Dinner Etiquette Lessons: More Than Forks and Spoons
Each spring, Gonzaga’s Career & Professional Development team sets about 100 placemats on tables to provide a formal dinner simulation.
These etiquette dinners – as they are known in colleges throughout the country – serve to instruct students on the intricacies of the professional dining experience so as to help them feel more comfortable and confident in any dining setting, whether in a person’s home or in a restaurant.
“Etiquette sometimes is misunderstood,” says Ray Angle, assistant vice president for Career & Professional Development. “People perceive it as being elitist, only for high society, but it’s not. Etiquette is a series of decisions we make in a variety of situations that relate to the context and culture of any situation. There are etiquette guidelines for how you behave at a theater or at a museum, so while some people would say this perpetuates elitism, my firm belief is that etiquette, at its heart, is about inclusion and making people feel a sense of belonging.”
He holds certification from the Etiquette Institute, a business he partnered with for many years before acquiring the institute during the pandemic. Outside work hours, Angle teaches in the certificate program.
“If I understand the guidelines about eating a dinner, then I’ll feel more comfortable, and we want our students to feel confident and competent in anything they do career-wise,” he says. Then, etiquette practice moves beyond the dinner table and into interviews, Zoom meetings, conference rooms and more.
The process of hosting a dinner is costly, so the department relies on student interest to determine whether to host one in any given year.
Students can expect to learn the basics of a table setting, such as which glass is theirs, and why utensils are placed where they are, and making conversation, which is important. Each table has a Gonzaga employee or human resources representative serving as a table host whose job is to make sure everything runs smoothly.
“How I got interested in etiquette is directly related to helping students prepare for their careers,” Angle says. “We’re about helping students clarify and attain their career and educational goals, and if knowing how to eat a meal is the way to help you get there, we want to do it.”
This year’s etiquette dinner, “Dine & Shine: Mastering Table Manners While Making Conversation,” will be held April 24 at 6 p.m. in the Hemmingson Ballroom. Interested students should watch for promotions in Morning Mail to RSVP.