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The Etiquette of Formal & Business Dining

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Table manners have always played an important part in making a favorable impression, and in today's International Business World it has become very important to be able to project your knowledge and experience, if not your status and education, through the visible signals of the state of your manners when dining in a formal or business situation. Our actions at the table and while eating therefore, can be essential to how others perceive us and can even affect our professional success in the Business World.

Arriving at a formal function, luncheon or dinner.

The most common mistake made by those people who are unaccustomed to attending formal and business functions, or are not schooled in the standard of behavior expected by those who are, most often happens immediately upon their arrival and even before the actual commencement of the event itself.

If you are attending a formal event with an escort and there is the need to remove outer clothing, capes, overcoats or raincoats, there is an accepted procedure that must be followed.  

If there is a coat check attendant or a footman, then the proper procedure is for the gentleman to first hand his hat, (which should have been removed before he entered the foyer), along with his gloves and umbrella (rolled and buttoned), if he is carrying one, to the attendant.   

The gentleman should always assist the lady he is escorting in removing her outer wear and pass it to the attendant, prior to removing his own.  The attendant or footman is not expected to assist you, she or he is merely expected to take your clothing from you and have it stored and you should hand it to them in a folding manner, making the taking of it all the easier for the attendant.  You will normally be given a ticket to retrieve your clothing after the event, which the gentleman should hold.  It is also the duty of the gentleman to retrieve the clothing at the end of the function and assist the lady in dressing, before putting his own outer clothes back on.  

After ensuring that the lady he is escorting is now ready to enter the event, the gentleman should then remove his outer clothing and hand it to the attendant also.  It is not wrong, and it is advisable, for the lady to quickly ascertain that the gentleman is presentable, and he her, and to assist each other if it is necessary before proceeding into the event. 

They should always enter the event with the lady's right arm linked through the gentleman's left arm.  The proper way to do this is for the gentleman's lower left arm to be horizontal against his torso, with the upper part lightly held against his side.  The lady should have her hand actually holding the upper part of the gentleman's arm, and she should not just slip her hand loosely though his arm.

If there is a formal reception with the host or the guest of honor receiving the guests as they arrive, the lady should remove her arm from the gentleman's only as they arrive before the host, the gentleman should extend his right hand, the palm vertical if he is being greeted by a man, if a handshake is the order of the day, lightly but firmly gripping the hand of his host.  If your host is a woman the gentleman should extend his hand palm up, taking his hostess's fingers lightly and lifting her hand a little by way of greeting.  If others before you kiss the hand of the hostess then a gentleman should also do so, by taking the tips of her fingers in his right hand and, bowing his head slightly, heels together, gently lifting the lady's hand to his face and lightly touching his lips soundlessly to the back of her hand just above her middle finger. 

A gentleman should nod his head slightly as he greets his host. The gentleman should then introduce his escort to the host or guest of honor, the words usually being something like: "Mr. Ambassador, (or Sir, or Madam, or whatever is the appropriate title to use in the greeting) I would like to introduce my wife (or fiancé, escort, daughter, etc.)".  Never use the term "girlfriend" when introducing a lady formally.  His lady should extend her hand, palm down, fingers slightly crooked and should look directly into the eyes of a male host as she is greeted (actually it is less embarrassing to look at a spot slightly above his eyes on his forehead). A lady drops her eyes when greeting her hostess. 

Note: You might like to investigate the following sources for Ceremonious Forms of Address:  Wikipedia International Forms of Address - American - Canadian

Do not try to start a conversation, or ask a question, at the formal reception by your host, and if you are asked a question keep the answer as short as you can and move along as fast as is polite to do, to allow those following you to be greeted.  After the greeting move away, never stand around in a formal greeting area, it will only inform others that you rarely attend such events.

At most formal functions there will be a waiting room or waiting area, where the guests will gather to await the call to lunch or dinner, or to take their seats.  The most blatant bad manners is to leave one's escort during this time, and this time is usually used by most guests to visit a restroom, if so then the gentleman should be waiting outside the ladies restroom for his partner to escort her back to the waiting room.  It is absolutely the worst bad manners to allow your partner, male or female, to stand alone in the waiting room or waiting area while you visit the restroom.  

It is a good idea for the gentleman to carry a shoe cloth, (most good hotels provide them in your room), in his left back trouser pocket.  Discovering you have scuffed or water specked shoes just before you enter such a function can detract from your confidence. But make sure you clean your shoes in the restroom and not in the waiting area.  Also, before your are called to be seated check that both you and your partner have a clean, unused handkerchief with you, in fact a gentleman should always carry two at a formal function, and if the lady is wearing an off-the-shoulder gown it is wise that she either carry a light shawl or wrap with her, or the gentleman should have a flat, folded silk wrap in his left inside jacket pocket, for finding the room to be too cold after being seated could ruin the event for the lady unless someone had thought of this beforehand.  Leaving the room during the event to obtain a wrap for the lady would be very bad manners towards your host or hostess.

When the call to be seated is announced the lady should once again be "escorted" by the gentleman into the dining room, with her right arm linked through his left exactly as they first entered the event.

    Guests bearing gifts.

Some formal dinners can take place in private homes, and the uninitiated will often decide to take their host or hostess a small gift.  In almost every case taking gifts with you to a formal event is wrong!  If you truly wish to present your host or hostess with a gift for inviting you, have it delivered after the event with your Thank You Note. Never take wine to any event to which you are invited as a guest!  Your host or hostess will take it that you do not trust their knowledge in picking the right wine.  Never take flowers to any event, for there is nothing more embarrassing than being stuck with a bunch of flowers and nowhere to get rid of them as you are called to dinner.  Always send a simple Thank You Note to your Host or Hostess after the event.

    Taking your seat at a formal luncheon or dinner.

Never take your seat before being invited to do so by your host.  If there are not place cards to show you where the host wants you to sit, choose the seats you wish to occupy before being called to the table and stay close enough to them to be able to take them without finding yourself playing musical chairs with other guests.

If you do have the choice of seats at a large table, the best seats for a formal luncheon or dinner (once actually called the "safe" seats in diplomatic circles) are those that are two thirds down the table from where the host will sit, on the left side of the table as the host sees it.  You will that way be served each course sooner and if introductions are called for, you will not be called upon until several others have had the chance to speak before you and inform you of the tone of the event.  Never stand for the introductions - one only stands for a toast.

At most formal functions the seating is arranged so that each gentleman's lady is seated to his left and if the seating is left to the guests choice, a gentleman should follow normal procedure and always attempt to seat his lady escort to his left.

