Fine Dining and Social Graces Training At Its Finest

Fine dining and social graces training is essential for organizations and individuals who seek to master sophistication, and refinement. This is an investment that enables individuals to create the right first impression and excel in social and business settings. As such, reputable training institutions offer courses in fine dining and social graces that are beneficial to everyone working in various industries. 

TalkShop Founder/CEO and the Philippines’ Miss Manners Dr. Sheila Viesca expounds on everything about fine dining, social graces, and all the important pointers along with their relevance in the new normal social and business setting.


Dr. Sheila Viesca

What is fine dining?

SV: Strictly speaking, it refers to a style of restaurant service and food presentation that is associated with an upscale, high-quality dining experience. It is known for its impressive and elegant ambiance, refined ingredients, and exceptional culinary skills. Over the years, fine dining has evolved into an art form that reflects cultural values, social norms, and culinary traditions.

How did fine dining start?

SV: Fine dining has its roots in the French aristocracy in the 18th century. It was during this time that the art of cooking was elevated to an academic level by the likes of Marie-Antoine Carême and Auguste Escoffier, who were renowned chefs of their time. The concept of fine dining was first introduced in Paris in the 19th century with the opening of the first luxury restaurant, Boulanger. The restaurant offered a sophisticated dining experience characterized by exquisite food and style and attracted the elite of Parisian society.

What influenced the development of fine dining?

SV: The development of fine dining was influenced by several factors, including cultural, social, and economic. In the mid-19th century, the emergence of the railway system and steamship lines facilitated the flow of people and goods, leading to the growth of the restaurant industry. As more people traveled, restaurants popped up in various cities and towns and became cultural centers where they could enjoy new cuisines, socialize, and exchange ideas.

When did fine dining start to be associated with upscale living?

SV: During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, fine dining became synonymous with luxury and leisure. In the United States, the growth of a wealthy middle class in the post-World War II era fueled the demand for fine dining experiences. Restaurants such as La Grenouille, Le Pavillon, and The Four Seasons in New York City set the standard for high-end dining, attracting celebrities, politicians, and business moguls.

Is fine dining a trend?

SV: Fine dining is more a practice that, over the years, has undergone several transformations. Today, a new generation of top chefs is reinventing the art of fine dining by introducing innovative and sustainable approaches. One notable trend is the move towards farm-to-table dining, that is, using locally sourced, fresh, and organic ingredients to create unique and flavorful dishes.

Why the boom in fine dining venues in the Philippines?

SV: The Philippines is a country known for its rich culture and diversity. Over the years, the country has become a popular tourist destination, attracting people from all over the world. With the growth in tourism, the Philippines will continue to see an increase in the number of fine dining venues in different parts of the country.

The Philippines boasts a variety of fine dining venues that offer a range of cuisines from across the world. The restaurants are located in different cities, from the capital city of Manila to popular tourist destinations like Boracay, Cebu, Davao, Palawan.

Is traditional fine dining in the Philippines losing its popularity?

SV: Traditional fine dining in the Philippines is still often associated with luxury hotels and establishments in upscale areas. The concept of formal dining has been prevalent for decades, with a focus on creating an exclusive, premium dining experience. It’s here to stay. However, in recent times, informal fine dining has gained momentum and has become increasingly popular. There are venues that offer diners a more relaxed atmosphere, with a focus on quality food-as-art, all at a more affordable price point. This approach seeks to make fine dining more accessible to the masses and is gaining popularity worldwide. These establishments offer a unique blend of gourmet food and a relaxed, laid-back atmosphere, providing diners with a fresh experience.

What are the reasons for the growth of informal fine dining in the Philippines?

SV: Informal fine dining is emerging as a new trend in the Philippines restaurant scene as a logical evolution of the Philippine gastronomical culture. One of the primary reasons for the growth of informal fine dining in the Philippines is the new generation of diners seeking smarter, contemporary food. These younger customers are less interested in the more traditional, formal dining experiences of their parents’ generation, and instead want to enjoy quality, innovative food in a more casual setting. With the emphasis on quality food-as-art in a laid-back setting, restaurants are offering diners an innovative and affordable alternative to traditional fine dining. At the same time, many of these diners have studied foreign cuisine and have traveled widely, making them more open to experimentation and appreciative of fresh, high-quality ingredients.

Does social media play a role in the popularity of informal fine dining venues?

SV: For sure social media is a factor that at the same time complements the younger generation’s desire for smarter, contemporary food creations. The fresh, high-quality ingredients, and the laid-back atmosphere all confluence and have made informal fine dining more appealing to a wide range of diners. Diners are now able to quickly share their dining experiences on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. This word-of-mouth marketing has helped drive traffic to these venues, as diners are eager to sample the innovative food offerings and share their experiences with their friends and followers.

Can you share some characteristics of informal fine dining?

SV: Informal fine dining is characterized by a more relaxed atmosphere, with the focus on the quality of the food rather than the traditional formal presentation. Chefs in informal fine dining restaurants in the Philippines take pride in offering unique, innovative, and original food creations. These dishes are often made from high-quality, locally sourced ingredients, relying on fresh vegetables, sustainable meat, and fish rather than traditional French ingredients.

