For some, fine dining is a regular experience considered to be “part of the job” or even a priority lifestyle choice. But for many, fine dining is reserved for special occasions such as weddings, job interviews, or business engagements. The rules of etiquette can be intimidating unless you know the basics.
Servers should be treated with respect at all times – some people do not recognize how off-putting and awkward it is to their guests when a member of the dining party is rude to the server. Should you need the server’s attention, it is appropriate to make eye contact and lift a finger, not call out, flail your arms, snap, or whistle. (Sounds crazy, right? But it happens all the time.)
The table setting
Once seated, the napkin belongs in your lap throughout the dining experience. Should you need to leave the table, it should be placed on the left side of your plate and placed back in your lap upon return. The napkin is only used to dab – not to wipe your face, clean spills, or store unwanted food.
Once you begin eating, your utensils should not touch the tablecloth again. In between use, they should rest carefully on the right and left edges of your plate angled inward. Once you have completed a course, they should be placed in the center of the plate upward.
The largest glass is for water which will be served whether you want it or not. The others are used for optional beverages. Fear not – once you order, the server will select the proper glassware for you and remove what is not needed.
The most confusing aspect of the fancy table setting is often when to use silverware and dinnerware. The general rule of thumb is quite simple – work from the outside in. Each course has its own pieces, so use the logical tool from the outside.
Remember, your server will deliver to your left and pick up from your right, so be mindful of keeping that path clear.
Conversation and Noise
Conversation should be at a low enough volume where everyone at your table can hear you, but other guests in the restaurant should not. Dialogue should occur wherein all parties participate. Guests should never talk with food in their mouths and should not complain about any food they do not like. Lastly, no noises should come from anyone when they are eating or drinking.
As a general rule, if you are not using your hands to eat or drink, they belong in your lap. They should not be used to touch your face, apply lipstick, or wipe your nose. They should not rest on the table – period. Also, when your hands are being used for eating, they should scoop the food away from you.
Now that you have learned the basics of fine dining etiquette, give it a try! Grab your phone, call a friend, and make a reservation. Everyone deserves the experience of fine dining and after a meal or two, you can be a master of etiquette.
David Brown is known as the resident ‘foodie’ and spends a good portion of his time working as a food critic for the local newspaper. In his spare time, David enjoys checking out new restaurants and diners with his wife and friends.