The gentleman should always help his lady escort be seated.  If you have never done this at a formal function practice with your escort before you go, if you can. Sometimes the waiters and servers will do it for you, but it is better that the gentleman himself help his escort.  A gentleman is also expected to assist any unescorted lady sitting next to him to be seated (do not ever run around trying to help unescorted ladies not sitting directly next to you).  The easiest way to do this is to grasp the chair with one hand on either side of the chair back, about half way down with your thumbs away from you.  Lift the chair back so that the lady with you can walk upright to stand before the table.  Then gently place the chair forward until the front of the seat touches your escort's legs behind the knee. Then place the chair down and your escort can sit. The lady should be standing with her torso actually touching the table before you begin this maneuver.  The gentleman should stay behind the chair to assist the lady move the chair forward. She should place one hand either side of the seat, lifting it as she moves forward, with the gentleman assisting her.  The gentleman then should seat himself, once seated the gentleman should also adjust the position of his chair with one hand on either side of the seat.

Most men have been told by their mother that they should always help a lady be seated, but from observation it would appear that many mothers often forget to tell their sons that a gentleman also is expected to assist a lady when she needs to leave her seat at the end of a meal.  In fact if she is wearing a long dress or a ball gown, she needs the help to get up far more after the meal is over than she needed the help to sit down initially.

At the end of the meal, a gentleman lifts his chair back with his hands grasping the seat of his chair and then moves to stand directly behind his escort's chair to be able to assist her stand.  Taking the chair in exactly the same manner as he placed it beneath her for her to sit down, he waits for her to begin to rise and then pulls the chair back from underneath her.  However, there are also ladies whose mother never told them how to rise when being helped with her chair by a gentleman.  The easiest and the safest procedure to follow, which will prevent her from losing her balance and depositing her derriere quickly to the floor, is to move her right foot back and turn as she rises and the chair is removed from beneath her, steadying her balance by initially placing her left hand upon the table, and holding her purse with her right hand, and then exiting her place to her right between her own place and the gentleman's removed chair.  Again, it is helpful if you can practice this maneuver prior to the event.

    Using your napkin.

The meal actually begins when the host or hostess unfolds his or her napkin. You should never attempt to call the waiters or other staff to assist you before the meal begins. When the host has opened his or her napkin this is the guest's signal to do the same. The gentleman should pick up his escort's napkin with his right hand, take it by a corner and shake it open beneath the table level to the right of his chair.  He should then lay it upon his escort's lap, still holding only the corner and only using his right hand, so that she may adjust it, and then he should take his own napkin and repeat the procedure for himself.  

Lifting a table napkin occasionally is made difficult by the way it has been folded before being placed upon the table.  The following guide will allow you to properly open the napkin.  You take the napkin off the table with your right hand only, taking the "opening point" between your forefinger and thumb (as explained beneath the illustration) and it should begin to fall open as you move it from the table.  The name beneath each illustration is the professional description of the type of folding. 


 Cardinal's Hat                   Lady Windermere's Fan          Rosebud                    Pyramid                  Clown's Hat               Goblet Fan              Bird of Paradise            
                         Top                                                 Top                                    Top                        Front Point              Lower Point              Hold the glass                 Top                                            

Place your napkin on your lap, completely unfolded if it is a small luncheon napkin, or in half diagonally, across your lap point at your knees, if it is a large dinner napkin. Never tuck the napkin into any part of your clothing or remove it during the meal, unless you are called upon to stand for a toast.  In that case, fold your napkin neatly and place it to the left of your plate before standing, and do not forget to return it to your lap when retaking your seat.  After a toast is the only time a lady would remove her napkin from the table herself and replace it on her lap.  Typically, you want to put your napkin on your lap soon after sitting down at the table (but follow your host's lead). The napkin remains on your lap throughout the meal and should you need to, and after each course without fail, it should be used to gently blot your mouth. 

Never wipe your silverware with your napkin.  If you should drop a utensil, or one is not absolutely clean, call a waiter or server to assist you and have it replaced. If you need to leave the table during the meal, fold your napkin twice and place it over the back of your chair.

The host will signal the end of the meal by placing his or her napkin on the table. Once the meal is over, you too should place your napkin neatly folded on the table to the left of your plate.

Calling a waiter while you are seated at the table.

Only call a waiter or server to help you during a formal function if you absolutely have to and, an escorted lady should never do so; she should instead ask her escort to do it for her. Never use your voice unless there is absolutely no other way, and if that is the case use only the words "Excuse me" to attract the waiter's attention.  Normally, if the waiter's have had professional training they will have been trained to watch the guests like hawks to ensure that they are able to respond almost before they are summoned. Therefore, all one usually has to do is to gain eye contact with the waiter and raise one's hand to just below shoulder height and nod, indicating that you need service by crooking your fingers into your palm to beckon the waiter to come to you.  When the waiter arrives, quietly voice your request so that no-one else at the table is disturbed in any way whatsoever.  Never overtly call a waiter in a loud voice during a formal function, and unless there is an earthquake, riot or a fire, never leave your seat from the moment the event begins until the host informs you that it has reached its' end.  

If for some reason a gentleman's escort should need to leave the room, he must escort her out of the room and escort her back when she returns, repeating helping her with her chair and handing her her napkin, etc. However, if the gentleman must leave the room during the event the lady should remain in her seat until he returns.  If he actually needs medical attention, or anything else for that matter, the staff will assist him, and if there is no way for him to return then they will obviously come and get her.

Ordering from the Menu

At most formal and business dining functions the menu is chosen well in advance.  It helps if you can find out what will be served before the event.  If you have religious or dietary reasons for not wishing to eat what is on the formal menu, either inform the organizers well in advance of the function, or quietly request an alternative from the maitre d', the Captain, or one of the waiters before the event begins, if you can.  

On those rare formal occasions where the guests are offered a choice, or if you are dining privately in a restaurant as someone's guest, and you need to order, the following advice may help. If, after looking over the menu, there are items you are uncertain about, ask your waiter any questions you may have. Answering your questions is part of the waiter's job. It is better to find out before you order, that a dish might be prepared with something you do not like, or are allergic to, or is excessively spicy, than to spend the entire meal picking tentatively at your food.  

Some restaurants produce their menus in foreign languages to appear more special than they actually are, if such a menu is handed to you, ask for an English Language menu from your waiter, or make sure you get a complete description in English as to what the options are.  If you are dining in a foreign country take the advice, and never be shy to ask for it, from anyone in your party who speaks the language the menu is written in.  False modesty or shyness, could embarrass your host and destroy the entire event for you, as you always need to know exactly what you will be eating. 

If you are eating in a private restaurant with business associates it is polite for the higher ranking persons in your party to suggest that your order be taken first; and his or her order be taken last, however not all business hosts have the education to know this, so it is always polite to remain quiet until the situation has been established. If there are prices on the menu choose something in the mid-price range and never, never, ask someone who has invited you to eat with them if it would be alright for you to choose a particular and expensive item on the menu, for it implies that they cannot afford it.  Sometimes, however, the server will decide how the ordering will proceed, especially if he or she realizes that the host is inexperienced in such matters. Usually, women's orders are taken before men's and should the server forget this it is polite to suggest to the server that the ladies in your party order first, should your host be unaware of this rule of etiquette.  It costs you nothing to be a gentleman.

