Basic Dining Etiquette – The Napkin

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 86,026
    Nancy Mitchell of The Etiquette Advocate shows how to politely use a napkin.

    Nancy Mitchell

    Nancy R. Mitchell is an established protocol and etiquette consultant and advisor with more than 30 years of experience in the field. Currently, she is an adjunct faculty member at George Washington University, where she developed and teaches protocol courses to Event Management Certificate Program students in the School of Business and Public Management, and at Stratford University, Falls Church, VA. She serves also as protocol and special events consultant to the Library of Congress, the world’s largest library and cultural center. For 23 years, Mitchell was Director of Special Events and Public Programs at the Library of Congress where she and her staff were responsible for planning and managing over 400 events each year. She coordinated the institution’s major special events, visits of heads of state and other foreign dignitaries, fundraising galas, conferences and meetings. As the Library’s chief protocol advisor, she served as liaison to the White House, U.S Department of State, the Congress, the Supreme Court and other government agencies, foreign embassies, academia and corporations. Mitchell owns The Etiquette Advocate, Inc., a firm providing etiquette and protocol training to corporations, universities, embassies, government agencies, non-profit organizations and individuals. She is the etiquette consultant to Engaged! magazine, has been featured on Good Morning America, Fox 5 News, WTOP Radio and National Public Radio, and is quoted on matters of etiquette and protocol by the New York Times, Washington Business Journal, and the Washington Post. She is a co-owner of the firm, Protocol Partners-Washington Center for Protocol, Inc., and is a member of the Protocol and Diplomacy International Protocol Officers Association and the Women Business Owners of Montgomery Country (MD).

    Nancy Mitchell: Hello, I am Nancy Mitchell with the Etiquette Advocate and today, we are talking about dining etiquette.

    I would like to talk with you today about using a napkin and how to place it, while you are dining. The very first thing you do when you take your seat at a dining table is, think about your napkin. In many case, your place card may be placed in the center of your napkin, if thats the case, place it up here above the silverware which is for dessert.

    Then look to your hostess, if you are dining in a private home, wait for your host or your hostess to take his or her napkin from the table before taking yours. If you are dining for business or in a restaurant setting, take your napkin immediately when you sit down. Today, we are using a very large dinner napkin and normally everything you see me do now would happen below the level of the table, but I am going to use this a little higher, so that you can see what I am doing. I am going to unfold the napkin in half and until it's in half, and I am going to place it on my lap with the fold up to my waist. All of that needs to happen below the level of the table, so you are not flapping the napkin out here in midair. There are certain things you will and will not do with a napkin. It has one purpose and one purpose only and that is to blot your mouth between bites, between courses, when you feel that there is something on the outside of your mouth. It is not meant to touch your face in any other way it never touches your nose. It never helps you, if youve had very hot sauce or whatever is going on with a very spicy meal. It is only meant to blot your mouth, it returns immediately to your waist. A napkin is not used to clean the silverware that may have spots on it. It's not meant to dust your chair, if you see crumbs on your chair, it is only meant to blot your mouth. It has one, one duty if you will, and one duty alone to blot your mouth.

    You will hear us talk later about something called the Silence Service Code, that is a code where you are sending cues to the wait staff about where you are in the process of your meal. The napkin plays into that silent service code, when I am leaving the table temporarily for a telephone call, to visit the rest room; I am going to get up and I am going to put the napkin on the seat of my chair. It tells the wait staff that I am coming back please dont take my course away. When I am completely finished with my dinner, I will fold my napkin in loose folds and I will place it to the left side of my place setting. This sends the message that I am completely finished with my meal, I wont be coming back and you can take away my place setting and thats the Silent Service Code, in relationship to the napkin. Next, we are going to be talking about how to use utensils.