When I speak to students about  Dining Etiquette at Rutgers and Montclair State, I get asked the same types of questions and realized that students and those in the workforce are often unsure of their dining etiquette. Here is a condensed list of etiquette tips that will help get you through any meal from an interview lunch to a catered birthday dinner.

When You Arrive

1. Arrive Early.  And if you are the host, determine where people will sit before they get there. You may want to give your credit card to the manager or maître d’ to ensure there is no question about who will pay. If you’re a guest and arrive before the host, wait for them before you sit down.

2. Once seated place your napkin on your lap. The napkin doesn’t go back on the table until the end of the meal.

If you need to excuse yourself before you’re finished (to greet someone, use the restroom, etc.) place your napkin on your chair, not the table.

The Place Setting

3. Look at your place setting. Your beverage glass is to the right, and your bread dish is on your left. Use silverware from the outside in. Once used, silverware doesn’t go back on the table. It should either be in your hand, or resting on your plate. It is then removed by the waiter.  Once a course is served it will correspond to the outer pieces of silverware. If a spoon and fork are placed above your plate they’re for dessert.

What to Order

4. Order the same number of courses as your host. Choose dishes that are easy to eat, and that you’re familiar with. As you’re eating, keep pace with others at the table. You don’t want to finish way before everyone else, or have a lot of food left on your plate when others are done. Choose your beverage carefully as well; don’t feel pressured to consume alcohol and never have more than one glass of wine or other alcoholic beverage.
5. Connect with others. Start the dialogue with small talk and general conversation. Hold off on the business discussion at least until everyone has ordered. Put away distractions like a cell phone, car keys, eye glasses or lipstick.

Keep in mind the point of a business meal is to talk business in a congenial setting. Food is secondary. Being comfortable with your dining etiquette and table manners will go a long way in establishing a connection with those whom you are dining.