As a guest, to be polite you should never order the most expensive items on the menu, or more than two courses, unless your host indicates that it is all right for you to do so. If the host says, "I'm going to try the peaches flambé; why don't you try dessert too," or "The prime rib is the specialty here; I think you'd enjoy it," then it is all right, in fact it would be polite to order it, if you would like to, even if it is the most expensive item on the menu.

Knowing which silverware to use.

Once upon a time every good education would include the knowledge of how to act as a Lady or as a Gentleman in a formal setting, but today the rise of political correctness has overtaken the cause of good manners.  So young adults moving into the business world today do so with little or no training upon how to act at a formal occasion or function. Perhaps the most daunting thing for a young professional to face as business progression leads him or her into such formal occasions is to look down at a collection of silverware for a seven course dinner, or even a four course luncheon and be seeing some of the pieces for the first time in their lives. Yet choosing the correct silverware from the variety in front of you is really not as difficult as it may at first appear, if you know the basic approach to laying a table. 

If you are left handed, you should changed your cutlery pieces from one hand to the other beneath the table.

You should also always remember that elbows can be very destructive weapons, so always try to keep your elbows as close to your torso as possible while you are eating; but not to the point where eating becomes a form of constrictive torture.

The golden rule is "from the outside in" or, if in doubt, just copy what the older or more senior people at your table do.  Otherwise, starting with the knife, fork, or spoon that is farthest from your plate, work your way in, using a new utensil or set of them, for each course.  Americans I have noticed most often only use the salad fork to eat their salad, thereby ignoring the salad knife which most American restaurants and hotels still lay beside their plate.  Obviously there is nothing wrong with this if it is your preference; however, when you have finished eating your salad it shows knowledge to lay the salad knife upon the plate beside the fork to signal to the waiter that you have finished.

At a four course formal dinner, your soup spoon will be on your outermost right, followed by your salad knife, a fish knife and then the dinner knife. Your salad fork will be on your outermost left, then your fish fork and your dinner fork will be nearest your plate.  Your dessert spoon and fork will usually be laid above your plate in America or brought out with the dessert.  In Europe at the better establishments and at State Functions your desert spoon and fork will actually be laid on either side, and nearest to, your plate.  Sometimes a butter knife will be laid to the right of your plate, (it is a small knife with a rounded, dull blade), but normally today it is placed upon your side plate. However, if you remember the rule to work from the outside in, or to watch what the more experienced people at your table are doing, you will be fine.

There are two ways to use a knife and fork to cut and eat your food. They are the American style and the European style. In most situations either style is considered appropriate. Some forty years ago to see an American using the European style usually meant he or she was brought up in a "good" family, or had attended one of the Ivy League Universities, or was just well traveled. 

In the American style, one cuts the food by holding the knife in the right hand and the fork in the left hand with the fork tines holding the food to the plate. The right method is to cut a few bite-size pieces of food, then lay your knife across the top edge of your plate with the sharp edge of the blade facing inwards and towards you. Then change your fork from your left hand into your right hand to eat, with the fork tines facing up. (If you are left-handed, keep your fork in your left hand, tines facing up.) 

The European style is the same as the American style in that you cut your meat by holding your knife in your right hand with your forefinger pressed on the back of the blade, while securing your food with your fork held tines down in your left hand. Your fork remains in your left hand however, and good manners dictate that at all times the tines must be facing down.  The knife must always stay in your right hand, and not be put down while eating, except when you need your right hand to lift your wine glass.  The food is then either taken by pushing the fork into it, or by pushing the food onto the back of the fork with your knife.  The fork is never used in a shoveling motion in the European style as it often is in the American style. 

The Secret of a Formal Place Setting

Most writers of etiquette books and teachers of courses on the subject agree that many people are afraid that they will fail to choose the proper utensil for the appropriate stage of the meal and therefore are unable to ever fully enjoy the splendor of formal functions, or in some cases they will actually make excuses so that they can get out of attending them altogether. 

Many books provide reassurance by just saying, as I have above: use the outermost utensil or utensils, as necessary, one set for each course, and you can't go wrong (unless the table has been improperly laid to start out with). But if you get invited to a State Affair or a Traditional Dinner & Ball things can get a little difficult for the newcomer who does not understand that each "special" course can also have its own "special" utensil, so for those occasions you will need to understand the nuances of a full formal place setting.  My grandmother delighted in eight course Victorian dinners and had the silverware laid as if everyone would know its use as well as she did.  Mind you she was born in the early 1870's and grew up during the height of Victorian Elegance. The thing is that you will always receive exactly as much silverware as you will need, arranged or delivered in precisely the right order.

Good etiquette does not only apply to the guest, it also assumes that the host has some understanding of the rules also (this ought to calm most of your worries) and has therefore had correctly assigned each utensil to its task. As each course is finished, the silverware will be removed with the dish, leaving you with a clean slate, all ready for the next item to arrive. In some cases there is not the room for ranks of forks and knives at the sides of the plate, (especially at fund raisers I have noticed, where they are trying to get as many people in the room as humanly possible without losing some guests to claustrophobia or asphyxiation), so on some occasions where more than three or four courses are planned, new silverware may be brought to you as the special courses are served.

If this happens it is probable that the waiter will place the right spoon or fork for any specialized dish upon the right hand side of the plate as it is served.  If you are left handed you would pick up any single utensil laid to the right of your plate with your right hand and then pass it into your left hand to be able to eat.

A Traditional Formal Dinner

The traditional place setting for a full ten course formal dinner in the dressant de l'Anglais manner, would be as follows:


The Butter knife would be set on the extreme right side of your plate or laid across the bread plate.

1st Course - Scalded Oysters in the Shell:

An Oyster fork laid inside of the Butter knife, tines up, although often (at Presidential, Mayoral or Royal  Dinners) it will be laid in the bowl of the Cream Soup spoon

2nd Course - Cream of Tomato Soup:

A Cream Soup spoon laid inside of the Butter knife or at the far right of your place setting..

3rd Course - Mandarin Vinaigrette Salad with Goat Cheese medallions and Pine Nuts  

A Salad knife laid inside of the Soup spoon on the right & a Salad fork laid on the extreme outside left of your plate.

4th Course - Pâté de Foie Gras with pickles & fingers of toast:

A small Butter or Pâté knife will be laid inside of the Salad Knife on the right & a Pickle fork laid inside of the Salad fork to the left of your plate.

5th Course - Fillet de Sole Victoria

A Fish knife laid inside of the Pâté knife on your right & a Fish fork laid inside the Pickle fork to the left of your plate.

