Mastering Formal Dining

Informal vs formal dining etiquette

Whether you’re enjoying a casual meal with friends or a date at a high-end restaurant, dining etiquette rules are the same. Just as with manners in other situations, they all focus around consideration for others.

Dining - Tablescape

Q: How do I make sure I’m drinking out of the right glass or using the right bread plate?

A: If you’re unsure about which bread plate or glass of water is yours, you can check with two options.

  1. Use the acronym, BMW (yes like the car manufacturer): Bread, Main, Water starting from the left. Or, use the simplified American version: dry (items) left, wet (items) right.

  2. Use both of your hands where your index finger and thumbs form a circle with other fingers staying straight (like mirror images of the “OK” symbol”). On your left hand, it will look like a lowercase B which resembles Bread and your right hand will look like a lowercase D which resembles Drinks.

Q: What about utensils? There can be so many of them, it’s so intimidating!

A: If you’re unsure which utensil to use first, start from the outside in, or observe other diners around you. Depending on the dining style you choose, be sure to stick with it throughout the entire meal.

American style, also known as the criss-cross style, is where you’ll cut a piece of meat with the fork in your left hand and your knife in your right hand. After you finish cutting the piece of meat, you’ll lay down your knife on the top right corner of your plate, then you switch the fork to your right hand to consume your food. You repeat this process all throughout your meal.

Continental European style is where your utensils don’t switch hands as in the American style; your fork stays in your left hand You can use the knife as a pusher to help tricky foods onto the back of the fork.

Remember: once a utensil leaves the table, it never touches the table again. It is always placed properly on the plate.

Q: Do I have to tell people that I’m going to the restroom?

A: No! A simple “Excuse Me” will suffice. They don’t need to know where you’re headed.

Feel free to ask your etiquette and communication questions by emailing We’ll do our best to get to as many as possible