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Dining Out Etiquette

Dining Out
How to order a bottle of wine
Table Manners
Tipping 101
Table Setting Etiqutte


Dining Out

A meal in a fine restaurant, or at a local deli, can offer the best possible opportunity to celebrate a special occasion, negotiate a business deal, or simply stay in touch with good friends. If a gentleman is hosting the occasion, he makes sure to select a restaurant that is within his means, and that has a congenial atmosphere. His goal, ultimately, is to entertain his friends, not to impress them.

n  When a gentleman is entertaining friends at a restaurant, he always makes a reservation. If the restaurant does not take reservations, he arrives ahead of time in hopes of getting his name as close to the top of the waiting list as possible.

 n  If a gentleman discovers that he will not be using a reservation he has made, he calls the restaurant and cancels.

n  When selecting a restaurant, a gentleman attempts to find one with a menu that will satisfy the tastes, eating habits and dietary restrictions of his guests. He always makes sure the menu includes at least one vegetarian entrée.

n  If a gentleman and his party arrive more than fifteen minutes late for their reservation, he understands that they may have to cool their heels in the bar until a table opens up for them.

n  A gentleman expects courteous behavior from his server. He behaves courteously in return.

n  If a gentleman, or any of his guests, is unsatisfied by the food put before him, he lets his server know about the situation, as soon as possible.

n  If a gentleman is not happy with the service he is receiving, he lodges his complaints with the host or manager. He knows it is not his job to provide on-the-job training for a surly server.

n  A gentleman tips adequately, even generously. Unless he has received extraordinary service, however, he does not tip extravagantly. He never discusses the size of his tip with others at his table.



How to order a bottle of wine

Red wine is usually the wine of choice to accompany red meat, pasta dishes with tomato sauces, and most heavy entrees. White wines usually accompany fish, chicken, salads, and pasta dishes with light sauces. Nevertheless, a gentleman may order any wine he and his guests prefer, at any time.

When a gentleman has ordered a bottle of wine, it will be presented to him by the server, who will show him the label (so that a gentleman can see that he is, in truth, being served the wine he ordered) and then offer him to cork (so the gentleman can see that is not too dry). The server will then pour a sip of wine in the gentleman’s glass, so he can take a quick sip, to make sure it passes muster. If he is happy with the wine, he asks the server to pour it, first for his guests, and then for the gentleman himself.


Table Manners

A gentleman need not be intimidated by even the most formal dinner party. The rules are always the same, no matter how many knives and forks are on the table, no matter how fine the linen may be. His goal is simply to keep his wits about him, without worrying if others at the table are monitoring his behavior. He knows, after all, that anyone who would monitor another person’s behavior is more boorish than he could ever hope to be.

 n  The second a gentleman sits down at the table, either at a restaurant, at a fund-raising dinner or at a private dinner party, he turns off his cell phone.

n  A gentleman always unfolds his napkin, immediately after sitting at the table. (If a server rushes ahead and unfolds the napkin, the server is wrong; but a gentleman does not argue. A gentleman never argues with a server.)

n  When he is presented with a number of forks, spread out on the table before him, a gentleman always starts with the fork on the outside, and works inward, from course to course. The same goes for knives and spoons.

n  A gentleman always helps the lady seated next to him with her chair, whether she is standing up or sitting down. If she has dropped her purse, he helps her find it.

n  A gentleman only butters his bread one bit at a time.

n  A gentleman does not talk with his mouth full.



Tipping 101

A Trustworthy Guide to the Tip 

Server in a mid-scale to upscale restaurant   15 to 20 percent for attentive service
Server in a casual restaurant, such as a diner or soda shop   10 to 15 percent for attentive service
Barista in a coffee bar   $1
Wine steward in an upscale restaurant   20 percent of the cost of the bottle of wine
Host in an upscale restaurant   $20 or more, depending on the extent, and attentiveness, of the service
Men's room attendant   $3 or more, each visit
Valet parker   $3 to $5
Doorman   $5, for assistance in hailing a cab
Cash register tip jar   $1 to $2
Bartender in a large social event   $1 to $2 per drink, if tip glass is provided
Bartender or server in a private home   Nothing, unless special assistance has been provided


Table Setting Etiqutte

Formal Place Setting

The one rule for a formal table is for everything to be geometrically spaced: the centerpiece at the exact center; the place settings at equal distances; and the utensils balanced. Beyond these placements, you can vary flower arrangements and decorations as you like.

Formal Place Setting

The placement of utensils is guided by the menu, the idea being that you use utensils in an “outside in” order. For the illustrated place setting here, the order of the menu is:
    Appetizer: Shellfish
    First Course: Soup or fruit
    Fish Course

  1. Service Plate: This large plate, also called a charger, serves as an underplate for the plate holding the first course, which will be brought to the table. When the first course is cleared, the service plate remains until the plate holding the entrée is served, at which point the two plates are exchanged. The charger may serve as the underplate for several courses which precede the entrée.

  2. Butter plate: The small butter plate is placed above the forks at the left of the place setting.

  3. Dinner fork: The largest of the forks, also called the place fork, it is placed on the left of the plate. Other smaller forks for other courses are arranged to the left or right of the dinner fork, according to when they will be used.

  4. Fish fork: If there is a fish course, this small fork is placed farthest to the left of the dinner fork because it is the first fork used.