6th Course - Roast Beef & Yorkshire Pudding, asparagus, buttered carrots, garden peas, steamed baby white beans with oven-roasted Potatoes, served with a Windsor gravy & fresh horseradish sauce and English Mustard.

A Dinner knife laid inside of the Fish knife on your right & a Dinner fork laid inside the Fish fork to the left of your plate.

7th Course - Black Forest Cake with Crème de l'Anglais

A desert fork laid inside your Dinner fork.

8th Course - Assortment of Cheeses with pickles, onions and slices of cured spicy sausage.

A Cheese knife laid inside the Dinner knife on your right & a Pickle fork laid inside of your Dinner fork to the left of your plate.

9th Course - Fresh Peeled Fruit Slices and Summer Berries served in Kirsch Liqueur.

A Fruit knife laid next to your plate on the right & a Fruit fork laid next to your plate on the left.

10th Course - Raspberry & Lemon Sorbet

An Ice Cream Fork served with the dish.

For the average person today the above menu would appear to be just too much food to consume at one sitting; however, in Victorian times a formal dinner was a full evening's entertainment.  You would arrive shortly after 6pm and enjoy a glass of sherry with your host before being called to dinner at 7pm - and you would stay at the table until 10pm - with each course being separated from the next by polite conversation or story telling and bringing each other up to date on current affairs.

At 10pm the gentlemen would retire to the library for cognac and cigars and the ladies would withdraw to the drawing room; however I have never been able to find out exactly what they did there.


The forks that you will always use during a formal meal are laid to the left of your plate, tines up, handles nearest to you, with the first one you will need to use being laid to the extreme left of the set. But there are some exceptions such as the Oyster (Seafood) fork (see below)

The Place fork is a relatively recent American invention, an all-purpose fork, which is most often used at most formal functions also as the Dessert fork and will be laid above your plate with the tines upwards and facing right.

The Ice-Cream fork is usually brought to the table with the dish. It is used by taking it in your right hand, tines upwards, and you hold the dish each time you use it.  You eat ice-cream from the top, pushing the fork or spoon provided in half way and then twisting and lifting the portion removed directly to your mouth.  If water wafers are provided you lift them with your left hand to your mouth, and never use the wafers to scoop ice-cream from the dish.

When Oysters are served as an appetizer the Oyster fork, which is sometimes also called a Cocktail or Seafood fork, (or if the establishment does not have this particular utensil, it will be a small fork) should be laid angled into the soupspoon on the right of your plate.  This is the exception to the rule of placing non-Dessert forks to the left of the plate. In some hotels or catered events however, the staff laying the table may make the mistake of placing it as the first fork on the left.

Strange as it may seem, if you are served with a Prawn Cocktail where the Chef has used Giant or Jumbo prawns, it is not impolite to eat them with your fingers, and yet a cocktail fork will usually be provided.  However, there is a proper way to do this.  You should use only the forefinger and thumb of your right hand, the tail in your palm.  Dip the prawn in the sauce provided, wait until the excess sauce has drained off and then bring the meat to your mouth.  The tail shell should be deposited on the lower side of the plate nearest to you, and never "suck" on the tail shell before you discard it.  However the rule of thumb is that if the prawns are shorter than a lady's little finger you should use your cocktail fork.  Remember that most appetizers and main courses not de l'Anglais will be garnished (the plate decorated is what that often means today) and it is neither necessary, nor advisable most often, to eat the garnish.  I have of course experienced a great number of such silly mistakes in my time, but probably the most outrageous of them was having to sit watching a lady delicately eating the pansies used to decorate her dessert one evening.  The golden rule is, if you do not know what it is, do not eat it, unless everyone else at the table is doing so.

In the European style Meat, Salad, Fish, Pickle and Fruit forks (see illustration above) are held in the left hand with the tip of the forefinger pressing on the "shelf" at the base of the tines, tines down, and the fork should never be put down until you have finished the course, unless you need to wipe your mouth with your napkin occasionally, then you should place it, tines down, on the left of your plate.  One eats fruit in a formal setting the same way as one eats the meat course, and the knife and fork are held in the same manner.  

Cocktail, seafood, ice-cream and usually dessert forks (depending upon the dessert) are held in the right hand with the tines upwards and the food is lifted from the plate in a careful scooping motion, never fully filling the fork.

Oyster forks are held in the palm with the thumb firmly placed on the face of the handle, tines up.  Eating oysters at a formal dinner table is done by holding the shell firmly with your left hand and pushing the fork into the oyster meat and twisting it clockwise, in a digging motion, to lift the meat away from the shell.  In better restaurants the meat will have been separated from the shell before it is brought to you, so always check with your fork before you begin.  Sometimes oysters are served with a sauce, but most often are not.  If there is a sauce, the exception rules and you may dip the meat in the sauce, using the fork of course, before bringing it to your mouth.  Never bring the oyster shell up to your mouth and tip the oyster into your mouth at a formal function, the way you would at an oyster bar.  It is frowned upon.


The knives are laid, always with the sharp edge of the blade facing your plate, to the right of your plate with the first one you will need to use being laid to the extreme right of the set. The exception would be if the Butter knife was laid, rather than being placed upon your side plate.

The other exception might be a Fruit knife or a Cheese knife which in some formal settings would be laid beneath your Desert fork and spoon above your plate, the handle of which would be facing right and the sharp edge of the blade towards the plate.  The rule for picking up any utensils laid above you plate is, from the top down. Sometimes a Pâté knife (often it is called a "Spreader" and looks like a smaller Butter knife) will be brought to you with a small plate holding crackers if the cheese course contains soft cheese.  When spreading cream cheese or pâté onto crackers or toast one holds the knife in your right hand and the cracker in your left, then take a small piece of the cheese onto the knife and spread it across the face of the cracker pulling the knife towards you, then bring the cracker to your mouth with you left hand.  Most often pâte is served with a few marinated, pitted olives or small sweet gherkins as a garnish.  Use the fingers of your left hand to bring these items to your mouth.

Both a Fish fork and a Fish knife are provided for you to eat fish with at a formal function. All quality made Fish knives in a traditional setting still have a solid silver or silver-plated blade and Fish forks have silver or silver plated tines, because lemon, which is often served with fish, was known to react with the steel in older banquet steel knife blades and fork tines, which caused an unpleasant taste.  Although the invention of stainless steel made this problem obsolete more than seventy five years ago many quality place settings still follow this tradition. The fish fork is also usually a little shorter than the meat fork with a much wider, scimitar shaped blade. For Herring Knives (for eating pickled Herring) see Fish knife HH above

Using a fish knife and fork is different to the manner in which one uses a Dinner (meat) knife and fork, although they are held in the same way.  When eating fish the Fish knife is used to "separate" the "segments" of the meat, slipping the blade into the fish at the break and lifting it slightly sideways to separate it from the skin and the other meat, so that you can pierce the meat with the fork and lift it cleanly to your mouth.  A fillet of fish is eaten from left to right, using the right hand side of the plate for discarded bones and skin unless a "bones plate" is provided.  Place the "bones plate", touching your fish plate, above and slightly to the right.  Separate the segments individually only when you wish to take them with your fork and if the sauce is placed upon the plate you can use the knife to lift the sauce and place it upon the fish portion before you eat it, do not "swirl" or "dip" the fish on your fork in the sauce.  If the sauce is provided in a separate container, bring it to where it is touching your fish plate and use your knife to take the sauce and place it upon the fish before you bring it to your mouth.

