Q: Recently I was attending a business dinner with about 30 people in our party. I thought the proper etiquette for when I could start eating in a group this large, was when the person to my right and left were both served, it was OK to begin. As I started to eat, another person in the party 4 seats down from me (and already had his food) gave me a terrible look….his thought was we need to wait for everyone in the group to be served. With a group this large, the meal came out in phases (and was already getting cold) so what should I do when faced with this situation again?
A: The “rule” is, unless the meal consists of cold courses, your fellow diners (including the host, if any) will usually urge you to go ahead and start so your food won’t grow cold. If the group is large, begin eating once at least three of you have been given your food. At a small table of only two to four people, it’s better to wait until everyone else has been served before starting to eat. If the meal consists of cold courses, such as sandwiches, you should wait until everyone has been served. At a formal or business meal, you should either wait until everyone is served to start or begin when the host asks you to.