Dining is a perfect form of socialization. It is a time to engage the person or people you are dining with. In a professional setting, your main objective should be to add and receive value from the business discussions. While food is important, it should not be the main focus.
Dining etiquette rules ensure that decorum in both the talks at the dinner table and the eating habits is observed. Below are eight etiquette rules you should follow while fine dining with friends or business partners:
1. RSVP before the Date of the Dinner
RSVP three days to the dinner to give your host enough time to plan. Do not ask whether to bring additional guests if the dinner invitation does not include such an offer. If it’s a family invitation, enquire whether it’s inclusive of your children. If it is, make sure the kids are at their best behaviour and that they follow the proper dinner etiquette rules.
If the dinner is happening at a friend’s home, it is a wonderful gesture to bring the host a gift. The gift should not be part of the meal since it may disrupt the dinner menu. There is also a time and a place for a gift. If the dinner is taking place anywhere else but at home, a dinner gift may not be necessary.
3. The Host Should Always Take Charge
The responsibility of making reservations and choosing where and when the dinner will take place belongs to the host. This is to avoid inconveniences such as arriving at dinner only to find there is no table reserved for you and your guests.
After arriving at dinner, the host takes charge of the logistics of the meal. If place cards are unavailable, enquire whether there are seating preferences. Wait until the host sits and then have your seat. In some cultures, prayer or blessings are uttered before the commencement of the dinner, so it’s good to stay respectfully silent, even if it’s not part of your culture or belief system. Also, always raise your glass when the host is toasting.
4. Avoid Pulling Someone’s Chair for Them
You may hold open the door for your guest, but avoid pulling someone’s chair, especially in a business setting, irrespective of their gender. When conducting business, ignore such gender-based social rules.
5. Follow the Pace of your Guest
Once seated and your host unfolds the napkin, you should place yours on your lap. However, do this only if the dinner is being held at your host’s home. Should the dinner be at a different location, place the napkin on your lap immediately and then wait until everyone is seated at the table.
Keep up with the pace of your guest; that is, if your guest orders an appetizer, do the same to avoid the uncomfortable feeling of eating a course alone, but be careful not to appear as though you are mimicking.
6. Know which Silverware to Use
Every meal course should have its own utensils. If all of the utensils are already available at the start of the meal, as a general rule, begin with the outer ones and make your way inward as the meal progresses. If by any chance you spot the host doing something different, do as they do, but make sure you are as inconspicuous as possible.
7. Food and Eating
Where food is already served, pass the dishes anticlockwise and never reach across the table to get anything. You should avoid drawing all the attention to yourself by breaking dining etiquette rules. For instance, your phone should be off or on silent mode during dinner. It is highly impolite to use your phone at the dinner table. Another no-no is talking with food in your mouth. If you already have food in your mouth, swallow before responding to a question or engaging in conversation.
It is also good dining etiquette to cut one or two bites first instead of eating all the food at a go. When eating hot food or soup, avoid blowing into your food or soup. Instead, wait for it to cool and then start eating. Break bread into bite-sized pieces and then buttering one bite at a time is recommended.
8. Post Dinner
After you are done eating, fold your napkin and place it on the left side of your plate. You should also wait for the host to signal the end of the meal before standing to leave the table. If it is a business dinner, the host should cater for the cost. If it is a social event, unless otherwise stipulated, the cost should be shared by the attendees.
To perfect dining etiquette, practicing consistently at home is highly advised. As you practice, you soon become an expert diner. As a rule of thumb, take cues from the host, but avoid appearing too obvious.