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Etiquette Tips While Eating Out

Know the right table manners…

You may be a guest or a host at a fomal or semi-formal dinner at home or in a restaurant and at that time knowing the right table manners and dinner etiquette, enhance the enjoyment of dining. In addition, you’ll make a favourable impression on others, since your table manners say a lot about your sense of personal style.

When the rules are known, there is no awkwardness or questions about how things should be done. And social embarassment is avoided! After all, the rules are to make you feel comfortable, not uncomfortable.

The many facets of dining etiquette…

We list out in ‘Resources’ below etiquette tips to enable you to develop acceptable techniques to follow while dining with parents, friends, colleagues and others.

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A. Know the cutlery

Use the knife, fork and spoon placed outermost and move inwards with each new course. Hold fork in the left hand with tines downward. Forks, bread plate, butter knife and napkin are placed on the left of plate and knives, spoons and tumbler are placed on the right. Hold the knife in the right hand and extend the index finger along the top edge of the knife. Lift the food to your mouth with the fork. If knife is not needed, it remains on the table.

B. Attire to be formal or semi-formal

Jeans, flip-flops et al are a strict no-no. Semi-formal or stylish-casual is the attire to go in for. For men, it will be full-sleeved shirt tucked into trousers and leather shoes. For women, it can be a stylish dress or skirt or saree or salwar-kameez, with light jewellery.

C. Elbows and arms off the table

Pull the chair close to the table but not too close. Do not rest your elbows or arms on the table. Hands to remain on lap.

D. Place your bag behind the chair

Do not place the handbag on the table. Some restaurants offer a stool to place bags. If not, keep it behind your back on the seat of the chair.

E. Converse face-to-face

Look at the person with whom you are conversing, face-to-face. Put the phone on silent mode and place it in the handbag. Phone should not be lying on the table.

F. Place serviette (napkin) on your lap

An open napkin on your lap indicates that you are ready for the meal. Use the napkin to sneeze and to pat the lips during meal. When not in use, keep the napkin on the side plate provided.

I. Don’t cut bread, break it

If the bread is a little away on the table do not reach for it, instead ask for it to be passed to you. Break the bread with hand and apply butter by the blunt knife.

J. Sipping soup

Take the soup-filled spoon a little away from you and then consume the soup. Do not make slurping sounds and do not blow into the soup to cool it. Do not dip the bread or breadstick into the soup, instead break a piece of bread, butter it, have a bite followed by a sip of soup. On completion, place the soup spoon on the table with the top up and at right angles to the table.

K. Pair meat with wine

White wine is for white meat and fish, whereas red wine is for red meat. Check the wine bottle to see the vintage year in which the grapes were picked. If you wish, the waiter will pour a little wine in your glass for tasting. Drink white wine chilled and red wine at 16 to 18 degree temperature.

L. Converse

Do talk to persons on your left and right but not with food in your mouth. In between courses, a sorbet (frozen dessert) may be served to cleanse your palate. If a food particle gets stuck in your teeth, raise the index finger, relieve the stuck food, apologize and continue.

M. No juices, cocktails with meals

Do not ask for fruit juices, cocktails or mocktails during the meal since they interfere with the flavour of the food. Drink the served wine or stick to water.

N. Leaving the table for a moment

If you need to leave the table for a few minutes in between courses, place the napkin on the arm of the chair or on the seat, but never place the napkin on the table. Just say ‘excuse me, I’ll be back’ while leaving.

O. Fork and knife on the plate

Rest the fork and knife on the plate during mouthfuls or during conversation. To indicate that you have not finished eating but only are talking a break, make an inverted V on the plate with fork on the left and knife on the right. To indicate that you are finished, place the fork and knife on the plate side by side parallel to each other.


RSVP stands for ‘reply if you please’. Always inform the host whether you would be attending or not.

Q. Thanking the host

Obviously, after the meal you will be thanking the host before leaving. Follow this up with a phone call or message.

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