Dining Etiquette – Why is it important?

Dining etiquette plays a role in everyday life, as well as our professional lives. If you have a co-op / job interview coming up within the next few months this may be something worth reading. Often times, employers enjoy conducting interviews, networking or having meetings over lunch or dinner. The last thing you want to do is embarrass yourself in front of your prospective boss!

First impressions are extremely important when meeting new people or being considered for a job. Here are a few tips for creating a positive first impression:

  • Always smile!
  • Beware of your body language – avoid crossing your arms, slouching and dragging your feet
  • Appropriate attire – Business casual is always a safe way to go when meeting with an employer, unless otherwise stated. Make sure your clothes are clean, wrinkle free and appropriate sizes.
  • Handshake – a good handshake should be firm but not bone crushing. Fingers should be together with thumb up and open. 
  • Eye Contact – always make eye contact when speaking with someone and when shaking their hand

Cell phones – although we are an ever evolving, technological generation, the use of your cell/smart phone is never appropriate at a business meeting of any kind, especially a lunch/dinner meeting! Avoid texting, tweeting, updating your status and answering phone calls! The best way to avoid temptation? Leave your phone in your car! Or your purse, bag, or even at home!

Navigating the table – Have you ever wondered which bread plate is yours, the left or the right? A simple way to remember this is using the acronym BMW – Bread, Meal, Water. This means you start from the left and make your way to the right. Your bread plate is first, then your meal plate, and then your water. This is handy when arranging place settings at an event you’re hosting, too.

There are two common styles when it comes to holding your utensils the proper way – The American Style and the European Style. Which one you choose is up to you. It is best to stick to one style during a meal, as opposed to switching back and fourth, though.

American Style – Knife in right hand, fork in left hand holding food. After a few bite sized pieces of food are cut, place knife on the edge of the plate with the blades facing in. Eat food by switching the fork to the right hand (unless you are left handed).

European Style – Knife in right hand, fork in left hand. Cut your food and eat the food with your fork still in your left hand. Keep the fork prongs facing down throughout the entire eating process. The difference here is that you do not switch hands.  If you take a drink, you put both utensils down into the resting position: crossing your fork over your knife. Once you are finished your meal, place your utensils in the finishes position – side by side, angled on your plate.

                                 Resting                                                       Finished

Important note: Once used, your utensils do not touch the table again. Always rest your utensils on the side of your plate, with your knife blade facing in and your fork facing down.

Ever wonder how to properly serve or pass food around the table? Do you start from the left or the right? Appropriate dining etiquette requires that food be passed from the left to the rightnot over top of anyone’s meals. If someone asks for salt or pepper you should always pass them both. When serving food, it should always be served on the left side of the person, and dishes are to be removed from the right. Don’t forget to say “Please and thank you!”

And finally, here is a list of the top dining mistakes often made:

Top Dining Mistakes

  • Arriving late – always arrive a few moments before scheduled time
  • Talking with your mouth full – take small bites, and swallow your food first
  • Chewing with your mouth open
  • Cell phone use – keep it away and off the table
  • Burping – excuse yourself from the table and walk away
  • Purses, glasses, phones on the table – keep them on the floor or hooked on your chair
  • Picking your teeth – excuse yourself and go to the washroom
  • Poor posture – sit up straight, do not cross your legs
  • Tasting someone else’s food
  • Blowing your nose
  • Wearing your hat
  • Start eating right away – wait for everyone to be served first!


“Imagine, 85% of us feel that the world would be a better place if we just said “please” and “thank you” more often.”  (ABCNEWS/World Tonight Poll, 2009)


Good Luck!
– Coach Allison

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