Resting Cutlery 4 Rules: How To Place Fork Knife & Spoon After Eating

Resting cutlery rules explain how to properly rest forks, knives, and spoons when you are done eating.

Who is resting cutlery etiquette for?

When you are hosting, observe how your guests rest their cutlery. It will help you understand if you can clear the table and move to the next course or if they are just taking a break from their food.

As a guest, it is polite to rest forks, knives, and spoons to signal your intentions. If you are taking a break, or you have finished your food, placing your cutlery in the right way helps your host or the waiters understand whether you are done eating or just pausing. Moreover, resting cutlery in the appropriate way helps the staff clear the table and avoids upsetting other guests.

Resting cutlery etiquette micro-class

1) Rest cutlery on the plate, not on the table

Rest cutlery fully on your plate. Once you pick up your utensils, they should not touch the table again.

Do not rest a utensil on the table after you use it.

Similarly, do not rest a utensil half on a plate and half on the table.

2) How to rest cutlery if you are taking a break

The way you rest forks, knives, and spoons on the plate signals whether you are taking a break or you have finished eating. 

When taking a break from eating, you can rest your utensils in two ways.

  1. The pyramid.
  2. The distant parallel lines. 

Trained waiters should recognize these two positions as a signal that you do not want to have your plate removed.

In the pyramid position, place your fork and knife at the center of your plate with the tips facing each other. Rest the fork with the prongs facing down and the handle in the eight o’clock position. Rest the knife with the blade facing inward and the handle in the four o’clock position.

In the distant parallels position, rest your knife diagonally on the top right of your plate with the blade facing inward. Rest your fork on the top right of your plate with the prongs facing downward.

3) How to rest cutlery if you have finished eating

When you have finished eating a course, place the used cutlery on your plate in the five o’clock position. Place spoons and forks facing up. Place knives with the blade facing inward.

This position signals to the waiters that you want them to clear your plate.

If a course is served in a bowl or cup set on an underplate, rest your utensils on the underplate.

How you rest cutlery does not signal your satisfaction.

Some etiquette guides suggest resting forks and knives in different ways based on your satisfaction with the food. The truth is that nobody is trained to recognize such signals. Restaurant staff is trained to recognize only the most used and traditional ways to rest cutlery.

4) How to place cutlery if you pass your plate

When you pass your plate for a second serving, place the fork and knife in the six o’clock position toward the middle of the plate. This way, it is easy for the other host to handle your plate and the utensils with one hand.

Alternatively, hold the utensils in one of your hands and wait for your plate to return.

Etiquette mistakes to avoid when resting cutlery

When resting your cutlery, the most common etiquette mistakes either make the job of your host or waiter harder or are not hygienic and risk upsetting the other guests.

Avoid resting cutlery on the table, as it is not hygienic and risks soiling the tablecloth.

To help your host or waiter, avoid confusing how to rest cutlery when taking a break and resting cutlery in an unusual way, which is difficult to interpret and handle. For instance, do not rest fork and knife crossed, as it is hard for the staff to handle the cutlery and the plate when clearing the table.

Additional resources & links

  • Etiquette references: how to clear the table, cutlery etiquette, how to set cutlery on the table, table setting etiquette, chopsticks etiquette, passing food etiquette
  • Interesting reads and sources: Food and Beverage Service -The Hitt Programme