Basic Dining Etiquette – The Place Setting

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 116,418
    Nancy Mitchell of The Etiquette Advocate breaks down how to navigate a place setting.

    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, my name is Nancy Mitchell and I am with the Etiquette Advocate. Today, we are talking about dining etiquette.

    I am going to show you a place setting today and help you to navigate the place setting. Today, you will see a very elaborate place setting, which may not always be the case when you dine for business or pleasure. But, this will help you to be comfortable when you are in a situation, where utensils are placed in a certain way and you need to know how to use them.

    Sit down, look at the place setting; youll pick up cues about what the meal is going to be. Utensils for instance, are set in the order that they will be used, from the outside in, toward your service plate. The same is with glassware. Glassware is set in the order that it will be used. Use those cues to know what to expect in a dining situation. Lets look first at the utensils. As I mentioned, this is a very elaborate setting, you will not always see this, when you go to dine in a restaurant, obviously you will be given the utensils that you need. As you order specific courses, other utensils will arrive. When you dine in someones home, you may not see as many pieces of utensils, but today we are showing you everything that you may encounter.

    Knives and spoons are going to be set to the right of the plate. Forks are going to be set to the left. Lets start to the right of the plate. The small fork thats set in the bowl of the soup spoon, tells you there will be a seafood cocktail. Next, is going to be a soup, because there is a soup spoon. The next spoon that you see is going to be for coffee or tea. The next knife you see is going to be for a fish course. The next knife is going to be for salad course because in the United States we serve a salad before the entree is served. The next knife and the final knife closest to your plate will be for your entree, your main course.

    Looking out to the left, forks are also set in the order that they will be used. The fork on the outside is the fish fork, for the fish course. Next, will be your salad fork followed by the main course or the entree fork. So, when you sit down, take a look at your place setting, pick up some cues from how it set. Silverware thats set above the place setting is for dessert. You will never be worried about whether or not to use that for salad or soup. If its above the place setting, its for dessert. Leave it there until the end of the meal. Later when we talk about the dessert course, well tell you how to move those into place.

    There is a code about your place setting. If you remember the letters BMW, you will always know where your place setting begins and where it ends. When you are seated at a very, very crowded dining room table, often you dont know if your bread plate is on your left or your right. If you remember the letters BMW as we read them left to right, think about superimposing the letter B over your bread plate, M for main course or the middle of your place setting and W for wine, water or the W in glassware, you will never use the wrong bread plate. BMW is a guide to your place setting.

    Next, well talk about the napkin, how to use it and where to place it.