Basic Table Manners: A Review

One of my part-time jobs requires that I stand around in restaurants a great deal. While I’m usually quite busy, there are times when I have a few idle moments and usually spend that time observing people in the dining room/area. On some days, and in some restaurants, that’s not always a pleasant diversion.

Manners only happen two days a year

Simply put, there a great many of us walking the streets of the U.S. who don’t seem to know basic table manners. I’m sure YOU do, but just in case you know someone who could use a refresher, I’ll provide this handy reference list that you can pass along:


Sit up straight. This is possibly my worst offense, not just because I have poor posture but also because I’m usually cold. I’m trying to be mindful of it at all times, but especially so when I’m out in public. This doesn’t mean sitting ramrod straight, but more along the lines of slouching, leaning back in the chair, or slumping.

Don’t talk with your mouth full of food. No one wants to see it. No one. (Note to parents: please teach your children this rule. Young ones and others who lack the ability get a pass, but your healthy 12-year old should know better.)

Eat quietly. This one is near and dear to my heart. I should not be able to hear you all the way across the restaurant. This holds true for both chewing AND slurping.

Eat slowly. It’s better for your innards, plus you’ll enjoy the meal more.

Take small bites. It makes all the rules listed above much easier to manage.

Use your napkin! Put it in your lap when you first sit down at the table so you don’t forget. Basic etiquette says that if you have to leave the table, you should put the napkin on the chair–that it should never be placed on the table–but to be honest, if I’m in a fast food-type place or other restaurant with suspect seating, I put my napkin on the table or start with a fresh (paper) napkin when I return to my seat.

Keep your elbows off the table. It was the second table manner I learned (after chewing with my mouth CLOSED.)

Wipe your mouth before drinking.
This will help avoid that lipstick-on-the-cup ugliness.

Be mindful of excessive clinking. Stir your coffee/tea/whatever as long as you want as long as you’re not clinking the spoon against the cup or glass.

Excuse yourself when leaving the table. It’s only polite.

Never put your knife or fork back on the table once you’ve picked them up. If you need to put one of them down, place it on the side of the plate. When you’re finished eating, place both knife and fork side by side on your plate, diagonally.

Those are just some basics, and most aren’t particularly fussy. Feel free to chime in with your own. I’ll add them to the pre-printed cards I’m going to make and pass out to diners who might benefit from them. :)

2 thoughts on “Basic Table Manners: A Review

  1. I so break the rules! Elbows! But I did know we are supposed to put our napkins on our laps when we first sit down. My boys don’t even know which side to put the forks on so I clearly did not do a good job there.

  2. I am never eating out again ! ;-)

    Keep your conversation to a level that only the people at the table hear it. It drives me crazy when you learn a person’s whole life just by sitting near them! ;-)

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