12 dining etiquette rules every professional should know

Restaurant serverWashington Post/GettyShow up to the meal with confidence.

If your worst nightmare is going to lunch with a recruiter and eliminating yourself from the running when you fold your napkin the wrong way, we get it.

And while that particular scenario is unlikely, if you’re so nervous about looking unsophisticated, that may end up hurting your chances.

Below, we’ve rounded up a bunch of key rules to keep in mind when you’re doing business over a meal, so you can show up with confidence.

The ideas are drawn from “The Essentials Of Business Etiquette” by Barbara Pachter and “Don’t Burp in the Boardroom” by Rosalinda Randall.

Here’s what every professional needs to know about dining etiquette.

Never pull out someone's chair for them

It's OK to hold open a door for your guest, but Pachter says you shouldn't pull someone's chair out for them, regardless of gender. In a business setting, you should leave those gendered social rules behind.

'Both men and women can pull out their own chairs,' she writes.

Wait for the host to take his or her napkin before touching yours

Randall suggests that you keep the napkin folded in half, unfold it below the table, and then place it on your lap.

Know which utensils to use

Each course should have its own utensils, and all of them may already be in front of you or will be placed in front of you as the dishes are served.

In the case that all of the utensils are there at the beginning of the meal, a good general rule is to start with utensils on the outside and work your way in as the meal goes on.

Here's Pachter's guide to using the proper utensils:

'The largest fork is generally the entrée fork. The salad fork is smaller. The largest spoon is usually the soup spoon.

'If you are having a fish course, you may see the fish knife and fork as part of the place setting.

'The utensils above the plate are the dessert fork and spoon, although these may sometimes be placed on either side of the plate or brought in with the dessert.'

Always say 'please' and 'thank you' with wait staff

Washington Post/Getty

'Do not complain or criticise the service or food,' Pachter writes. 'Your complaints will appear negative, and it is an insult to your host to criticise.'

Always break bread with your hands

Pachter says you should never use your knife to cut your rolls at a business dinner. 'Break your roll in half and tear off one piece at a time, and butter the piece as you are ready to eat it.'

Do not spit any inedible food into your napkin

Randall says this is a big faux pas.

Instead, she recommends: 'Using your left index finger and thumb, quickly remove the morsel and place it under a lettuce leaf. Wipe your fingers on your napkin.'

Of course, Randall caveats, you shouldn't do this if you're in the middle of a conversation. In that case, excuse yourself to fix the situation in the restroom.

Know the 'rest' and 'finished' positions

Christian Petersen/Getty

'Place your knife and fork in the rest position (knife near the top of plate, fork across middle of plate) to let the waiter know you are resting,' Pachter writes.

'Use the finished position (fork below the knife, diagonally across the plate) to indicate that you have finished eating.'

Do not push away or stack your dishes

'You are not the waiter,' Pachter writes. 'Let the wait staff do their jobs.'

Do not use the napkin as a tissue

The napkin should only be used for blotting the sides of your mouth. If you need to blow your nose, Pachter advises excusing yourself to the bathroom.

Refrain from cleaning your teeth at the table

This one seems like an obvious no-no, but it still happens.

'Don't whip out the dental floss or use your toothpick or pinky nail to remove the stuck piece of broccoli while you're at the table,' Randall writes.

And 'don't swoosh your finger around your mouth to get the leftover chunks. (That's super gross!)'

Never ask for a to-go box

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

'You are there for business, not for the leftovers,' Pachter writes. 'Doggie bags are ok for family dinners but not during professional occasions.'

The host should always pay

'If you did the inviting, you are the host, and you should pay the bill, regardless of gender,' Pachter writes.

'What if a male guest wants to pay? A woman does have some choices. She can say, 'Oh, it's not me; it is the firm that is paying.' Or she can excuse herself from the table and pay the bill away from the guests. This option works for men as well, and it is a very refined way to pay a bill.'

'However, the bottom line is that you don't want to fight over a bill. If a male guest insists on paying despite a female host's best efforts, let him pay,' she says.

This is an update of an article originally posted by Vivian Giang.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.