Dining Etiquette

silverware and utensils identification

Silverware/Utensils: Start with the most outside fork, knife, or spoon and work your way in as the courses are served. 

Bread and Drink: Your bread plate is always on your left, your drink plate on the right. 

Ordering and Eating

  • Order the same amount of courses and in the similar price range as your host.
  • Think about what you order:
    • Is it messy? (Noodles are a no-no)
    • Can it be chewed with relative ease?
    • Will it make your breath smell funny (garlic) or get stuck in your teeth?
    • Is it easy to drop in your lap if you aren’t careful?
    • Can it be eaten easily with a knife and fork? Finger foods are risky-they can be messy.

Cherry tomatoes can be tricky. if you stab them, they can squirt or if you miss it, the tomato can roll or catapult off your plate. Just be aware of what and how you eat.

  • If you don’t know what to order, ask your host for their suggestion.
  • It is wise, if you know where you will be eating, to look at the restaurant menu online before you go and have a few options picked out as possibilities. This is especially true if you have an allergy.
  • WAIT until everyone has been served and the host takes his/her first bite before you begin eating your meal.
  • Pass bread and butter to your right. Place a small pat of butter on your bread plate. Always break bread into smaller pieces and butter each as you each it.
  • Cut and eat one bite of meat at a time.
  • Pass the salt and pepper together.
  • Take small bites and chew with your mouth closed.
  • Swallow what you are chewing before you answer questions, ask questions, or take a sip of your drink.
  • When you are finished, place your utensils lengthwise across your plate.

Social Hour and Receptions

  • Have either a drink or food in your hand if there are no tables, but never both at once. You need to make sure you have a hand free to shake hands when meeting someone.
  • When introducing someone, always say the most important person’s name first. (Ex. Dr. Smith, I would like to introduce you to Jane Doe.)
  • Events like these are great networking opportunities. If you are at a loss in how to begin a conversation, ask someone a question about himself or herself.
  • Be considerate about how much alcohol you consume. How you act can make a lasting impression on a number of different people. Play it safe, stick to the one drink rule.
  • Remember, somewhere between 60-80% of jobs and internships are obtained by networking.
  • Be on time.
  • Dress to impress. For more information on dress, check out our dress page.


  • Fill your plate, but don’t overload your plate. Watch the people in front of you for guidance.
  • Don’t go back for seconds unless you are explicitly told.