Most people know what not to do at dinner, but there are many things you should do when enjoying a fine dining experience.
There are many occasions when you will experience fine dining with others whether it is a business meeting, a family gathering or on a cruise.Â During these occasions you will need to use what is commonly called "good manners" or etiquette.Â In the olden days, there were actually classes taught that one was expected to attend.Â In these classes you were taught all of the in's and out's of socializing and having dinner.Â Now, we just hope we have learned these things from exposure and most times we just "wing it."Â
Eating might be your number one priority when going out for a business dinner, but it's not what your boss has in mind when planning an evening out.Â It's not a pie eating contest, so save your appetite for another time.Â Come to the dinner in the frame of mind that you are working and not eating.Â
A business dinner is typically a social occasion that has an agenda.Â It could start a lasting relationship with a client or close a very important business deal.Â Relax, and remember the goals of the dinner while at the table.Â If you are a fairly new or "lesser" employee, you have probably been invited to just be a part of the evening and not to be the "star."Â Â Don't try to be an expert on every issue that is discussed, especially company issues.Â Show that you are an interesting person and well-informed but don't call undue attention to yourself.
Your host is the person who decides to have the meal, invites the guests, and is probably the "boss" around the office.Â He or she will dictate how expensive the meal will be over the course of the evening.Â Since you are not the one paying the bill, you need to follow the lead set by your host.
Most dinners will start by everyone being escorted to the dining table.Â Often, the person escorting you to the table and overseeing your dining experience is called the Maitre D'.Â
Often the Maitre D' will pull the chair out for the ladies and help them be seated.Â The "D" may put the napkin on your lap.Â Just tell him thank you after he has performed these services.Â In some instances the server will perform these duties.Â
If you experience any problems over the course of your meal, the Maitre D' will be the one to resolve issues or help you out.Â Knowing his name and addressing him by it will score better service.Â This is especially true on a cruise as you have assigned seating throughout the cruise and will have the same Maitre D' for the duration of your time on the ship.Â Many passengers will tip the Maitre D' at the end of their cruise and so he wants it to be a wonderful experience in anticipation of good tips.
If the Maitre D' or server does not place the napkin on your lap, do so yourself immediately.Â Your napkin should be onyour lap at all times.Â If you need to excuse yourself from the table for a moment, put it on your chair and not back on the table.Â A napkin on the table may be seen by your server as a signal that you are finished with your meal, and your plate may be taken.
Once you are seated, do not pick up the menu right away.Â Talk to those around you for a few moments.Â Create a comfortable atmosphere by relaxing and visiting with others.Â Once your host picks up the menu, then do so yourself.Â
If you don't know many of the people at your table you will need to make "small talk" in order to avoid uncomfortable silences. Ask the other guests polite questions about their lives.Â Find out what they do for work, where they live, or find a common interest such as sports to discuss. Don't make them feel like you are "stalking" them by peppering them with intimate questions.Â This is especially important on first dates.
Once you have introduced yourself to your tablemates, it's always nice to extend your hand.Â A proper handshake involves eye-contact and a three-second firm grip.Â
After you have said your hello's, taken your seat, you need to claim your water glass and bread plate.Â Often at large tables everything is very close and it gets confusing which is yours. Glasses are always placed on your right and the bread plate is on your left.Â
Follow the host when ordering drinks.Â If the host doesn't order an alcoholic drink, you probably shouldn't do so.Â If you are the first person asked and unsure what to order, pass the buck and tell the waiter you haven't decided yet and ask him to start with someone else.
This same rule applies for the menu choices.Â Follow the lead of the host when ordering an appetizer and the main course.Â If the host passes on the appetizer, then you probably should.Â Making menu choices can be varied and depends on your personal tastes.Â If you know in advance where you will be dining and unsure what you should order, do some online searches about the choices that will be offered so you can make an informed choice while at the table.Â Never be ashamed to ask the server for recommendations.
When the food arrives, you can see a whole array of silverware before you.Â Always work from the outside in as a general rule of thumb when using your silverware.Â The first courses will use the outer silverware.Â
Never allow used silverware to rest on the table.Â It should always be placed on a dish.Â
Butter your plate first and then use this butter on your bread or roll.Â Tear off bite-sized portions of your bread, and only butter these portions as you eat them.Â
Make a effort to eat only bite-sized portions.Â Otherwise, if someone asks you a question, you will have an uncomfortable pause while you are trying to chew all of the food in your mouth.
Once you have finished eating, your should place your silverware on your plate, with the fork tongs down, and roughly in the 4 o'clock position on your plate.Â Servers are trained to look for this and know that you are finished and will remove your dinnerware.
After the meal is finished, many people will have after dinner drinks.Â Again, follow the lead of the host when ordering.Â A cup of coffee or tea is always appropriate.
After the dinner, use your manners and say thank you.Â A thank you note sent to your host is always appropriate and this simple gesture can go a long way.Â