Fine Dining Rules We’ve Been Breaking Our Entire Lives

Chances are, you don’t do much formal dining, but etiquette is still taught in classes and at finishing schools. And if you’ve ever been nervous about your skills when sitting down to a fancy meal, we can help. Here are a few rules of formal dining courtesy of Myka Meier, founder of Beaumont Etiquette and The Plaza Hotel Finishing Program. She trained under a former member of The Royal Household of the Queen and served as a consultant for “Downton Abbey,” so she really knows her stuff.

  • Never lift your menu off the table - In formal dining, leave at least part of the menu touching the table at all times.
  • Once you sip from a glass, you must sip from the exact same place on that glass for the rest of the evening - That way you don’t end up with a ring on your glass from natural oils or lipstick.
  • Don't clink. Not even for the 'gram - Not only could clinking damage fine glassware, Meier points out, “In very formal dining, the less noise we make, the better.”
  • Keep the rim of your plates as clean as possible - This is out of respect for the servers who’ll be clearing plates and grabbing the edges.
  • Place "discards" on the upper left part of your plate - Our etiquette expert says put your lemon rinds, fish bones, and such there.
  • Keep your bread on the plate at all times unless you are delivering it to your mouth - So butter the bread while it’s on the plate and don’t butter the whole piece at once. Break off the part you’re going to eat, butter it, then pick it up and put it in your mouth. Same goes for bagels, muffins, biscuits, and other bread products.
  • Never say you are going to the restroom - When you need to go, just excuse yourself. No need to say where you’re going.
  • Don't say "bon appetit" - Turns out, this expression isn’t proper here or in France. Meier advises saying, “Please enjoy” instead.
  • Leave one bite left on your plate - It shows you enjoyed the meal, but weren’t so hungry you ate everything - which could be a sign it wasn’t enough food.

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