If you are served sole or sand-dabs you would use your fish knife to separate the flesh from the skin, which most people never eat and has a pungent taste.  The skin is then pushed to the right of the plate with your knife as you eat the sole or sand-dabs from left to right across your plate.

If trout is served it will often be cooked with both the head and the tail still intact and served to you "au natural", in other words, cooked as it was caught, less the innards.  In the case of Trout Almandine, which is very popular with caterers as it is simple to prepare, it will be topped with sliced, roasted almonds and paper thin slices of lemon.  You should be provided with a small dish or plate to put the skin and bones upon after you "undress" the trout, but these days this is quite often forgotten.  If your trout is served thus and the bones plate is forgotten, call a waiter and ask for one (a side plate will do).  It is polite for a gentleman to undress his escort's fish before he does his own.  This is done by first undressing the fish before you and then exchanging it for your escorts plate, before you repeat the procedure for yourself.  

You undress a trout presented "au natural" (cooked and served in it's skin) as follows:  first lightly scrape the dressing off of the trout carefully onto that part of the plate nearest to you.  Then hold the head of the fish to the plate with your fork and with your knife sever the head from the body.  Then, holding the body of the fish just below the tail with your fork, sever the tail from the body.  Then, using your knife and fork together, remove the head and tail to the bones plate or dish provided. Next, while holding the body of the trout to the plate with your fork, use your knife to begin to peel the skin from it, beginning at the belly which should be nearest to you.  When you have exposed all the meat on the top side, slide your knife between the flesh and the bones and lift the first fillet forward.  Then lift the bones free from the second fillet and using your knife and fork deposit them upon the bones plate.  Then flip the remaining piece of fish over, and remove the skin completely, transferring the skin to the bones plate also. Hand this finished plate to your escort with your right hand, while taking her plate with your left hand.  Then repeat the procedure to prepare your own plate for yourself.  A professional waiter will remove the bones plate for you before you start to eat; if not then it will be removed at the completion of the course.  Personally I like eating Trout fillets almost cold (which it will be after you have undressed it), for in my opinion the taste is fuller when it is only lukewarm.

Amongst the benefits of knowing how to use a fish knife and fork properly is that it allows you to see small bones in the fish which were missed by the filleting knife in the kitchen, before they get into your mouth. Any bones you find in the fish, catch between the fish knife and back of the tines on your fork and move them to the right side of the plate.  If you do get a fish bone in your mouth, put your knife and fork down on your plate, knife on the right, blade in, fork on the left tines down, then remove the offending bone with the fingers of your right hand, covering your mouth with your left hand, and place the bone on the right side of your plate.  Then wipe your fingers on your napkin before continuing to eat.  

Specialty Pieces

To use a Cheese knife you will hold it as you would a Dinner knife, but you use the center of the blade to cut, point downwards.  In better restaurants and at many formal functions cheese will be served upon a small square wooden cheese board. Having cut a small piece of cheese off of one of the small blocks on your plate, (or board) you turn the knife over in your hand to spear the cheese with the two prongs and then transfer it directly to your mouth. Although most people will use their fingers to lift gherkins, pickled onions, etc. to their mouths, it is not wrong to use the knife to also cut the gherkins, or other edible garnish, provided with the cheese and transfer the pieces to your mouth with the prongs of the knife.  The method is to place the portion on the prongs just into your mouth, then close your teeth behind it and pull it free. Obviously cut small pieces only.


Many of the spoons you will use during a traditional formal dining experience will often be brought to you with the course or serving as it is provided.  When you have finished the course using the spoon that was provided specifically for it, the spoon should be laid back on the plate, or in the dish bowl upwards, the handle pointing back at you.

Whenever you are just using a single utensil, whether it is a spoon or a fork, the polite and proper method is to hold it in your right hand, bowl or tines up at all times.

There are still a great many establishments in the world, and an even greater number of their guests, that do not know the polite etiquette for eating (sipping) soup as a part of a formal dining experience, so you may not be provided with the right Soup spoon on occasion. 

However, it is very bad manners to point out to the waiter that he has brought you the wrong spoon, or to your host or another guest, obviously. However, the fact is that cream soup should be eaten with a Cream soup spoon as it is not only easier to do so, but it helps you do it with less noise.  A Cream soup spoon is round, with a relatively deep bowl, so that you can sip the soup quietly from the left side of the spoon.  Lifting it to your mouth with your right hand, so that the spoon is held horizontally, you bring the bowl to your lips and tipping it slightly towards you, sip the contents, almost pouring it into your mouth.  Even if you are presented with a Dessert or normal Soup spoon you should still use the same actions for drinking cream soup, just be careful to do it slowly so there is no sound.

Never allow yourself to slurp soup from a spoon. Spoon the soup away from you when you are lifting it from the bowl and then bring the spoon to your mouth to sip it from the side of the spoon. If you need to tip the bowl, always do it away from you, and if your soup is too hot to eat, let it sit until it cools; do not blow upon it in the spoon.  Polite company frowns on such behavior.

A standard Soup spoon is different to a Dessert spoon in that it should be a little larger and has a deeper bowl, and is used to eat stock soups such as Minestrone, broth or stews.  Consommé is eaten with a Bouillon spoon, as one would eat cream soup.  Some Consommé is served with tiny cubes of fat, or you may find a fine residue at the bottom of the bowl, remember that these elements of the consommé are never eaten.

Except in the case of stews, which are very rarely served at formal functions, the soup spoon should never actually enter the mouth and on no occasion should you ever lick a soup spoon while you are dining in polite company.

A Dessert spoon is smaller than a standard Soup spoon and less deep in the bowl.  One could deduce that this may have started to stop people shoveling large pieces of cream covered dessert all over their mouth.  Dessert should always be eaten in small portions, taking up only the front half of the Dessert spoon and should enter the mouth with your hand being directly in front of your face and the handle held away from you.

In many cases, the dessert utensils will be brought in with the dessert. However, more often the Dessert spoon (and fork, if needed) will be laid above your plate.

Quality of Service at a Formal Function

The quality of service can vary greatly and you should always be prepared for any level of service at a formal event, or even in a restaurant, but for the sake of your escort and your host the old adage "if you cannot say something positive, say nothing at all", should always rule.  Even if you see something being done blatantly wrong, if you are not the host it is not your place to comment, so you should never do so.  

