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Fine dining etiquette at a restaurant is a little bit different in some very specific areas from etiquette at a private dinner party at someone's home. For the most part, however, much of the same rules apply in both situations. Basic table manners, such as sitting up straight, keeping elbows off the table and chewing with a closed mouth are imperative. Proper napkin and utensil use is also an important part of fine dining etiquette. A person's clothing choice should be carefully considered as well.
When people dine in a casual environment, attire is much less important than it is at an elegant meal. In a relaxed atmosphere, t-shirts, jeans, shorts or sneakers might be appropriate. In general, that type of clothing is not considered proper fine dining etiquette.
Instead, women might want to wear a tasteful dress or an attractive pantsuit. Men may wish to wear slacks, a button-down dress shirt and a jacket. In fact, many high-end restaurants have very strict dress codes, which sometimes require a man to wear a jacket or sports coat.
Fine dining etiquette should be observed even before there is any discussion of food. If a gentleman is escorting a lady to dinner, for example, he should assist her by pulling out her chair so she can be seated. He may then help her by gently pushing the chair forward until she is in a comfortable position at the table. Once she is seated, then he may also sit, as long as there are no other women in the group who are still standing.
If a woman stands up for any reason, such as when she would like to use the ladies room, or powder room, men should also rise. In other words, if she is standing at the table, he should be as well. Once she retreats to the ladies room, however, he is free to sit down until she returns. When she approaches the table, he should rise again and may assist her with her chair.
When the waiter comes to the table and is ready to accept dinner selections, a gentleman may ask a lady for permission to order for her in some cases. If she accepts the offer, then he may proceed by ordering her meal before making his own selection. Otherwise, it is polite to allow all women at the table to place their orders before the men.
When courses are brought to the table at a restaurant, it is impolite to begin eating until all guests in the group have been served. When an elegant dinner is presented at someone's home, however, guests should observe fine dining etiquette by waiting for the hostess to pick up silverware to eat before anyone else begins his meal. In some instances, the hostess may request that guests start eating before her, in which case it is okay for others to do so.
Silverware at place settings will usually be set in a way that is easy for guests to ascertain which fork goes with each course. A simple rule is to start with the fork and knife farthest from the plate and work inward. For example, the salad fork will generally be placed farthest from the plate, and then the dinner fork is placed closer to it.
Before the meal begins, dinner napkins should be neatly laid across the lap. If a guest feels the need to eliminate something from his mouth during the meal, it should be transferred directly from his mouth to the napkin. This should be done as discretely as possible so that other guests do not catch a glimpse of the napkin's content. At the conclusion of the meal, the napkin should be placed on the left side of the place setting, partially folded. Utensils that were used for each course should remain on the plate for which they were utilized.