I recently spoke about Hosting a Dinner Party and the etiquette around attending one. But what about attending a meal in the workplace?
Want to look your best when at a breakfast, lunch or dinner event with your Manager and colleagues? When I was a teenager I did a semester on deportment, and this has helped me greatly at any event. Although I still can feel like a clutz when I’m trying to be formal, I find it’s best not to overdo it. Perfect manners should be subtle and natural. Here are some basics that should keep you covered.
At first look, a table setting can look overwhelming and cluttered. Surely you only need a plate, knife, fork and glass?
As soon as you sit down, discretely place the napkin on your lap. Formal restaurants will do this for you, but I find it best and easiest to get it out of the way first. Never use it to blow your nose and just blot your mouth with it if needed… No ‘wax on – wax off’ please. If you leave the table, leave it on the chair. Only leave the napkin on the table when you have finished the meal and are leaving. Ordered a messy meal and want to tuck the napkin into your collar? NO! What were you thinking!?
First of all, let’s start with the drinks, because that’s what you’ll get asked about as soon as you sit down. There will usually be three glasses. Most people don’t realise the water goblet is the biggest glass. The Red wine is slightly larger than the white, and the champagne glass is the thin one – however at formal events this is usually handed out with the canapés… Let someone superior to you choose the wine, and don’t pretend you know anything about it if you don’t. I’ll write another article on the basics of wine later on, but for now, just stick with: white meat = white wine; red meat = red wine. Don’t hesitate to ask the waiter for their recommendation if your table is ordering different wines by the glass, but know if you want sweet or dry and don’t order something completely different to what they suggest.
Sommelier: or wine steward, is a trained and knowledgeable wine professional, who specialises in all aspects of wine service and wine and food pairing. The role is more specialised than that of a waiter and they are usually found in fine dining restaurants.
When the food arrives, don’t immediately dig in. Please wait for someone to have started before you do! It’s really important to pay attention to how your guests are travelling with their food, so you finish at approximately the same time. Too early and it looks as though you’ve scoffed it, too late keeps the guests waiting for you, and you could be delaying their next meeting.
Never be the only one to order a starter, but if you are calorie conscious, it is ok to order a starter instead of a main menu item, if the restaurant allows it.
Try not to be too fussy with your order, unless you are gluten/lactose intolerant or have an allergy to nuts. Save this for when you aren’t at work and are with friends.
Soup or entrée is first and is important! With the cutlery, you start from the outside and work your way in, so pick up the spoon on the far left. Scoop up the soup by pushing the spoon away from you. If you have to eat every last mouthful, make sure you tip the bowl away from you when you get the last few bits.
Knives and Spoons are kept on the left, Forks are kept on the right.
Your bread and butter knife is to your left. It may also be above your forks, but this is old-fashioned.
If bread is served and there is no bread and butter plate, it is ok to rest the bread on the side of your plate, but not on the table.
The number of pieces of cutlery on each side of the plate is normally how many courses the restaurant caters for. A formal restaurant will have at least three, entrée, main and dessert. So start from the outside and work your way in. If you don’t order a certain dish, the waiters will take the cutlery away so it’s not cluttering the table.
What about messy foods?
Try not to order anything that you will struggle to eat. It’s also not overly nice to order a baby animal (especially on a first date!) so I suggest steering clear of quail or veal.
If you can’t get something down, remove it with the utensil it went in with. I.e. use your fork to remove any grizzle you are struggling to chew through on that steak.
When eating your main meal – Never lick the knife!
It’s extremely old-fashioned for the dessert cutlery to be kept above the plates, and is more common now for the cutlery to be bought out only if you order it. When I have people over for a dinner, I leave the dessert cutlery as the closest thing to the plate as shown in the picture, as this is a more modern approach. For some reason above the table screams trying too hard – but this is my opinion only. I’m not the queen.
When you have finished eating each course, place the utensils together, slightly on a diagonal on the dish. Leaving them slightly apart will confuse the waiters, who will think you are not quite finished.
Did you know? In Japanese culture, it is extremely rude to hold your utensils pointing down onto the plate – as it signifies death. They also see it as polite and complimentary to the chef to slurp your noodles!
A few other things…
– Mobiles must be put on silent and never placed on the table. If you are expecting an extremely important call and must do this, make your guests aware of that you may need to step away, and make sure they will continue without you.
– Don’t monopolise anyone. If you have something to say, say it to the whole table. This is extremely rude and can cause the person you’ve monopolised to not be listening to you entirely, and it can also leave them with a bad impression of you.
– Never shout, click your fingers or whistle for the waiter. Always say ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’
If I’m at a restaurant with someone who is rude to the waiter, I end up overcompensating and apologising to the restaurant later. My husband and I have family friends that we won’t go out with anymore because of how embarrassed we are on how they act to the staff in restaurants. Why is it that these people are the same people who always get out of paying their fair share as well?
– A work meal is never the place to order a ‘doggie bag’. Save this for a night out with friends.
– Don’t get drunk. Enough said really.
Does anything confuse you when you are dining out? Let me know if you have any other questions… I am no expert, but may be able to shed some light on the topic!