There are three main rules for guests to observe at a formal function regarding conversation, and they are:

1.   Never use profanity, for any reason whatsoever.

2.   Never shout. Do not even raise your voice above a polite level.

3.   Refrain from using your hands to emphasize what you are saying.

At most good restaurants and many catered events these days the food is brought to you upon the plate ready for you to eat, however there are still some events and restaurants where "service de l'Anglais" is still practiced.  In this event the waiter will approach the table from your left with a dish in his or her left hand and using a serving spoon and fork in the right hand proceed to serve the food directly onto your plate.  You are expected to say "Thank You" when the portion you require has been served onto your plate.  You should lean slightly to your right with your hands in your lap while being served.

Often you will find a large very colorful plate upon the table when you arrive.  This is not to eat off and should not be used for any purpose whatsoever.  In the days of fine wooden tables this plate (a Charger) was used to keep the hot dinner plate away from the table, but today it is usually used just for decoration and will be removed before the meal begins.  If you have used it to butter your bread on you will look a little foolish when the waiter arrives to take it away.

The simple rule to bear in mind during a formal meal is that guests never have a reason to touch a plate with their hands and to do so would insult the host, suggesting that the service provided was inferior to what the guest was used to.

As ever, there is always an exception to the rule.  At a Formal Event the Main Course is always laid with the meat on the plate at the point nearest to the person who is going to eat it, with the vegetables arranged above it.  If your plate is laid with the meat furthest from you, or not directly in front of you, then move the plate round so that it is.  Use your napkin to protect your fingers though, for the plate may be very hot.  Screaming as you burn your fingers is frowned upon.

Drinking at a Formal Dining Experience

Wine is always poured just before the course it complements is served and the glass will be removed at the end of each course..  Do not personally touch or move a glass before it has been filled, allow the waiter to pour the wine before touching a glass, and never drink before the host takes up his glass, or until everyone begins eating. 

Drinking too much when dining is very impolite and one of the most disliked behaviors.  Also, if wine is served, it is bad manners to drain a glass completely at a formal function. That way, if the wine was poorly decanted any dregs or sediment will be left in the glass to be removed by the waiter.  Also if someone does call an unexpected toast you will not have to wait for your glass to be refilled, although you may of course have to wait for everyone else's to be topped up.  One always stands for a toast, even if you are not going to drink to it.  To remain seated during a toast given at his or her table is an insult to your host, unless you have a disability which prevents you from doing so.

If you are offered a choice of wine at a function, you will promote the perception of your sophistication greatly, even if you know absolutely nothing about wine, by remembering that Red Wine is usually ordered when you are eating red meat and White wine is usually chosen to accompany fish; while Madeira or Champagne are usually served with desert, although these days many people will take a white wine with chicken or other fowl, (providing that the bird was not cooked in red wine of course, i.e.: Coq au Vin).

To the right and above your plate will be the glasses you will be using during the meal, arranged from right to left in the order that they will be used if several wines are to be served to accompany different courses of the meal.  It is best to always allow the waiters to serve you as they will, bearing in mind the above advice on choice, where one is given. Never touch a glass before it has been filled by a waiter and always call and ask the waiter to refill any glass you wish refilled. I have found that even if the water is left on the table at a Business luncheon, it is far more polite to call a waiter to refill your glass, rather than to stand up and lean across the table to serve yourself.   At the best functions and in the finest restaurants your wine will be served in the proper glass.  The most embarrassing incident can take place if you or even your escort, not knowing this, asks if he or she can have a "bigger" or a "smaller" glass. 

The most usual wines served and therefore the correct glasses which will be used to serve vintage wines are shown below.

Bordeaux Goblet      Burgundy Balloon          Merlot Glass       Chardonnay Glass     Champagne Flute

If you are hosting an event outside of your home, ensure beforehand that the proper glasses will be provided by the establishment catering the event. Your reputation could be ruined if a restaurant served a Burgundy in a Merlot glass for example.

If you are hosting the event the Sommelier, or your waiter, will pour a little wine into your glass and wait for you to approve it, before having it served to your guests, ladies first of course.  Using the proper procedure to lift the glass (described below) swirl the (Red) wine around in the glass for a moment, lift it to about an inch below your nose and sniff it.  A "corked" (spoiled) bottle will have a tart, vinegar like smell.  Then you hold the glass up to the light to see if there is any sediment in it (meaning that it has not been properly decanted) or pieces of cork floating in it (if there are, reject it and ask for another bottle to be opened for you), and then finally you taste it by taking a small sip and "moving it" around in your mouth before swallowing it.  Spoiled Red wine has a acidic taste that you can not mistake. If the wine fails all of these tests, or one of them badly, you can refuse the bottle and request another without charge, either because the first bottle was badly decanted, had fragments of cork in it, or is "corked" (spoiled). 

With White wines the best way to decide if the wine is being served properly and is good enough for your guests, you should ask to be allowed to test the temperature of the bottle before the "tasting" is poured.  The waiter will hold the bottle towards you, label uppermost.  Lay the back of your fingers on the glass beneath the label.  It should be very cold. All White wines, with the exception of Dessert wines like Madeira, (which are usually served at room temperature), should be served very cold, even chilled. Then repeat the same procedure as you would use for "tasting" Red wines described above, but do not swirl the wine in the glass.  White wine is never "swirled", do so my friend and the Sommelier will know immediately that you are an amateur.

As you will be drinking your wine with your meal, remember that every time you put down your knife to be able to pick up the glass, you should place the knife on the right side of your plate, the handle towards you and the sharp edge of the blade facing inwards. 

The proper way to lift a glass that contains Red wine is to support it on your palm enclosed by your fingers, the stem of the glass between your middle and ring finger as you lift it.  This improves your ability to balance the glass and prevents you from spilling the wine. If you then gently swirl Red wine in the glass before bringing it to your mouth you will release the aroma of the wine and increase your enjoyment of it. 

The proper way to lift a glass that contains white wine is to place your fingers behind the bowl with your thumb pressed on the face, with your little finger held away from the glass to balance it.  The technique used to lift a glass of white wine works equally well when drinking from a champagne flute.

Toasting on formal occasions is done by lifting your glass to just below your shoulder level before repeating the words of the toast.  State, Royal or Military toasts are performed with your arm straight held away from your body, slightly raised, whereas "friendship", family and congratulatory toasts are made with your elbow bent and the glass held about twelve inches in front of your face.  In the case of the latter lift your glass about three inches higher as you repeat the toast before drinking.  

Clinking your glass against the glass of another guest, or suggesting to them that they do so with you, is not the proper thing to do.  In fact with high quality crystal glasses you risk breaking them by doing this.  Other guests may meet your request and oblige you, just to be polite and not embarrass you, but they will also know immediately that you are not often invited to formal functions.  

