What Not to Do at the Dining Table

By Kimberly Law, AICI CIP

Although the term dining generally refers to the act of eating, we have come to utilize dining as a means to socialise and conduct business. Unfortunately when we’re unsure about dining etiquette, the dining experience can become an awkward experience. Here are a few basic tips to leave a good impression at the dining table:

  • Never Butter the Whole Slice Rip off a bite sized piece of bread or roll, butter it and eat it one piece at a time. Hold the bread on the plate while buttering it.
  • Don’t Pass to the Left When passing any food at the dining table, the person closest to the dish should take the dish and pass it to the next person. The dishes should always be passed counter clockwise, to the right.
  • The napkin never goes to the right of the place setting The napkin should remain on your lap until the end of the meal or until you need to leave the table. When leaving the table with the intention of returning to finish the meal, place the napkin on your chair. Once the meal is finished the napkin is placed on the table to the left of the place setting.
  • When dining, whether it’s business or social, one of the most important things to remember is that nothing should be on the table that isn’t part of the meal. This includes personal or business objects like: purses, briefcases, keys, cell phones, day timers, hats, glasses and pens.
  • Gristle and Bones Don’t Despair, If you find yourself in the unlucky situation with something inedible in your mouth, remove it discretely with either your utensil or with your fingers and put it on the side of your plate.
  • Elbows, Elbows Off the Table When dining, elbows and forearms stay off the table until the meal is completely finished and all dishes are removed. Need to take a break? Hands and wrists stay above the table when eating European style. The etiquette for eating American style is to keep your hands below the table on your lap.
  • Don’t Pick up Dropped Utensils unless it drops onto your hosts carpet. In a restaurant leave the utensil on the floor. The server will provide a clean one.
  • Used Utensils are never put back on the table Once a piece of cutlery is picked up, it is considered used. Place it on the side of the plate with the handle resting on the rim.

Although the nuances of dining etiquette may seem endless, with a little skill, the dining experience can be an enjoyable experience.

Kimberly Law, AICI CIP, owner of Personal Impact Image Management is a Certified Image Consultant, specializing in helping clients make the best impression possible, including personal appearance and etiquette. Sign up for Image Matters & receive FREE articles like this. Or learn more about dining etiquette for business and social dining in our special report ‘Formal Dining for Informal People’.

Kimberly Law AICI, CIP

Association of Image Consultants International (AICI)

aiciimageconsulatant aicicip

Founding Director of

Institute of Image Training & Testing International (IITTI)


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