Home / Dining / Fine Dining Silverware Placement 101

Fine Dining Silverware Placement 101

Fine dining includes several pieces of silverware placed at the table before guests arrive. Whether the setting is in a five-star restaurant or at home for the holidays, there are standard etiquette rules for silverware placement that should be followed for fine dining.

Start with the plate

Plates should be placed first. The dinner plate goes down first followed by a salad plate on top. The salad is served first followed by soup. The salad plate gets taken away and then a soup bowl gets placed next. However, the large dinner plate is what serves as the basis for where utensils are placed. The Elegant Woman guide has a diagram of a formal and informal setting.

Go inside out

Unlike eating, placement starts with the inside and works farther away from the plate. All dinner forks go on the left side of the plate. Dinner spoons and the dinner knife go on the right side. Dessert utensils go above the plate. The dinner fork and dinner knife are closest to the plate. The blade edge of the knife faces towards the edge of the plate on the right side.

Next is the salad fork adjacent to the dinner fork. The teaspoon is laid next to the knife. Then the soup spoon, or the bigger of the two spoons, is laid to the right of the teaspoon. Alignment is simple-the handles of the silverware are lined up with the part of the dinner plate closest to the edge of the table. A straight line should be able to be drawn from the edge of the handle of the salad fork all the way to the same point on the soup spoon.

Dessert utensils

The cake fork is placed above the plate with the prongs facing to the right. The dessert spoon goes above the fork, closer to the center of the table. The dessert spoon faces in the opposite direction of the dessert fork. Those utensils are out of the way so they can be used later.

Glasses and napkin

The napkin goes to the left of the salad fork. The closest edge of the napkin to the person should be aligned with the edge of the salad fork’s handle. The water glass is placed above the dessert utensils aligned in the space in between the edge of the knife and dinner plate. A red wine glass or iced tea glass is placed in alignment with the two spoons and the dessert utensils. If the edges of the spoons and dessert utensils were to intersect at a 90 degree angle, that spot is where the wine/tea glass goes. The water glass is placed above and to the left of the wine glass.


A coffee or hot tea cup is placed to the right of soup spoon. Traditionally, coffee is served with dessert. However, for those meals where coffee comes first, the cup is placed on the table as well. A bread plate is placed above the forks with a butter knife laying across it. The butter knife is placed so it bisects the bread plate diagonally with the handle pointed towards the dinner plate.

The table setting might seem complicated at first. But with practice and time it gets easier. Everything is placed on the table for a reason and a purpose. Once that realization is made, getting the logistics of silverware placement becomes second nature.