The simple rule is: you can offer to click a beer mug, or a stein, with that of someone you are drinking with, but with good wine glasses you are just risking the destruction of fine crystal and staining the linen tablecloth that has been handed down for generations if you are crass enough to do so.  Throwing glasses into a fireplace is a "nouveau riche" affectation and is never practiced by a true Lady or Gentleman, no matter what others may do. 

Never, ever, pick up a wine glass by the stem, in fact with really expensive crystal glasses you might actually shatter the stem by doing so.  Each time, after taking a sip from your glass, hold the wine within your mouth for a moment before swallowing, (never swig back wine) then return the glass, carefully, to its proper place, which is to the right of, and above, your plate.

When you have finished eating.

After each course you should lightly dab your mouth with your napkin and wipe the corners of your mouth, using your right hand to lift a corner only of the napkin to your face to do so.  

Never push your plate away from you when you are finished eating, or move it aside. Leave your plate where it is and it will be collected by your waiter.  

Never try to help your waiter, or attempt to hand him or her a plate that you have finished with, merely lean to one side (most often you will lean to the right for food to be served or taken away, and to the left when drinks are served or glasses are removed.  

The most common way to inform the waiter that you are finished with a course of the meal is to lay your fork and knife together across your plate. Place your knife and fork side by side, with the sharp side of the knife blade facing inward and the fork, tines up, to the left of the knife with both of the handles nearest to you. Make sure that they are placed so that they touch each other and that they will not slide off the plate as it is removed. 

Once you have used a piece of silverware, never place it back on the table. Do not leave a used spoon in a cup either; place it on the saucer. You also leave a soup spoon in a soup plate when you have finished eating, bowl facing upwards and with the handle again nearest to you. 

Any unused silverware is simply left on the table as it was originally laid.

After Dinner Drinks.

If you are asked if you want an after dinner drink remember one never mixes ice with Cognac, Port, Single Malt Scotch or Irish whiskey or any specially made or blended Liqueur to be taken as an after dinner libation.  A Balloon Cognac Snifter or Balloon Liqueur glass, is held in your palm with the stem between your middle and ring finger and once picked up is not put down, as the warmth from your palm will always improve the taste.  All other after dinner glasses are picked up thumb on the face, fingers behind, the bowl with the little finger held away from the glass - this is not a fashion statement, it actually helps balance the glass and helps you sip without slurping or spilling.  To recognize the shape of After Dinner or Liquor glasses see below:


                                              Cognac             Port             Sherry           Cordial      Cream Liqueur   Clear Liqueur     Schnapps       Geneva 

Note: Whiskeys are served in a tumbler glass if they are blends or bourbons and can be served with or without ice as you wish.  However, both the Scots and the Irish have developed special glasses that look similar to a port glass, but are slightly taller, to use for single malt whiskeys and no gentleman would ever add ice to a single malt whiskey - it just is not done, and would be considered an insult to your host.  Any Scotsman or connoisseur would quickly write you off as a barbarian if they saw you do so.

If cigars are offered, and you rarely smoke them but want to try, a good tip is to make a medium sized hole in the end of it with a tooth pick or other instrument, cutting or clipping the end of it if you are an amateur may end up with having to swallow pieces of leaf as spittoons are rarely provided at formal functions anymore.

If coffee is being served, all the handles of the tableware (coffee pot, cup, cream jug, etc. should be set with the handles at a right angle to the right arm of the person being served. Personally if they are not I go ahead and adjust them.

 Using Good Manners at the Table.

BREAKING BREAD: Usually the bread served at a formal function will be a roll or a selection of specialty breads sliced and ready to use.  Remember that bread is always broken and never cut at a formal dining table. Take the roll, or a piece of bread, and break it into pieces with your hands and place the pieces upon your side plate.  Then take one or two pieces of butter from the butter dish and place them directly onto the right side of your side plate using the fork provided if there is one.  To cleanly remove the ball of butter from the butter fork, rest it on the right edge of your plate and pull the fork out in a downward motion letting the edge of the plate pull the butter from the fork.  Butter the small pieces of bread individually only when you wish to eat a piece, using the butter knife in your right hand and holding the piece of bread in your left, then place the piece of bread directly into your mouth with the fingers of your left hand, before buttering another piece. The side plate should always be laid to the left and above your plate, balancing the positioning of the glasses laid to the right of your plate.  If it is not move it to that position yourself.  If you are hosting an event you would do well to ensure that the butter is soft enough for your guests to be able to spread, many restaurants today keep butter in a refrigerator right up until they serve it.

Never use your bread to wipe your plate, nor is it polite to dip it in your soup or the gravy or sauce with any of the courses.

USING YOUR FINGERS: One should never use one's fingers at any formal dining experience, (except for moving pieces of bread to your mouth) unless a delicacy is served which it is impossible to eat unless one uses one's fingers.  Victorian table manners did allow the use of fingers to eat fowl (chicken, duck, quail, pheasant, etc.) when most fowl was served "on the bone" at formal functions, but these days it is more often than not frowned upon as boorish behavior.  If you do have to use your fingers then call a waiter and ask for a "finger bowl" if one has not been provided.  This will be a small china or silver bowl two thirds full of warm water, usually with a piece of lime or lemon floating in it.  The acid in the citrus fruit will help to remove grease, but do not pick up the slice of lemon, as for some reason I have never established, that is something else that is also frowned upon. When you have moved your finger tips within the water for a short while, bring your napkin up with your other hand to meet your fingers, but do the drying beneath the table with your hands in your lap.  Some establishments do not provide finger bowls, but will instead bring you a small damp, warm towel.  You should clean your fingers beneath the level of the table and then place the used towel, folded, back onto the dish provided for the waiter to remove.  If you do dry your fingers on your napkin, do it beneath the table.

LEFTOVERS: It is always inappropriate to ask the waiter for a "doggy bag" to take home the leftovers when you are a guest at either a formal function or at a good restaurant.  If the waiter suggests you can take home the leftovers, decline with a polite but firm, "Thank you, but no".

SITTING: Sometimes just being confined to a chair for a long period of time can be the hardest part of attending a formal function, so you should take steps from the outset to make it easier on yourself.  Always sit well back in the chair so that the seat back supports you. Sit up straight at the table, you will tire less easily and of course, it also makes a far better impression than it would if you were slouching.

HANDS: When you are not eating, keep your hands in your lap, or resting on the table (with only your wrists on the edge of the table). An elbow placed upon the table is completely unacceptable in polite company.

SEASONING YOUR FOOD: It is very impolite to season your food before you have tasted it. It is an insult to the Chef who prepared the meal and thereby it is also an insult to your host.

