Fine dining etiquette rules

Updated April 17, 2017

Whether it's your first time going to a fine dining establishment or you want to impress the clients you are taking to dinner, its important to be well-versed in proper dining etiquette so you won't embarrass yourself. You'll do fine as long as you remember a few basic rules for dining at an upscale restaurant.


Always wait for the host of the dinner whether at a home or in a restaurant to sit before you do. Enter the chair from the right side to avoid bumping other people. A man should always pull out the chair of a woman. If it is a group dinner, preferably a man would pull out the chair of a woman to the to the right of him. Also, when any woman stands to leave the table or return, the men should stand up.


Unfold your napkin as soon as you are seated at the table and place it in your lap. If you need to leave the table, place the napkin loosely on one side of your plate and never on your seat. You do not need to fold it, but don't wad it up on the table either. Do not use your napkin to wipe your nose or any of the cutlery, although you may dab your mouth with it.


Always use the utensils furthest away from your plate and work your way in, as the appropriate food will be served in that order at a fine dining dinner. Your salad fork will be the furthest away on the left side of the plate next to the napkin, followed by your dinner fork and your dessert fork. On the right of your plate the soup spoon will be the furthest away, then the teaspoon, then the dinner knife. The butter knife and plate will be above your forks. Glasses will be above your knife and spoons.

Wine and Berages

At each place setting at a fine dining dinner, you should have at least two glasses, one for water and one for wine, though there may be two wine glasses, one for red and one for white. If you don't want wine, when the waiter comes by you may simply inform him that you don't want any. Holding your hand over the wine glass is considered impolite by some. Accept an alternative nonalcoholic beverage if the server offers. If you are drinking wine, always hold the glass by the stem only and sip casually.

Table Manners

Wait to start eating until everyone has been served their food. Never slouch, sit up straight and keep your elbows off the table at all times. Your less dominant hand should remain in your lap unless you are using it for cutting your food or buttering bread. Never use a toothpick or your fingers to pick at food in your teeth. Instead excuse yourself to go to the bathroom. The same applies if you are sneezing or coughing a lot. Always pass the salt and pepper shakers together.


Avoid putting too much food in your mouth at a time and don't blow on the food if it is too hot. Instead let it cool slightly. A fork should only be used to pick up food, not scoop. For small vegetables like peas, use your knife to hold the peas steady so that you can pierce them onto the fork. For soup, place the spoon fully in your mouth rather than slurping the liquid through your lips. Try everything on your plate especially if you are at someone's home. Place your utensils across your plate when you finish eating.


Avoid discussing controversial or sensitive subjects such as religion, politics and risque topics. Choose comfortable topics such as hobbies, careers, travel, and other interests.Talk equally to the person seated on both sides of you at a group dinner. Speak in normal to lower voice tones so that everyone can carry on their own conversations. Never have a conversation on your phone at the dinner table. In fact, your cell phone should be off, in your purse which should be underneath your seat or on your lap if its small enough.

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About the Author

Based in Los Angeles, Zora Hughes has been writing travel, parenting, cooking and relationship articles since 2010. Her work includes writing city profiles for Groupon. She also writes screenplays and won the S. Randolph Playwriting Award in 2004. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in television writing/producing and a Master of Arts Management in entertainment media management, both from Columbia College.