Proper Way to Pass Food at the Table

by C. Giles ; Updated November 30, 2018

Rules for passing food apply to bread rolls and beverages.

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When you're confident about your table manners, you'll likely feel more comfortable at the dinner table, no matter how formal the occasion. Table etiquette covers everything from how to use your napkin and hold your cutlery to the proper way to pass food around the table. The rules are simple and are designed to make the dining experience better for everyone. Teach your kids how to pass food around the table from a young age and it will be second nature to them by the time they're adults.

Pass food around the table in a counterclockwise direction -- to the right. This creates a sense of order to the table, which is important when there are many plates of food being passed around.

Use your common sense. If the person sitting to your immediate left asks you to pass him a plate of food, do not pass the plate to the person on your right and have it go around the entire table until it reaches the person on your left. The general idea is that several dishes being passed at one time go in the same direction.

Place the item you are passing down on the table instead of passing hand to hand. This applies to any item you are passing, from the salt and pepper shakers to the bread basket, butter plate and water jug.

Pass salt and pepper at the same time even if someone only asks for one of them. This keeps the pair together, wherever they end up on the table.


  • Never stretch across the table in front of other guests. Wait until something is passed to you. If it is not already on its way, politely ask for it.

    Never intercept a pass, such as grabbing a roll from the bread basket when it is being passed to someone else.

    Always use serving utensils to serve yourself, never your personal silverware.

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About the Author

C. Giles is a writer with an MA (Hons) in English literature and a post-graduate diploma in law. Her work has been published in several publications, both online and offline, including "The Herald," "The Big Issue" and "Daily Record."