Passing Food Etiquette: 11 Tips

Passing Food Etiquette
Pass food to the right to maintain order and prevent spills. Hold serving utensils by the handle and a serving dish at the bottom on the edges. Don’t overfill your plate or wine glass, and make your requests politely. Appreciate others’ efforts by saying thank you.

1. Pass Counter Clockwise

It’s proper table manners to pass dishes to the right. This long-standing tradition in many cultures helps avoid accidental collisions or spills. If everyone is reaching for the same dish from different directions, it increases the likelihood of a mishap. 

2. Perfect Your Grip

woman passing food to a guy besides her
Woman passing food to a guy besides her

Whether serving chicken drumsticks or salad, you should grasp the handle firmly with your dominant hand. This will ensure you have a steady grip and can serve food without messing. 

Properly holding utensils can help prevent spills that can disrupt the meal. It can also help you feel more comfortable and confident in formal dining settings.

3. Keep It Clean

Avoiding spills while passing dishes is all about being mindful of your movements and keeping a firm grip on the dish. Use both hands to steady it and keep it level. If the dish is heavy, ask for help from a nearby guest or the host.

When passing dishes around the table, keep your arms close to your body and move slowly and steadily. Avoid sudden movements that could cause the dish to tip over. If you’re passing a dish with a lid, ensure it is secure before handing it off.

If you accidentally spill food, apologize and offer to clean up the mess. If the spill is minor, ask for a cloth to clean it up. Ask the host or a nearby server for assistance if it’s a larger spill.

4. Say Please

Whether you’re at a formal dinner party or a casual family gathering, there may come a time when you want to ask for a dish that is out of your reach. First, wait for an appropriate time to make your request. Interrupting someone mid-sentence to ask for the bread basket is impolite and distracts from the conversation. 

Gratitude is an important aspect of dining etiquette. When making your request, use a polite and respectful tone. You can say, “May I have a roll, please?” Say “Thank you” once the dish has been passed to you.

5. Don’t Overfill Your Plate

Taking a reasonable amount of food shows consideration and respect for other guests who are sharing the meal. Overfilling your plate can result in food waste and leave others with less to enjoy. 

The right portion size depends on a few factors, such as the type of food items, the occasion, and the number of guests. However, taking a reasonable amount won’t leave you feeling stuffed or uncomfortable is best.

6. Timing Matters

If it’s a host-style occasion, the host or hostess will initiate the passing of dishes, and it’s important to wait until they give the go-ahead. It’s also proper table etiquette to wait until everyone has been served before passing any additional dishes. 

Passing dishes at the wrong time can confuse and disrupt the flow of the meal. It can also make it challenging for the host or hostess to track who has already been served and who still needs to be served. 

7. Why Pass Anti Clockwise

Passing dishes counterclockwise maintains order and prevents confusion during a meal.  Passing dishes to the left is considered bad luck or disrespectful in some cultures. For example, in India, the left hand is considered impure, and using it for eating or passing dishes is rude and offensive.

In medieval times, people would sit around a table and share food from a communal dish. Passing the dish to the right was a way to ensure there were no table accidents and everyone got a serving.

8. Passing Utensils

When passing utensils at the dinner table, hold them by the handle. This ensures that you’re not touching the part of the utensil that comes into contact with food and helps keep things sanitary. When passing serving utensils, such as a serving spoon, place them on the right-hand side of the dish. 

It’s also important to avoid touching the utensils with dirty fingers. You don’t want to leave fingerprints or smudges on the utensils others will use. If you’ve just finished eating or handling food, clean your hands before handling the utensils.

9. Swift And Smooth

Passing dishes quickly ensures that everyone at the dining table enjoys the meal simultaneously. No one wants to be left waiting for a dish while others dig in. It allows for a natural meal flow and prevents awkward silences or interruptions.

When passing the food, be mindful of others. If someone is reaching out for the dish, don’t make them wait for it. Hold the dish and cutlery firmly to avoid dropping or spilling the food while passing it around.

10. Mind The Space

Avoid leaning over or reaching too far across the table when passing the dish. Instead, pass the food comfortably, extending your arm to the person beside you.

Ensure you pass the dish to the right and don’t forget to be grateful. Passing the dish is a simple act of kindness and sharing, so do it with a smile and a friendly demeanor. 

11. Show Appreciation

Acknowledging the effort and generosity of the person passing the dish is important. A simple “thank you” can go a long way in expressing your gratitude. However, showing appreciation isn’t just about saying the words. 

When someone passes you a dish, make sure you leave enough space for them to place it down safely. This also means avoiding putting elbows on the table.

Is there a difference in the way you pass food at a restaurant and the way you pass food at home?

No, the same rule applies. When passing dishes around the table, pass them to the person on your right. The difference is in how they serve and clear tables at restaurants. The servers always approach from the left and clear dishes from the right.

Do you pass salt and pepper together?

Yes, passing the salt and pepper shakers together is proper etiquette. It prevents the need for multiple passes across the table.


Tabitha is a curious and enthusiastic writer who believes in the power of words and the importance of good manners. Etiquette is her passion, and she enjoys sharing her knowledge with others. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys traveling, reading, and spending time with her family.

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