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Dining Etiquette 101

When we were younger, manners weren't that important. But now that we are entering the "real world," we're finding out how necessary good manners are, especially when asked to attend lunch meetings, dinner interviews, and family dinners with dates.

Once you’ve mastered a few dining styles, you’ll begin to find greater value in your personal and professional dining encounters and allow yourself to reveal the important parts of your character to those around you. You’ll relax and be able to be yourself in any dining company (even that boss you’re trying to impress to land your dream job). Whether you’re meeting the parents or attending a lunch interview with prospective employers, no sweat. Here are a few basic tips to help:

When to start eating

Private dinner party: What if you took a bite of your food and then your boyfriend’s family decided to say grace? Oops, you’re already a few bites deep into your salad (cringing.) Everyone’s home dining setting is different, but as a guest you always want to wait for everyone to be seated or until the host picks up his or her fork to eat. Don’t start before this unless the host or hostess insists, and you’ll be on the safe side.

In a restaurant: Wait until everyone is served at your table before beginning to eat.

No elbows in the table

What to do with your other hand? Rest it on your lap.


It should always be in your lap before you begin eating. If you step away from the table, place your napkin in your chair.

Tip: During an interview or meeting, allow the person(s) to sit before placing your napkin in your lap.


Are there 9 utensils in front of you? Don’t be overwhelmed. Use utensils on the outside first and work your way inward with each new course that is served.


Private dinner party: Food is initially passed to the right, counterclockwise. However, the person starting the food may ask the person to his or her left if he would like some before passing it on to the right. One diner either holds the dish as the next diner takes some food, or he hands it to the person, who then serves himself and so on.

Whether at home or in a restaurant, instead of reaching across the table and intersecting someone’s plate, politely ask for a pass.

Tip: Always pass the salt and pepper together. If a person asks for just one, pass both anyway.

Cutting your food

Hate to say it, but how someone cuts their food is the number one indication of proper dining manner knowledge. If you are out to dinner with your boss or a prospective employer, he is paying attention. Nobody wants to see someone cutting like a cave man. Place your index finger pointed straight on top of your knife and your fork before you cut in small chisel-like motions. Unless it’s a salad, don’t cut anything all at once, but in small 1-2 bite-size portions (mainly meats).

This style of American Dining requires us to eat at a slower pace, so we’re allotted more time to interact with our company.

When you’re finished cutting or “at rest” place your knife at the top right of your plate with the blade faced in.

Dont slurp—sip

Soup should be scooped from the furthest side of the bowl from you. Tilt your spoon towards as you sip to keep from making noise.

When finished with your meal place knife and fork parallel on the plate with handles in the 4 o’clock position, tips at 10 o’clock (basically diagonal), knife blade faced in, fork tines faced up or down. This signals the server that you’re finished and lessens the chance that the utensils could fall on the floor when plates are being cleared.

Lastly, here are a few tips in no particular order:

• Don’t place your cellphone, keys, or purse on the table. 

• For a business setting, pick easy-to-eat foods (i.e. no tacos or spaghetti. If in doubt, order what the interviewer is eating.) 

• Never talk with your mouth full.

• Don’t forget please and thank you to your company or server.

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Sally Foster

My name is Sally Foster. I’m at 24-year-old super senior at Old Dominion University.I moved from Dallas, TX with my family when I was 14 to Virginia Beach and now feel like Tidewater has always been my home.

In the fall of 2009 I began my first semester of college at Tidewater Community College. What seemed like an undesirable start turned out to be a fulfilling experience. I learned to work hard for the first time, and I received my Associate’s Degree in business administration with honors two years later.

Following that I transferred to James Madison University to study business with a concentration in hospitality andfound myself doing the same at Old Dominion University a year later. Something wasn’t sticking. There was an unfulfilled part of me as I looked for everything external to brighten me.

At that juncture, I switched my major to English/Journalism a little over a year ago and today have dreams of becoming a travel journalist. When I’m not writing or working as a part-time server or florist, I enjoy happy hour, finding new music, gardening, going to brunch, attempting to cook , and getting outside as much as possible.

I dedicate my posts to the twenty-somethings. May you always create your own path and may you always be on your inner quest.

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