Dining Etiquette: Place Settings

Reading the Table Setting

 Place settings can be confusing. What are all these plates, glasses, and utensils? Which ones are to be used and when? Improper use of dishes, glasses, and utensils can potentially damage a business relationship, which a meal is supposed to build. You want to know which utensils, glasses, and plates are yours and how to use them, whether attending a four- course business function or a formal business dinner or banquet with pre-set place settings. Learning how to read the place setting will take out the guesswork, so you can dine with confidence and concentrate on business—the real “main course” of the meal.

When you are at a table where the place settings are pre-set very close, a common question is “What is mine”?

Your bread plate and butter knife are located on your left, and your glasses are on your right. A clue to remember what is yours: Liquids on the right, solids on the left. Another clue to determine what belongs to you is the BMW—not the car—it is a clue to locate your bread (left), main course (center), and water (right).

Think of your place setting as a map for the meal. At business functions where the menu is pre-set, your place will be set with all the utensils you’ll need. In an upscale restaurant, the table will be pre-set with most of the utensils that you will need regardless of what you order. The soup spoon may already be at your place. If you don’t order soup, the waiter will remove the soup spoon and so on with other courses. If the place setting does not include a necessary item, the server will bring it with the course.

Business Function Table Setting – Four-Course Meal

Most business functions include four-course, semi-formal meals. The silver and flatware laid out in this picture illustrate the different utensils and their placement for a four-course, semi-formal meal. Note that the napkin could be placed to the left or in the center of the dinner plate. In this case, the napkin is placed on the dinner plate.

   Four-Course, Semi-Formal Table Setting

Dining Etiquette: Place Settings

The placement and choice of utensils let you know what will be served during the meal and the order in which the food will be consumed. This place setting indicates what will be served and in which order: soup first, salad second, main course third, and dessert last.

Please notice that the salad fork placed to the furthest left and the salad knife placed next to the soup spoon let you know that the salad will be served after the soup, and before the main course. The dinner fork and the dinner knife situated next to the main plate will be used for the main course served after the salad. In these types of settings, when there are two knives of a similar size, the dinner knife is the one with sharp edges.

Formal Business Function Table Setting – Five-Course Meal

At a formal business function, a five-course meal may be served. The table setting will have more utensils, which can be confusing. The silver and flatware laid out in this picture illustrate the different utensils and their placement. Note that the napkin could be placed to the left or in the center of the dinner plate. In this case, the napkin is placed on the dinner plate.

            Five-Course, Formal Place Setting

Business Function Table Setting

The placement and choice of utensils let you know what will be served during the meal and the order in which the food will be consumed. This place setting for a formal business meal indicates what will be served and in which order: The seafood cocktail will be served first, soup second, fish third, main course fourth, and the salad will be served last.

Please notice that the cocktail fork placed to the far right indicates that a seafood cocktail will be served first. The soup spoon placed next to the cocktail fork lets you know that the soup will be the next course. The fish fork placed to the far left and the fish knife located on the right before the dinner knife means that a fish course will be served after the soup and before the main course. The dinner fork placed before the salad fork lets you know that the main course will be served next, and the salad will be the last course.

The easiest way to read the place settings and determine which utensil to use is to start with the knife, fork, or spoon that is the farthest from your plate. Work your     way in, using one utensil for each course. If you remember the rule to work from the outside in, you’ll be fine. Also as the meal progresses, the used silverware for each will be removed as that course is finished.

Even though all these utensils may seem confusing, please notice that as the meal progresses the used silverware will be removed, making the identification of the utensils easier.

Stemware

The stemware is used along with the courses that will be served at a business meal.

In this picture the water goblet is smaller than the wine glasses. The wine glasses start with the small sherry glass for the soup course. The white wine glass goes with the fish dish, and the red wine glass goes with the entrée. The champagne flute for champagne, will be served at the beginning of the dessert course. Each will be filled appropriately with each course and then removed when the course is finished.