By Jake Ducharme, Peer Advisor

Where things are:

Above is the general set up of a formal dinner. The number of glasses and utensils varies but the rest is relatively constant. An important thing to remember is to start with the outermost utensil and work your way inward.

Table Manners:



When you arrive be mindful that your host may have seating arrangements in place. If the meal is honoring somebody wait for them to sit before you sit. Once seated, practice good posture and remain upright in the chair without your back against the chair. Additionally, when eating, remain upright and don’t lean over your plate


Unfold napkin in one smooth motion without shaking and immediately place it in your lap after being seated


  • Hold your fork in your left hand, tines downward.
  • Hold your knife in your right hand, an inch or two above the plate.
  • Extend your index finger along the top of the blade.
  • Use your fork to spear and lift food to your mouth.
  • When you are not actively using your knife, but it has food on it, you should rest it on your plate with the sharp edge facing toward you; this symbolizes that you are peaceful and non-aggressive.
  • If your knife is not needed, it remains on the table.

Dinner Conversation


  • “stop” – do not speak without stopping to think about what you are about to say;
  • “look” – pay attention to the expression of the person with whom you are talking;
  • “listen” – listening is the most important conversational skill.
  • “watch” – keep your eyes on whomever you are talking with.


Small Talk

Many times you will be engaged in small talk with a variety of people. The best way to be prepared for small talk is to be up to date on current events. Other appropriate topics include work, hobbies, family, pop culture etc. Keep the conversation light and don’t bring up controversial topics. Those may include religious beliefs, politics, financial situation, illness, divorce or an affair, someone’s weight, height, shoe size, age or mental health, harmful gossip, and racial, ethnic or sexually oriented jokes.


Remember F.O.R.M. for conversation safety:






Be Prepared for Business Meals

Execute proper table manners as well as:

  • Be sure of the date and time of your meal
  • If you are unsure of the location of the restaurant scope it out before hand
  • Dress well. Over dressing is better than under
  • Arrive 10-15 minutes early
  • Wait to discuss business
  • Follow up and send a thank you note after the meal


Always remember: TURN YOUR PHONE OFF

Good Luck Canes!