My new intern, Rhyan Truett, a terrific student from Rowan University, recently attended an awards dinner and shared the following dining-etiquette questions she was asked during the meal:
-Do I have your water glass?
-What are those utensils at the top of my plate?
-Am I eating your bread?
Rhyan knew most of the answers (she’s my intern!). She is also resourceful, so she unobtrusively googled “place settings” on her SmartPhone under the table to get any information she didn’t know.
Usually, I discourage texting or cell-phone use in restaurants. But reading a place setting correctly during a business meal is important -- you want to spend your time connecting with the other diners, not worrying that you may be eating your neighbor’s bread.
Since place settings vary depending on which restaurant you visit, knowing some general guidelines can be helpful. Here are five suggestions so you don’t have to google under the table, along with an illustration of a sample place setting:
1. Use one of the following memory tricks. They will help you remember the correct placement of the plates, glasses and utensils.
-Think of the “BMW” (Bread, Meal, Water). It will remind you that your bread-and-butter plate is on the left, and water glass is on the right.
-Remember your “left” and “right.” Food is placed to the left of the dinner plate. The words food and left each have four letters; if the table is set properly, your bread or salad or any other food dish, will be placed to the left of your dinner plate. Similarly, drinks are placed to the right of the dinner plate, and the words glass and right contain five letters. Any glass or drink will be placed to the right of the dinner plate.
Left and Right also work for your utensils. Your fork (four letters) goes to the left; your knife and spoon (five letters each) go to the right.
2. Learn the utensils. Don’t be like Oscar Wilde who said: “The world was my oyster, but I used the wrong fork.” The largest fork is generally the entrée fork. The salad fork is smaller. The largest spoon is usually the soup spoon. If you are having a fish course, you may see the fish knife and fork as part of the place setting. The utensils above the plate are the dessert fork and spoon.
3. As a general rule, navigate your plate setting from the outside in. Each course should have its own utensils.
4. Don’t panic if you use the wrong utensil. When the course arrives for which you need that utensil, just ask the waiter for another. If a dinner companion uses your utensil, quietly ask the server for another.
5. Do what your host does. If you don’t know what to do, copy what your host is doing. You may not be right, but you are not wrong.
Some of my other blogs have also discussed dining, including: How To Treat The Wait Staff With Respect.
Additional information on dining can be found in my book, When The Little Things Count...And They Always Count. If you would like additional information about business-dining seminars or coaching, contact Joyce Hoff at firstname.lastname@example.org or 856.751.6141.