone on vibrator mode.

Be it at a restaurant or home, a formal dinner requires a formal dress. You are expected to dress for the party. At the end of the day, your self-confidence carries you through.

Therefore, it is important to keep your poise.

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