Thursday, December 1, 2011

Social & Business Etiquette Basics, John Robert Powers Manila

With all the food-tastings, events and formal dinner invitations, I knew I was bound to encounter foodie experiences like my recent Thanksgiving Dinner at the exclusive Cafe 9501, Hotel Buffets like Sofitel's Spiral, Enderun-type and Culinary Restaurants, 5-Course Meals like what we had in Society Lounge or other fine dining and multi-cuisine restaurants like Aubergine especially this holiday season. Learning the ropes of social and business etiquette, understanding table settings, cutlery and seating arrangements when it comes to dining took around 2 hours with John Robert Powers.

Remember Anne Hathaway's movie The Princess Diaries? Well, it's not as bad as that but it can be once you get to the other Social & Business Etiquette levels in JRP. What I'm going to write below are information and answers to questions that I've been meaning to ask somebody for a long, long time. It was just pure fun to put my questions out there in a class, where I don't have to look like a complete idiot for having them.

1. Manners are ultimately about concern for the other, common sense and generosity of spirit. Etiquette is just a guide or a code for us to practice these manners in a setting, where there are celebrations and ceremonies for example and where we take into account the beliefs and traditions of others as well. 

2. On invitations - always include the date, time, place, occasion, attire and RSVP (where a reply of yes or no is a must 48 hours after receiving the invitation) or regrets only (where guests would call only if they cannot come).

3. On seating arrangements - Ask the host if you're not sure. A social function is about you learning about other people (so it makes sense that the host might not assign you to sit with your partner). On a rectangular table formal setting, you can only talk to the people beside you and up to one diagonal in front of you. No skipping and risk not including the people beside you. For a round or square table formal setting, the environment allows you to talk with anybody on the table. If you're assigned to another table and you want to switch to the other table, you are imposing your inconvenience on other people so it's a no-no too.

4. On topics of conversation - Apparently, tsismis, financial, political, religious, gross conversations, talking about other people, illnesses, death and opposites is a no-no. What's left to talk about are entertainment, sports, interests, hobbies and events.

5. On the table setting - To determine the red from the white wine glass, make the openings meet. The one with the wider opening is the red wine glass, the narrower the white wine glass. There's also a glass for the universal drink like water and the universal alcohol like champagne. There will be up to three forks and three knives on the table, any extras will come with the dish. The rounded spoon is for creamy soup. The one that looks like a bigger regular spoon is for clear soup.

6. On my questions 
- No elbows on the table, only up to wrists. Arms are okay, if not formal.
- Break the bread into bite-sized pieces with your hands. Butter the bread with butter knife. Unless hot, cut bread with knife, break then butter.
- On greasy fingers - Ask for finger bowls.
- On extra sauce or gravy or dressing, e.g. On salads, you are allowed to break your bread with hands and swirl with your fork.
- For bones in your mouth - Use paper napkin then spit or cover then use fingers, spit it the way it came in, generally what must be done in private must be done in private.
- If going to the bathroom - Leave knife and fork at 7:20 position, place napkin on seat or left side of the table.
- If done - Leave fork, knife or spoon at 4:20 position, place napkin at the center of the table.
- For pasta - Twirl and do not cut for formal dining, no knife near mouth, if informal twirl into base of spoon.
- For things spilled, pick it up and place it on the side of your plate.
- Say nothing if you have something in your mouth.
- No mixing of food.
- Ask the waiter to take the red and white wine glass away if you're not going to use it.
- Generally, less is best - Once done with your plate, ask to take away.
- Once through with cutlery, do not put back on the table, leave it on the plate.
- There's such a thing as in on left (solids), out on right (liquids) so give space for the servers.
- On soup - You can't spit out if too hot, what you can do is scoop at top area first, scoop outward, do not blow, no sound in sipping, you may finish it just tilt away from you and scoop away from you.
- The salt and pepper are always together. Pass it together.
- If food is to share, split it already.
- On buffet, don't get people plates, it's self-service, cannot jump the queue, no picking, don't build up your food in one plate, you can go a lot of times, no leftover is best.
- On toasting - you stand, the toasted drinks after them, if representative of the toasted drinks with them
- If something falls off, ask the waiter to pick up to be safe. 
- On crumbs, the servers should clean it.
- Occupy 2/3 of the seat when dining.
- No purses on the table.
- When there is no more food, it becomes a regular table.

This is just a guide and it's not set in stone. Use it well!

John Robert Powers Quezon City
G/F Cinderella Building, 825 EDSA, Quezon City


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