Professionalism Begins with Your Knife and Fork

Are you sharing meals with important clients? Did your potential employer ask you to join them for lunch? The perception of your professionalism, polish and acumen begins with what you bring to the ‘table.’ I am appalled when a purported sophisticated professional display horrid table manners and etiquette. Here are some friendly reminders! Please feel free to pass them on…

Q: Where is the best place to sit?

A: Determine if your meal partner is right or left handed. If right handed, sit to their left and visa versa. Their body posture will naturally open in your direction making conversation more comfortable.

Q: How should I select what I order to eat?

A: Think knife and fork. Finger food, and sandwiches can be messy. If you are not paying for the meal, stay “price reasonable.” Order ribs at your own risk!

Q: What if I need to sneeze?

A: If you do not have time to reach a tissue or the infrequently used handkerchief then use your napkin or in the final extremity, your hands to cover your mouth. If you can avoid it, don’t wipe your nose on your napkin, but on a tissue or handkerchief. This is obvious, but watch how many people do it!

Q: I’ve heard it is impolite for a guest to add salt and pepper to a dish. Is this true?

A: It is not wrong to add spice to a dish AFTER you taste it. It is the appearance of the presumption that your host (or restaurant) does not cook well that you wish to avoid.

Q: How can I remember which bread plate is mine?

A: Wet right, dry left is the general rule. Coffee cup, water glass and beverage will always be on the right. Bread plate and salad will be on your left.

Q: Is it OK to eat off the “Charger” plate?

A: No. This decorative plate is to hold your other plates. Some restaurants know to remove the Charger for the main entrée, but many leave it in place.

Q: How do I remember which utensil to use first?

A: Always start with the outer utensil. Typically the spoon and/or fork placed at the top of your plate are for dessert. Also, watch the host of the group and follow their lead.

Q: When should I start eating?

A: If you have a host, wait for them to signal the meal’s beginning. The host may wish to make a formal statement, or a toast before attention turns to the food. Normally, the host will verbally ask the guests to begin or start by picking up a utensil, or spreading a napkin on their lap.

Q: What should I do if I spill something?

A: A minor accident at the table is bound to happen on occasion. If you are the cause make your excuse politely and only once, then proceed to help clean up the mess.

Q: What if I take a mouthful of very hot food?

A: If you scoop up a mouthful of scalding food, make minimal fuss by swiftly taking a drink of water or some other cool beverage. If the food is spicy hot, quietly put salt on your hand, put in your mouth and explain.

Q: Is it okay to tip a dish?

A: If you are reaching for the last bit of a delectable soup with your spoon, then it is OK to tilt your dish. Just be sure to tip it away from yourself to avoid any nasty surprises in your lap.

Q: Where does the napkin go if I leave the table?

A: Set the napkin on the chair if you are going to return to the table. If you have finished the meal, fold your napkin and place it to the left of the plate.

Q: Is it OK to move my dishes when I’ve finished the meal?

A: No, let the waiter do that. Also, do not stack your dishes to make it easier for them to bus the table.

Q: How do I let the server know I have finished my meal?

A: Place your knife and fork at the 11:00 position on your plate with the knife closer to your right, then the fork, and then the spoon. Turning the fork over is also acceptable.

Q: How do I get the last few peas onto my fork?

A: Try pushing peas or the last bits of other foods onto your fork with a piece of bread or the side of your knife.

Do you have more to add?

Happy stress free eating! Marsha

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