What Direction Should Food be Passed Around the Table?

Business Dining Etiquette Tips & Table Manners Advice Q & A

Q. – Pass to the left or right?

I am hosting a client and her husband to dinner at our house and I was wondering in what direction should food be passed around the table. Is there a dining etiquette rule for this and is it the same table manners for restaurants?

– Lefty Wright in Victoria

A. – Dear Lefty

Serving dishes a matter of life and death?

This table manners rule started centuries ago as a matter of life and death. In the bad old good-old days, the lords of the manor were armed and servants weren’t. If you unexpectedly served a dish to your master from his right side, you ran the risk of jostling his hand as he reached for his goblet of wine.

Sorry M’Lord

Not only might you interrupt his drinking and carousing but you might spill his drink and this was the days before servant unions and dry-cleaning. Wine and blood stains were hard to get out of frilly white cuffs.

If you were lucky

Uh-oh, so spilling his lordship’s drink, might only earn you a slap, if you were lucky. (If you weren’t lucky, it might terminate your employment and terminate you!) Thus serving food from the left became the safest way to avoid problems and possible death.

So how should food be passed

So nowadays restaurant servers usually serve food in from your left and remove it from your right. When passing food around the table, diners should follow the same rule; passing to the person on your right. In other words the food should move anti-clockwise around the table whether at a restaurant or at home.

What if someone passes a dish in the wrong direction?

Now that you know which direction should food be passed, what if? What do you do if someone passes a dish in the wrong direction? Draw your sword and… no no, just accept it and move it along. (And be glad we live in more civilized and egalitarian times.)

Bonus Tip

BTW a classy touch is to hold the platter to allow the other person to serve themselves then give them the plate to do the same for the next person. (For more dining etiquette tips and tutorials attend one of our public seminars or view our Wall Street Journal #1 rated online dining training.)

Posted by Terry Pithers – Canadian Business Dining Etiquette Expert and proper table manners plate passer

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