Dining Etiquette

Dining Etiquette

So you’ve settled down to eat a fine meal for the first time together but everything your mother taught you about courtesy around cuisine has completely left your mind. The only thing you know for sure is to keep your elbows off the table and eat with your mouth closed and that’s not a bad start, but it won’t score you any points either! Listen, people have such poor eating habits that if you can keep your elbows off the table, chew with your mouth shut and not talk with your mouth full you’re already ahead of the game.

Here are some other dining tips that will help you to impress rather that repulse your date!

  1. Seat your date in the best location.

    If there are windows with a view give the view seat to your date. If there is an impressive water feature or floral arrangement in the center of the restaurant make sure your date has the best seat to see it. Also make sure you have your date sit on the right side of you. You can remember this by remembering that you want to be closest to their heart. This will also help you when passing things since you always pass to the right, or to the guest, first. This applies for dates or in business.

  2. When you food arrives don’t jump on it like it’s the first meal you’ve had in months, even if it is.

    The whole point of going out to eat with your date is to get to know them better so don’t go feeling hungry. Way back in the days when women were trying to “catch” a man, a dainty appetite was considered feminine and desirable. Nowadays, for both men and women it’s normal to eat a healthy amount of food in a polite and leisurely manner. So relax and let your guest relax and begin to eat as the two of you settle into the meal.

  3. Pace yourself to your partner.

    No one wants to feel like they are holding up the meal because the other person finished way before they did. This is one part of the bigger picture of paying attention to the other person. Hopefully you are feeling so good about your date you spend a lot of time paying attention but whatever you do don’t eat to fast or to slow, eat at the same pace as your partner.

  4. Cut up just what you’re going to eat in the next bite or two.

    Once again, the purpose is not speed or efficiency. You are there to enjoy and converse and by only cutting a few bites at a time you are giving yourself the opportunity to ask and answer questions as you switch your utensils from one hand to another.

    Note: In North America we do things the hard way and cut with our right hand using the knife and then lay the knife down, switch the fork to our right hand and eat with that hand. The left hand then stays on our lap or we leave our wrist on the edge of the table. The Europeans do it differently and don’t change the fork back and forth, so if you are dating in Europe you can do it that way, if you are eating in America it’s nice to eat the same way others do so you don’t make them feel uncomfortable. Remember this isn’t about what is easy or best but what is most accepted and right when with others.

  5. Order things that are easy to eat.

    No matter how much you love ribs, lobster or corn on the cob this is not the time to indulge. Order things that don’t require a bib, this way you aren’t ruining that great impression you’ve made so far.

  6. Watch out for over looked habits.

    Sometimes we do things at home that aren’t really the best thing when out eating in public. There are some little things, like salting your food excessively before even tasting it, that can say volumes about you that you aren’t even aware of. This is the reasoning. When a person alters something without first trying the thing they are altering, it shows impatience, and a lack of judgement. How do you know it needs anything? There is an old story that has been around for ages about a CEO that always took top candidates out to eat before he would give them promotions or move them up. He watched for these little unconscious habits that told him the person he may end up trusting with his company didn’t take the time to see what was right about something before altering it without sufficient reason. This one small habit cost people promotions and power.

    When with a date it’s similar because both of you are watching the other and sizing each other up so pay attention to the little things.

  7. Always pass the salt and pepper together.

    It’s just good form if someone asks for the salt or the pepper to send both because they go together just like you and your date if you get this etiquette thing right! The person asking may have wanted both but only asked for the salt. Also, don’t take a shake on the way to the one who asked. If your date or anyone you are dining with asks for the salt and you are the closest, pass them without using them and then when they are done you can ask for them to be passed back. Remember dining isn’t about efficiency.

So chew on these things and give them a try. If you’ve ever read any of the other articles in this column you know I welcome your questions and will continue to give you things to use while dating and in life. It’s not just about getting the date; it’s about building relationships!


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Conquer Apathy and Erase Rudeness as you follow proven, fun and beneficial information by Shawna Schuh, CSP. Specializing in communication, professionalism, service & business finesse. Shawna helps you bring your best self to the work you do for maximum results. To book Shawna to speak contact Sandy McCready at 503-280-1946 or visit www.ShawnaSchuh.com

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