  5. Salad fork:  If salad is served after the entrée, the small salad fork is placed to the right of the dinner fork, next to the plate. If the salad is to be served first, and fish second, then the forks would be arranged (left to right): salad fork, fish fork, dinner fork.

  6. Dinner knife:  The large dinner knife is placed to the right of the dinner plate.

  7. Fish knife: The specially shaped fish knife goes to the right of the dinner knife.

  8. Salad knife: (Note: there is no salad knife in the illustration.) If used, according to the above menu, it would be placed to the left of the dinner fork, next to the dinner plate. If the salad is to be served first, and fish second, then the knives would be arranged (left to right):dinner knife, fish knife, salad knife.

  9. Soup spoon or fruit spoon: If soup or fruit is served as a first course, then the accompanying spoon goes to the right of the knives.

  10. Oyster fork: If shellfish are to be served, the oyster fork is set to the right of the spoons. Note: It is the only fork ever placed on the right of the plate.

  11. Butter knife: This small spreader is paced diagonally on top of the butter plate, handle on the right and blade down.

  12. Glasses: These can number up to five and are placed so that the smaller ones are in front. The water goblet (la) is placed directly above the knives. Just to the right goes a champagne flute (lb); In front of these are placed a red (lc) and/or white (ld) wine glass and a sherry glass (le)

  13. Napkin: The napkin is placed on top of the charger (if one is used) or in the space for the plate.

Informal Place Setting

When an informal three-course dinner is served, the typical place setting includes these utensils and dishes:

Informal Place Setting Diagram

This illustration shows how a table would be set for the following menu:
    Soup course
    Salad or first course

  1. Dinner plate: This is the ‘hub of the wheel’ and is usually the first thing to be set on the table. In our illustration, the dinner plate would be placed where the napkin is, with the napkin on top of the plate.

  2. Two Forks:  The forks are placed to the left of the plate. The dinner fork, the larger of the two forks, is used for the main course; the smaller fork is used for a salad or appetizer. The forks are arranged according to when you need to use them, following an ‘outside-in’ order. If the small fork is needed for an appetizer or a salad served before the main course, then it is placed on the left (outside) of the dinner fork; if the salad is served after the main course, then the small fork is placed to the right (inside) of the dinner fork, next to the plate.

  3. Napkin: The napkin is folded or put in a napkin ring and placed either to the left of the forks or on the center of the dinner plate. Sometimes, a folded napkin is placed under the forks.

  4. Dinner knife: The dinner knife is set immediately to the right of the plate, cutting edge facing inward. (If the main course is meat, a steak knife can take the place of the dinner knife.) At an informal meal, the dinner knife may be used for all courses, but a dirty knife should never be placed on the table, placemat or tablecloth.

  5. Spoons: Spoons go to the right of the knife. In our illustration, soup is being served first, so the soupspoon goes to the far (outside) right of the dinner knife; the teaspoon or dessert spoon, which will be used last, goes to the left (inside) of the soupspoon, next to the dinner knife.

  6. Glasses: Drinking glasses of any kind – water, wine, juice, ice tea – are placed at the top right of the dinner plate, above the knives and spoons.

    Other dishes and utensils are optional, depending on what is being served, but may include:

  7. Salad plate: This is placed to the left of the forks. If salad is to be eaten with the meal, you can forgo the salad plate and serve it directly on the dinner plate. However, if the entrée contains gravy or anything runny, it is better to serve the salad on a separate plate to keep things neater.

  8. Bread plate with butter knife: If used, the bread plate goes above the forks, with the butter knife placed diagonally across the edge of plate, handle on the right side and blade facing down.

  9. Dessert spoon and fork: These can be placed either horizontally above the dinner plate (the spoon on top with its handle facing to the right; the fork below with its handle facing left); or beside the plate. If placed beside the plate, the fork goes on the left side, closest to the plate (because it will be the last fork used) and the spoon goes on the right side of the plate, to the right of the dinner knife and to the left of the soupspoon.

  10. Coffee cup and saucer: Our illustration shows a table setting that would be common in a restaurant serving a large number of people at once, with coffee being served during the meal. The coffee cup and saucer are placed above and to the right of the knife and spoons. At home, most people serve coffee after the meal. In that case the cups and saucers are brought to the table and placed above and to the right of the knife and spoons.

Basic Place Setting

Basic Table Setting Diagram

For a basic table setting, here are two great tricks to help you – or your kids – remember the order of plates and utensils:

  1. Picture the word “FORKS.” The order, left to right is: F for Fork, O for Plate (the shape!),  K for Knives and S for Spoons. (Okay – you have to forget the r, but you get the idea!)

  2. Holding your hands in front of you, touch the tips of your thumbs to the tips of your forefinergers to make a lower case ‘b’ with your left hand and a lower case ‘d’ with your right hand. This reminds you that ‘bread and butter’ go to the left of the place setting and ‘drinks’ go on the right. Emily Post could have used that trick – she was often confused about which bread and butter belonged to her—and sometimes she used her neighbor’s! In which case, when it was called to her attention,  she would say to the dismayed lady or gentleman, “Oh, I am always mixing them up. Here, please take mine!”
  3. Some other things to know:
    • Knife blades always face the plate
    • The napkin goes to the left of the fork, or on the plate
    • The bread and butter plate and knife are optional


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