CHEWING & TALKING: Never chew with your mouth open, or make loud noises when you eat. A polite person always closes their mouth while eating.  This is why taking only small portions into your mouth is a sensible way to eat in the company of others.  Although it is of course possible to talk with a small piece of food in your mouth, only do so in answer to a question and only if you really have to, and never, ever, talk with your mouth full.  If someone talks to you while your mouth is full, polite manners is to point to your closed mouth to indicate your inability to reply at the moment, and when you finish what you are eating to reopen the conversation before taking more food into your mouth.

FOOD IN YOUR TEETH:  If food gets between your teeth while you are eating, and you are not able to remove it with your tongue, ask the waiter to bring you a toothpick (if you did not remember to bring one with you) then lower your face until you are looking into your lap and cover your mouth with your free hand to use the toothpick.  Eat what you dislodge, never wipe it on your napkin and never do this unless you absolutely have to.

LEAVING THE TABLE: You should never leave the table during a meal except in an emergency.  If you must go to the restroom, or if you suddenly become sick, tell your escort and quietly excuse yourself to your immediate neighbors only. Later you can apologize to the host by saying that you did not feel well, but try to interrupt the event as little as possible.  If you are escorting a lady and for some reason she must leave the table, even in a private restaurant, you should accompany her, however if you leave the table she should remain at the table until you return.

CELL PHONES & PAGERS:  Never allow your cell phone or pager to go off while you are attending a formal or business function and never use a cell phone where you can be seen doing so by either the host or the other guests from the moment you enter the function until the time you leave.

HELPING YOURSELF: If you need something that you cannot reach easily at the table, call the waiter and quietly ask for it to be brought to you.  You should never rise from your chair to reach for something during a formal dining experience.

SPILT FOOD: If food spills off your plate, use your silverware to pick it up and place it on the right hand side of your plate.  

SPITTING OUT FOOD: Never spit anything into your napkin. Remove gristle or fat, or other unwanted food from your mouth using the same utensil you used to put it in your mouth if you can.  If that is not possible, cover your mouth with your left hand and remove it with your right hand. Place the piece of food on the edge of your plate and, if possible, cover it with some other food, so that other guests do not have to look at it while they are eating.

POLITE CONVERSATION: Always remember that a formal function is no place for preaching or verbally bullying others, and that profanity of any kind, or argument, or loud or lewd behavior in any form is also frowned upon in polite company. Dignity will never go out of style. 

TIPPING: A gentleman should always ensure that he is carrying small bills folded and placed in the breast pocket of his jacket at a formal function.  Most often you will not need them except for tips for the Cloakroom attendant and for the Valet Parking, but it is wise to be prepared, rather than having to scramble for your wallet in public.  A lady should also be so prepared, but placing them in her opera bag. 

A guest never tips the waiter, the Sommelier or the maitre d', it would be an insult to his or her host. However, Cloak Room attendants, footmen and valets, etc. should be rewarded for their attention to your needs.

THE LADY'S PURSE: No lady would ever attend a formal function without a small purse, or opera-bag, matching her dress, with a short strap allowing it to hang from her wrist.  Also, a lady would never wear a shoulder bag or carry a hand-bag into a formal function.  While eating, the purse is best placed on her lap, beneath her napkin.

YOUR ESCORT NEVER TAKES THE BLAME: Make sure that whoever is accompanying you as your escort also knows everything you have just finished reading, and still be prepared to ride out any embarrassment that may happen with the calm, sophisticated nonchalance of an experienced diplomat.  Things can always go wrong without any warning at any time.  

My personal experiences have included:

  • I once had a guest from the Far East pick up his finger bowl with both hands, very delicately, and proceed to drink all of the contents straight down.  Then he almost reduced my escort to laughter when he complained that it tasted just like warm water, which of course it was.  
  • Another time I had a colonial cousin who was visiting us ask the Sommelier (it would have been bad enough with an ordinary wine waiter) to "fill it up then!" when the Master of Wine had poured my cousin's balloon a third full of a very good vintage burgundy - the proper amount to allow the wine to breath and the drinker to comfortably handle the glass.
  • Then there was the young lady I took as my escort to a Dinner and Ball in Oxford, who was absolutely beautiful in her long fitted evening gown and wearing long white lace gloves, and she did everything right throughout the evening, being the perfect companion and a gift to my young ego.  Except that when she stood up to leave the table at the end of the meal, she forgot that her purse was on her lap and as she rose it slid off her lap and went directly under the table.  Embarrassed, she immediately bent down to retrieve it, but instead she slammed her forehead onto the table and sank to her knees all but unconscious.  As I helped her from the room I received many strange looks, which was really quite understandable for she was obviously unsteady on her feet and leaning on me for support, and it did look as if someone had recently punched her directly in the face.
  • Then there was the sweet grandmother-like old lady seated next to me at a literary luncheon in London once, who after being told by the waiter that the first course would be a plate of hors d'oeuvre, leaned over and quietly asked me "which part of a horse do they get the "d'oeuvre thing" from?
  • Then there was the Anglo-American Chamber of Commerce Luncheon at one of the finest hotels in Europe to welcome the new Ambassador from America - but if I tell you that one I may never be invited again . . .

. . . and trust me there are many, many more I could quote.

If I have missed anything or if you have any particular questions not answered in this little piece, and if I know the answer, I would be glad to give it to you.

I hope this helps, bon appetite my friends, and bon chance.

John Hathaway-Bates                                                                            

The Perfect Table Centerpiece

On February 14th, 1982, John Hathaway-Bates founded The Business Forum in Beverly Hills, California. At the time of establishing The Business Forum John was recognized as a Commercial Tactician with wide experience on four continents having served as President, or Corporate Vice President, for several multi-national Corporations. He was elected a Fellow of the British Society of Commerce, the Institute of Buyers, the British Institute of Directors, the British Institute of Administrative Accountants, the Institute of Purchasing and Supply; and was elected to be a member of the Institute of Marketing, the Institute of Management and the Institute of Journalists. He has written many articles and several books, including :"Tactics". "How to Promote Your Business", "How to Organize Your Marketing" and "Fast Track Marketing in a Global Economy", he also wrote the "Contract Procedure and Specification Advice" sections of the Architect's and Specifier's Guide Series for A4 Publications, Ltd. and innovated and wrote for The Office Planner published by Benn Brothers of London; he has also had published several articles on "Color, Texture & Design", and he wrote the "Executive Guide to Office Space Planning & Design" for the American Management Association. He has had published many other works in Europe and America and has lectured in Europe, Asia, Africa and America, at Universities and to professional audiences on subjects that have ranged from multi-national accounting practices, to business development, to office management, industrial, interior, product and commercial design to tactical and strategic international marketing and management. He has also written and lectured on etiquette and business ethics.

You might also be interested on a short piece that our members asked us to produce on the subject of "Class" with members help.    Click below to access it.

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