Tag Archives: american dining etiquette

Cutlery Etiquette How to Make a Great Impression

I have travelled quite a bit over the past few years and one of the things I have noticed is that many restaurants have moved away from traditional place settings at the dining table. Although I suspect that this is part of their branding efforts to be seen as upbeat and unique, it can also be confusing and occasionally embarrassing for their patrons. This makes it more important than ever to familiarize yourself with various types of cutlery and know how to use them.
If the table is set traditionally, utensils are used starting from outside the place setting, and working in. If it isn’t use the appropriate utensil.
When holding a knife the fork is always held in the left hand. When in the left hand, the fork is held with the tines facing down. The knife is held in the right hand with the index finger on top. When eating American style after cutting the food, the knife is placed on the upper right corner of the plate and the fork is transferred to the right hand with the tines facing up for eating.

Here are a few more tips:

  • Only begin eating when everyone has been served.  The host picks up his or her cutlery first.
  • Once a piece of cutlery is picked up, it is never put back on the table.  It lies on the plate with the handle resting on the rim.
  • When taking butter, use the butter knife or serving utensil to place it on your bread plate. Then use your butter knife (spreader) to butter your bread.
  • Leave spoons on the service plate or saucer. An exception is made if the soup plate or soup cup has no service plate.

If you want to take a break, but don’t want your plate taken away, signal this by placing the fork and knife at right angles on the plate, tines facing down.

  • When dining American Style, hands go in the lap. Wrists, arms and elbows stay off the table.
  • When eating European Style, keep hands and wrists above the table at all times.

With either style the elbows stay off the table until the meal has ended.

When the meal is finished, place your fork and knife on the plate diagonally like the 10:20 clock position. The knife sits above the fork with the blade facing toward it. Napkin goes to the left of the plate… never on it. In some regions it is the custom to place the fork and knife vertically in the centre of the plate instead of the 10:20 position.