Business Etiquette: Table Manners

While I’m certainly not an etiquette expert, I do feel it’s important to share basic etiquette rules, especially concerning table manners. As an entrepreneur, I find myself attending many luncheons and dinners and the last thing I want to do is offend or come off as “rough around the edges”.  The table etiquette I’m providing below is based on basic rules prevalent here in the United States. If you’re traveling outside of the states, be sure to take some time to familiarize yourself with the country’s customs as they may differ from our own.

The fork is always on the left and a knife and spoon are positioned on the right with the knife closest to the plate, blade side facing the plate. If a salad course is to be served, a second fork will be placed to the left of the plate. Always start with the fork furthest to your left and work your way in to the plate as the courses continue. Dessert utensils are placed above the main plate and horizontally.

Plates and Glasses
Food items are always positioned to the upper left of the plate while drink items are positioned on the right. An easy way to remember this is to hold out your hand, fingers extended and pull your pointer finger to the tip of your thumb. Your left hand forms a “b” for “bread” while your right hand forms a “d” for “drink”.

Wine glasses sit directly above the knife while a water glass sits left of the wine glass at a 45 degree angle, closer to you. Coffee cups are placed to the right or above the setting if space is limited and the handle of your coffee cup points right.

Basic Etiquette
Do not begin eating until all are seated at the table.

The only reaching you should be doing at a table is going after items directly in front of you. Do not reach across your neighbor. Ask her to pass you the butter rather than reaching for it if the distance is too far.

Place your napkin in your lap. If you must get up during dinner, place your napkin on your chair, not on the table (the napkin is only placed on the table once the meal is complete and you are leaving the table).

Chew with your mouth closed. Don’t be gross. Don’t blow your nose at the table. Again, don’t be gross. Elbows should not be placed on the table. No phones at the table. That text/tweet/post can wait until after the meal.

Finishing Up
Once you’ve finished your meal, all utensils should be placed on the plate, together and to the right, pointed up. Place your napkin to the left of your plate.