Teri Haynes: Eating With People Again


Casual business dining isn’t the same as at home

Now, this is progress!  Restaurants may now seat patrons at up to 75% capacity.  This means more business lunches and dinners will occur.  It is time to un-learn the relaxed habits we have developed while working from home these five months.  Here is a light-hearted refresher on dining etiquette.

OOPS:  Someone used their fork to cut lasagna into many pieces as if preparing to feed a child. RULES: The knife cuts food; the fork conveys the food to the mouth.  Cut only one small bite at a time.  WHY:  One small bite at a time slows the dining process, enabling one to enjoy the food while visiting at the table. In ancient times, intact, leftover food was for servants to eat.  Food in small pieces was typically bone, gristle, or tasteless and fed to the animals.

OOPS:  You reach for your drink but it is gone.  Apparently, the person to your right took it.  Please do not swipe the glass from the place setting on your left.  That starts a domino effect around the table.  Instead, ask the waiter to bring you a drink.  RULES:  All drinks are on the right side of the plate.  Correcting a person who goofed is a cardinal sin in the etiquette world.  WHY:  Drinks are placed on the top right of a place setting because most people are right-handed.  Correcting other adults is rude.  However, teaching by correct example is saintly.

OOPS:  Someone has scattered sugar packet papers around your place settings.  RULES:  Keep the table clean.  Tuck paper pieces under your bread plate edge.  WHY:  A messy table looks unsanitary.  Pushing the paper pieces back towards the boor’s space would be passive-aggressive behavior.  Simply tuck the pieces near you under your plate edge.

OOPS:  The fork is in your fist and the steak looks stabbed by it.  RULES:  Hold the fork similar to a pencil.  Use the knife and fork at an approximate 45˚ angle to the plate.  WHY:  This keeps your elbows close to your body instead of flapping about like wings.  Stabbing and sawing food looks excessive and heavy-handed.

OOPS:  A knife was placed on the table after being used.  RULE:  Soiled utensils are never placed on the table.  When not in your hands, the utensils remain on your plate or in your bowl or glass.  WHY:  Staining a tablecloth with food is thoughtless and messy.  When finished, place the utensils in a position to prevent them from falling off when retrieved by the waiter.  Knives and forks are placed parallel to each other with the base in the 4 position on a clock and the points in the 10 position.

When dining with people, the point is to enjoy the food and each other.  Rule #1:  Don’t gross-out people with poor visual manners.  Rule #2:  Engage in polite conversation.  Dining together is for strengthening relationships, not to market oneself.  Rule #3:  Slow down and keep pace with everyone else.  Start and finish together.  If the rules are too cumbersome, one could always remain at home and scarf down your meal like you were raised by a pack of wolves.

Teri Haynes | Business Interactions, LLC | Improving human interactions in business

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