How Well Do You Know Fine Dining Etiquette?

Olivia Cantor

First things first, which of these items can you put down on the table as you take a seat?

Any small items you may be carrying upon reaching the dining table should not be placed on the table itself. That includes car keys, cellphones, purses, and similar items not necessary for dining.

In the digital age, what is OK to do with one’s smartphone while dining?

While it’s tempting to reach for your cellphone in between courses, don’t. It’s bad manners to take it out, to answer a call or text message, or to surf the internet and check emails while in a fine dining setup. Excuse yourself from the table if you need to answer an urgent call or message.

How should you chew your food?

It’s generally bad manners to eat with your mouth open. It’s especially rude to hear someone chewing their food in a fine dining set-up.

During eating, where should your elbows be?

It’s generally bad manners to place one’s elbows on the table while dining. However, if it’s before or after eating, one can casually put them on the table, but assess the situation before doing so.

When taking the napkin, where should it be placed?

A napkin is there for several purposes, but it should not be seen all the time. Therefore, it should always be placed on one’s lap.

With the many choices of cutlery and dinnerware, which one rule should rule them all?

It doesn’t matter if you’re not familiar with the many types of cutlery laid on the table as long as you follow the “outside-in rule.” That means, you start using the one that’s farthest from the plate (the outside), and then work your way in, toward the plate, using the next cutlery as the meal goes along.

If the fine dining meal is hosted in someone’s house, how do you know where to sit at a dinner table?

Even if the dinner party is at someone’s home, etiquette in seating arrangements should be followed, so take your cue from the host on where to sit. If there are nameplates, look for yours and never switch places with anyone. Never sit at the ends of the tables, for these are reserved for the hosts.

When there are cocktails served before the dinner begins, what should you do with the cocktail glasses once they announce that dinner is ready?

There’s a reason why the cocktails are served in the area where they’re served, separate from the dining area. So whatever you use in that area, like cocktail glasses, you leave them there.

If you’re a guest in a formal dinner party, when will you know when it’s time to eat?

Always take your cue from your hosts. When they announce that dinner is served, then that’s the time you eat.

When seated at a formal dinner table, expect that the food will be served one by one, but following which direction?

If there’s a server putting food on each guest’s plate, expect them to serve everyone in a counterclockwise direction. Passing food from guest to guest should also follow this direction.

When served a bread basket with unsliced loaves, what’s one thing you should remember?

You can slice the full loaf if they are served that way. Just don’t touch them with your fingers directly; use the cloth that comes underneath the bread on the basket to hold it still.

If you get served first, can you immediately eat the food on your plate?

In formal and informal fine dining setups, it’s best to wait for everyone to be served their food before starting to eat what you were served. That’s the proper manner of doing it, and saying you’re very hungry is no excuse for displaying bad manners.

If you have two kinds of plates, one atop of each other, what is the top plate for?

Depending on the fine dining place you go to, the deeper kind of plate atop a more leveled kind of plate is usually used for the salad serving, or sometimes it’s for placing the soup there. They will take that away when you’re done, so you can eat your main course on the dinner plate that’s left there.

While waiting to be served food, from which direction will the server serve you?

Expect food servers to come to your left side when serving you food. So make sure you don’t bump into them while they’re doing their job.

Generally, what’s the suggested way of holding a fork?

Fork tines should generally be facing downward, as if ready to make contact with the food on your plate. This is called continental style of holding cutlery.

How should your napkin come in contact with your mouth?

Sorry folks, but that napkin is not meant to wipe your entire mouth clean. The proper way of using it is to dab your mouth with it, gently.

The proper way of slicing food on your plate and eating it is how?

It’s tempting to slice everything on your plate before eating, but that’s just not proper fine dining etiquette. The rule is, just make a slice and eat that, slice again then eat, one slice at a time, until everything is consumed.

When served anything, is it OK to put salt and pepper on it immediately?

It’s an insult to the chef or the host if you immediately put seasoning on the food before even tasting it. So take a bite first, and see if seasoning is still needed or not.

Can you pass only the salt shaker to someone?

Even if someone requests one or the other only, salt and pepper shakers should be passed on to them together. That’s the general rule when it comes to these two condiments.

When eating soup, what’s the general rule when consuming it?

