It doesn’t matter what the event, the minute someone finds out a person trains dining tutorials they say, “Oh, no, and she’s sitting with us!?” As if the Grim Reaper were sitting down next to them, or, another classic, “Do you have to sit here?”
Unless I am teaching a dining tutorial, I am officially off the clock. That means that I do not have a ruler taped to my side, ready to pull out to smack someone’s hand for picking up the wrong fork. I promise! Here are just a few of the great questions that I get when I train Dine Like A Diplomat.
What if I don’t like what I am served? Do I have to eat it?
- The answer is: Remember when your mother told you to never play with your food? Well, forget all that. You are now allowed to play with your food! If there is something on your plate that you do not like, move it around. If someone else has been kind enough to cook this wonderful meal for you, or is treating you to this wonderful meal, then by all means move it around on the plate. Unless you are allergic, please try it. You never know–you just might like it.
What if they are serving wine and I don’t drink?
- The answer is: If you do not drink, just place your hand over the glass when the wine is being served to you. The server will know to pass you by.
- The answer is: You can absolutely toast with water. Many people do not drink, especially if it is a business luncheon or dinner. The days of the two-martini lunch are long gone. I don’t know how those Mad Men got any work done in the afternoon.
What if I drop my fork or knife on the floor?
- The answer is: Leave it where it is. In better restaurants, the wait staff will pick it up. Quietly ask your server or wait staff for another utensil.
How do I know when it is okay to start eating?
- The answer is: If there is a host at your table, please wait for the host to drink before you drink and wait for them to eat before you start eating. If there is not a host, then wait for everyone at the table to be served and then you may start. If you are sitting at a very large rectangular table at a large event, please wait for approximately 6 – 8 people to be served around you before eating.
What if a man wants to seat a woman in a business setting?
- The answer is: A woman never expects a man to seat her. She seats herself. However, if a man offers, she should accept with a gracious “thank you.”
What do I do with the napkin if I leave the table?
- The answer is: The napkin goes in your seat when leaving for a moment. If the meal is finished, it goes to the left of your plate.
Is there a right and wrong way to sit at the table?
- And the answer is: Yes! You enter the chair on your right side, and exit the same way. Sit with both feet flat on the floor with good posture.
Two bonus tips:
- If you need to go to the restroom, please, don’t tell everyone at the table! No one wants to know what you are about to do. That is the one time that you do not
need to explain anything. Just quietly say excuse me, get up, leaving your napkin in the chair, signaling that you are returning, then leave.
- If someone has taken your fork, or your bread plate as their own, do not correct them! Simply ask the wait staff to bring you a new
Example: I was attending a business lunch. It was round table-seating with 10 at each table, so you can imagine that the place settings were very close together. I reach for my fork to eat my salad. It is gone! I look confused, yet ask the wait staff for another fork. Meanwhile, the person to the left of me is giving me the eyeball signal to her left. I couldn’t figure this out. Now it’s time for me to have some of that wonderful bread on my bread plate that, I know, I had because I put the bread on it myself. I go to reach for my bread and it is gone! The person to my left, again, gives me the eyeball signal to the person to her left. Oh, yes, she had been taking all of my silverware and my bread plate. Not because she didn’t know better, but because the person to her left had done the same to her. We, in the dining etiquette world, call this the Chain Reaction.
So, to wrap this up, don’t let a Chain Reaction happen at your table. And, please, sit next to me –I don’t bite!!! Bon Appétit.
Enjoy this hilarious video clip. As shown, you should always wait for the host to start dining.