Table Manners Cheat Sheet

Have you ever been invited to a fancy dinner and with your mouth-watering, been excited to eat… but then had to choose between the five different knives and forks laid on your table? What do you choose?! Where do you start?! When can you start eating already?!

Don’t worry, we’ll make table manners and etiquette easy for you. Read below to see the RITE way to get eating and enjoy your food with class and style…


If the restaurant you’re planning on going to is popular, make sure to book at least a week in advance. If it’s a week booking, or the restaurant isn’t always too busy… you can get away with booking a couple days in advance instead. Reconfirm your booking the on the day you’re meant to go out. Sometimes the restaurant calls you instead to confirm instead – great!

Ready to order

Yay! You’ve arrived at the restaurant, you’ve scoped through the menu and made your decision. Close your menu and place it on the table to signal to your waiter that you’re ready to make your order.

Your napkin

Put that baby on your lap pronto. If given a wet towel to wipe your hands, put it on top of your napkin or on the left of your plate when you’re done.


  • Use the ‘outside in’ rule when choosing your cutlery
    Start with the knife and fork laid on the outside and work your way inwards throughout the different meals being served (starters to dessert).
  • Cutting your food
    Don’t massacre your plate of food into bite size pieces all in one go! You’re not a kid anymore. Cut up one or two bite size pieces at a time.
  • Spoon or fork?
    Use a fork for food served on a plate and a spoon for food served in a bowl. If you’re given a fork AND a spoon, use the fork to steady your food onto your spoon before putting it in your mouth.
  • Don’t leave a spoon in your bowl when eating
    Put it on your side plate between bites instead.

Eating your food

  • Using the salt and peps
    Taste your food before seasoning it. This is logical, of course. If someone asks for the salt, pass the pepper, too.
  • Taking food out your mouth
    If you put the food in your mouth with a utensil, remove it with a utensil. If you were using your fingers, then remove it with your fingers! This can apply to pips or bones.
  • Speaking when eating
    Don’t speak with your mouth full! And put your utensils down. No one wants you waving your fork around like a weapon when telling a story!
  • Reaching
    For items on the table that are difficult to reach, avoid leaning over somebody. Ask for it to be passed to you instead.
  • Unfamiliar food
    Wait for someone at the table to eat it first and watch how it’s done. You can also ask how it’s eaten, and if you’re not feeling experimental… then simply leave the food alone.
  • Eating loudly
    Chewing and swallowing loudly are considered rude. Slurping too.
  • Elbows
    Eating with your elbows sticking out is called “flying” and no, it’s not considered cool. Try tuck them to your side when you eat. Elbows can go on the table if you’re eating food with your hands.
  • Food stuck in your teeth
    Get a toothpick and remove it privately. If you have braces, try and keep them clean. Either watch what you eat or pack along some floss. Don’t clean them in public though!
  • Sneezing/coughing at the table
    Try do this quietly and cover your mouth with a napkin when this happens (nobody wants germs flying into their food or on them!) Don’t blow your nose at a table. If you need to, excuse yourself and leave. Unless it’s an emergency, use a handkerchief or tissue to wipe your shnoz – not a napkin!
  • Hands
    When not using your hands, don’t fiddle (especially with your hair!) Keep the unused hand in your lap.
  • Seconds
    If you’re having a meal as a guest, take a second helping but never a third.
  • If you’re not happy with your meal, send it back
    However, do not make a scene. Quietly inform a waiter. Very often it is not their fault. They deliver the food, they don’t make it! If there is a problem with the bill, quietly discuss it with the waiter. If they do not cooperate, ask to speak to a manager instead.
  • If your soup is too hot
    Don’t stir it, blow on it instead.
  • Cover your mouth
    People used to believe that the breath symbolized the spirit and covered the mouth when yawing to stop the spirit from escaping. We still do this today! Cover your mouth when you burp and excuse yourself, too.
  • Hats
    Don’t wear a hat when eating. You can do this at fast food restaurants, however.
This is the proper way to indicate where you are in a meal. You don’t even have to say anything.

Excuse yourself from the table

Just standing up and leaving is rude! Excuse yourself, and if you’re leaving briefly and planning to come back, say so.


  • Electronics
    Using electronics at the table or during a meal is a NO NO! Eating together is a wonderful way to connect with your loved ones. Also, being mindful of the food you’re eating prepares your stomach for digestion, making you process your food better and feel fuller sooner. If your phone rings, leave it till after your meal. Food time is sacred time!
  • Hot beverages
    Use a spoon to taste a hot beverage. If you burn your tongue, take a quick sip of cool water to counteract the burn. Ouch!
  • Toasts
    When someone offers a toast to you, don’t drink and toast yourself!
  • Conversations
    If in an interview, avoid sloppy or messy food. Avoid controversial topics as well.

And lastly….paying

Usually the host (the person who did the inviting) asks for the check and pays the bill. If there is no host, usually the most senior person at the table pays. Keep in mind though that nowadays many couples split the bill. This is okay too.

So, there you have it. Go forth, RITES friends, and impress your interviewer, friends or family with your great table manners. It’s a skill that is slowly being forgotten – but don’t worry, us at RITES are here to remind you. Enjoy your meal!

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