Slurping, in general, is not a good fine dining gesture in most parts of the world. However, it might be OK in other situations overseas, so play this rule by ear when in a foreign land.

Can you also ask for water to be poured in your wine glass?

Fine dining rules prescribe specific food items or liquids to be placed in the proper dinnerware in front of you. Therefore, never ask them to serve you water in other glasses other than the water goblet or water glass.

When the servers are removing used utensils and dinnerware from your place, where do you expect them to be?

Be careful not to bump into servers clearing the table of used cutlery and dinnerware. They will always be on your right side when doing this.

When taking a break from eating, how should you place your utensils on your plate?

Make sure you place your knife and fork strategically on your plate if you’re not done eating, to alert the servers. You either put your knife on the top right edge with the fork on an angle on the bottom left, or put them on the plate at a 45-degree angle facing you.

If you have a thought to share but you’re still masticating, what’s the general rule here?

Not only is it generally uncouth to speak while your mouth is full, but it is also dangerous. Food particles may wind up in your windpipe instead of your esophagus, and that could make you choke.

In a fine dining setup, should you eat very fast?

While fine dining etiquette may sound stiff and formal to most, the general idea here is to also enjoy the food. Basically, you can eat slow and in a relaxed manner, and truly savor the food and drinks they serve.

If you need to stand up and go somewhere while the dinner is going on, where should you temporarily put your napkin?

Never put your napkin on your plate or on the table if you’re temporarily stepping away from it. Put it on your chair.

Is it OK to make gestures with your hand, even if they’re holding cutlery?

It’s generally not nice to gesture with your hands in the air while you’re eating. So of course doing that while holding cutlery is a genuine no-no.

Where do you hold the white wine glass?

The white wine glass should be held at the stem. For red wine, you can either hold it at the stem or the bowl.

Can you extend your hand with your fork over to your friend across the table, especially if you want to sample the food on their plate?

The best way to sample your friend’s food across the table is to hand them your fork, which they will use to spear a morsel and hand it back to you. Reaching over is considered rude behavior in a fine dining setup.

Should you sit up straight while fine dining?

Hunching over your plate or slouching during the whole course of the meal could be read in a negative way. Other guests or the host will think that you’re disinterested with the food they’re serving you, so sit up straight.

When there’s food you ate with your fingers, is it OK to lick your fingers after that course?

Even if they indeed serve you finger food, you don’t lick your fingers after eating them. Use your napkin to wipe your fingers.

When finishing up food on your plate, which gesture is considered as rude?

To show your respect and appreciation, never make a scraping motion on your plate with your utensils. It’s seen as a disrespectful act if you do, not to mention annoying and ill-mannered.

When you put your utensils on the plate together in a parallel position and side by side, what does that signify?

Don’t forget to put your knife and fork together, side by side, in a parallel vertical position on your plate when you’re done eating. This means the servers will stop serving you, and they can also take your used utensils and plates away.

During the whole fine dining experience, your hands should never be shown touching which visible part of your body?

Since your hands will be needed during the dining act, it should never touch any other body part for cleanliness or propriety’s sake. Therefore, avoid touching your hair during the course of the meal.

When you’re leaving the table, what should you do with the napkin?

The napkin is usually found on the left side of the table placement before the meal begins. Therefore, you should also leave it there after the meal, and folded, too.

Explore More Quizzes

Image: Tom Werner/DigitalVision/Getty Images

About This Quiz

Good manners and right conduct are topics that ought to be taught to every person in the world. In schools, there have been many subjects that pertain to these topics, and they have covered the basics of not behaving like a neanderthal. But how many of these subjects go the extra mile and add up to something that we all have to learn in this lifetime? Yes, we're talking about manners regarding mealtime. Or in short, fine dining etiquette.

It's such a no-brainer for a handful of these fine dining etiquette tips and teachings to reach our lives. That's because we also apply them outside fine dining structures. Of course, wherever you're dining or whichever kind of dining situation you would find yourself in, the thing is, we all should start at the basics of propriety. So we included those here in the quiz.

After that, we should also know some basics about handling our food, our cutlery, the dinnerware, and of course -- ourselves. For the manners part does really pertain to how we behave in such a mealtime situation. 

Do you think you know much about how to conduct yourself in these situations? Then take a look at the quiz and test yourself!

About HowStuffWorks Play

How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!