Lessons in Etiquette

Q) When I’m invited out to lunch or dinner, I am never sure what to do before the meal begins … who sits first, who orders first, etc.  Can you help please?

A) It depends on whether the meal is for business or personal reasons.
Let’s begin with a business meal.  If your host is waiting for you at the restaurant, they should stand to greet you and remain standing until you are seated.
If you walk in together, you should walk in ahead of your host, and they should ask you to sit down, offering you the best seat at the table, to their right, if you are the ranking guest.
If your host does not ask you to sit, wait for them to be seated before you sit down.  If it is a personal dining event, you should follow the host’s lead.  They will be seated first.
Once everyone is seated, place your napkin on your lap.  Since you will only use your napkin to dab food particles from your mouth, you will only need to use about the top quarter of the napkin.
If you fold down the top quarter, then down again, and place the napkin on your lap with the fold to your torso, you will keep the soiled part of the napkin folded under at all times, thus protecting your body and clothing from food stains.
To use your napkin, simply unfold it, dab your mouth along the top edge, re-fold it, and place it back on your lap.
If water is on the table when you sit down, you may take a sip after everyone is seated and your napkin is on your lap.
For other drinks and food, wait until everyone has been served.  Also, do not eat until your host has begun eating.  When your host picks up their fork, then you may do so also.
Or, your host may simply ask everyone to start eating.  Wait for your host to ask you to pass the bread basket or other tableware.  When you do so, offer the food to the person sitting directly on your left, then you serve yourself, then pass the tableware to the person sitting on your right by placing it on the table as closely to their place setting as possible.
You pass tableware hand to table, table to hand.
Follow these simple common courtesies, and you will be the rising star at the dining table!

Follow Carolyn Davenport at AGraciousYou.com