EnOv8 guides you through the essential elements to consider when planning a sit-down luncheon or dinner

If you are planning a formal sit down luncheon or dinner, impress your guests with our tips. With our helpful hints, you can navigate the etiquette of your formal event with ease.

Plated or Buffet?

The more formal the event you are holding, the more appropriate it is to serve a plated meal for the occasion.  Apart from an invitation to a drinks party, the expectation of table service holds if your dress code is formal and your guests are required to wear a jacket & tie or evening wear.  You should always think twice about asking well-dressed attendees to navigate a buffet service.

Allowing for dietary constraints

Before finalising the menu take into consideration that some of your guests may have certain food restrictions and allergies. The last thing you want at your dinner is for your any of your guests not to be able to eat the food. Here are the most common food restrictions deciphered:

  • Vegetarian: Vegetarians do not eat meat, poultry or fish.
  • Vegan: Vegans do not eat any animal products, so dairy and eggs dishes are off limits as well as any dish set with animal derived gelatine.
  • Nut allergy: Nut allergy is one of the most common and dangerous allergies and must be noted and catered for very carefully.
  • Lactose intolerance: For lactose intolerant guests dairy products are off-limits.
  • Diabetic: Diabetics have to limit their sugar intact.  Fruit juice and fizzy drinks are off-limits, and so are high sugar content desserts.
  • Celiac: Celiacs are gluten intolerant.  Wheat, barley, rye and oats are off-limits.
  • Kosher: Observant Jews will abstain from eating pork and shellfish, and kosher meat is butchered and prepared in a certain manner.  Some kosher guests will refrain from eating dairy and meat at the same meal.  A specialist caterer is advised for kosher meals.
  • Halaal: Observant Muslims will abstain from eating pork or meat that has not been prepared and blessed in a certain manner, and alcohol is off-limits. A specialist caterer is advised for halaal meals.
  • Hindu: Hindu diets vary regionally from strict vegetarians, to those that avoid beef, and some who do not eat vegetables such as onions, garlic and mushrooms.  A vegetarian menu should typically cater well for your Hindu guests.

Navigating a multi-course meal

Most multi-course meals in the Western world follow a standard sequence, influenced by traditional French haute cuisine or “gourmet cuisine”.

  • Amuse-bouches or amuse-guele:  “Amuse mouth” – a single bite hors d’oeuvre served according to the chef’s selection alone.
  • Hors d’oeuvre or the appetiser: Also known as an “entreé”, this course typically does not include meat.
  • Soup or relevés (lighter courses): This includes a possible variety of lighter dishes, including fish, and with an emphasis towards vegetables.
  • Main course or entreé (USA): This is the most important course and typically the largest
  • Salad: The salad course may be as simple as a dressed green salad  green or also include vegetables.  In the American tradition the salad course is served before the main course and sometimes with the cheese.
  • Cheese selection: In the UK the cheese selection usually follows dessert, including  nut and raisins.
  • Dessert : The meal ends with a hot or cold dessert and may be followed with some fresh fruit.

Each course will be paired with an appropriate wine.

Five basic rules for setting a balanced menu

  1. A well-balanced menu does not duplicate taste. When cheese is served as an hors d’oeuvre, it is not incorporated into a another dish.
  2. Because sweet foods dull the appetite, fruit is not served as an appetiser with the exception of grapefruit, which has a sharp taste.
  3. When a first course is served in pastry, dessert with a crust is not appropriate.
  4. If a creamed soup is served as a first course, creamed vegetables are not included in the main course.
  5. Only one sauce is served with a meal.

Informal and formal table settings

Eight basic rules for setting tables

  1. Utensils or “flatware” are laid on the table in the order of use, starting on the outside of the place setting and moving inward.
  2. The knife and spoon are laid on the right side of the place setting and the fork on the left to suit the majority of right-handed people.
  3. With an uneven number of people placed at a rectangular table, the odd­-numbered place setting is laid opposite the middle of the even-numbered place settings.
  4. The lower edges of the utensils should be in line with the bottom rim of the plate, about 2.5cm up from the edge of the table.
  5. Avoid hiding a utensil under the rim of a plate or bowl and lay it approximately 2.5cm away from the side.
  6. To eliminate fingerprints on the handle when setting the table, hold it by the “waist,” the area between the handle and the eating end of the utensil.
  7. The tines of the fork may be placed downward, in the continental style, or upward, in the American style.
  8. The butter knife is laid on the bread plate at formal luncheons and dinners.


And if it’s just too much to bare and you can’t stand the thought of figuring this all out for yourself, give us a call!

Email nicole@enov8.co.za or call 021 447 0321