Is there a difference between traditional and informal fine dining service?

SV: The service in informal fine dining differs from traditional fine dining. Unlike formal fine dining, in informal fine dining, waiters are more approachable and display an easy-going originality. They are encouraged to engage with diners to educate them about the menu, provide recommendations, and make them feel at home. One of the aims of informal fine dining is providing an emotionally uplifting experience to diners, with excellent atmosphere guaranteed through music, lighting, and custom table settings.

What can one expect to learn from TalkShop’s fine dining and social graces training?

SV: Our training programs are designed to offer participants practical knowledge, skills, and mindsets to enable them to feel confident and comfortable in formal and informal fine dining settings and social engagements. The program prepares attendees to confidently navigate fine dining and networking functions.

Also Read: Business Protocol and Social Etiquette Training for Women Leaders in New Normal Business Engagements

Can you share the objectives of TalkShop’s fine dining and social graces training?

SV: Primarily, we help participants learn the fundamentals of formal dining. The course takes them through the basic structure of formal and business dinners and multiple courses. This includes flatware, glassware and table set up, napkin placement, and dining orders and customs. Secondly, we help participants understand the art of table conversation. Social graces training covers communication and conversation skills to utilize in a formal dining setting. It is important that one learns the art of small talk, etiquette, and navigating potentially difficult topics in conversation at social events. Finally, we aim to help participants develop self-confidence. The program instills in one a   sense of self-assurance to navigate formal settings comfortably. This involves handling oneself correctly, making proper introductions, and appropriate attire.

Fine dining in varied settings can be intimidating to many people, So we asked Dr. Viesca to share her top five tips to help individuals feel more at ease and confident during various social events and formal functions. She shared the following pointers that can be applied to any setting, regardless of the occasion or establishment:


1. Dress Code

Firstly, do not underestimate the power of dressing appropriately for fine dining. Often, fine dining restaurants require their guests to dress formally, and therefore, it is essential to dress accordingly. For women, it is recommended to wear a cocktail dress or an elegant gown, and for men, a suit and tie or a tuxedo is appropriate.

2. Table Etiquette

Proper table etiquette is crucial while dining at a fine restaurant. Learn how to use your utensils correctly, place your napkin on your lap, and show respect and courtesy to other guests, servers, and restaurant staff.

3. Wine Selection

Choosing the perfect wine for your meal is an essential part of fine dining. Before ordering your wine, consult the restaurant’s sommelier or wine expert to suggest the best wine pairing for your meal. Remember, a good wine can enhance your dining experience.

4. Tasting Menu

Many fine dining restaurants offer a tasting menu that includes several courses prepared by the chef. This is an excellent opportunity to experience a variety of their signature dishes and culinary techniques. Do not hesitate to ask the server or the chef about the dishes and their ingredients.

5. Reservation

It is essential to make a reservation before dining at a fine restaurant. You definitely would not want to be turned away from one of the best restaurants in town due to lack of reservation. Depending on the restaurant, reservations could be made over the phone, online, or through a restaurant app. Make sure to arrive on time for your reservation. 


1. Compliment the Food and Service

One of the most apparent conversation pointers during fine dining is to compliment the food and service. Fine dining restaurants invest significant effort in providing high-quality ingredients, culinary techniques, and presentation, aiming to create a memorable and enjoyable experience for their guests. Therefore, it is essential to acknowledge the quality of food and service and express gratitude to the chef, waiter, and other staff members. A simple compliment like “The steak is cooked to perfection” or “The service is impeccable” can set a positive tone for the entire evening, enhancing the overall experience.

2. Share Culinary Preferences and Experiences

Another conversation pointer during fine dining is to share culinary preferences and experiences. Fine dining often serves as an opportunity for guests to try new and exotic dishes or revisit their favorite flavors. Therefore, sharing personal preferences or memorable culinary experiences with other guests can create a vibrant and engaging conversation. It could also help establish common ground or initiate a discussion on cultural or gastronomic traditions. For example, talk about a dish you recently tried on your travels or your favorite local restaurant.

3. Discuss Wine or Cocktail Selection

Fine dining is typically accompanied by an extensive wine or cocktail selection, highlighting the restaurant’s commitment to provide a sophisticated drinking experience. Discussing the wine or cocktail selection can be another conversation pointer during fine dining, as it allows guests to explore new and unfamiliar drinks, expand their knowledge of the beverage culture, or exchange opinions on different brands or styles. Additionally, the sommelier or bartender can also offer insights into the drinks’ characteristics and origins, adding a layer of educational value to the conversation.

4. Share Cultural or Social Topics

Fine dining provides an excellent opportunity to discuss cultural or social topics, extending the conversation beyond the culinary experience. Topics such as music, art, politics, or sports can help individuals discover shared interests and engage in lively and informative discussions. Additionally, discussing social issues or current events can also serve as a way to broaden perspectives and promote awareness of important global issues.

5. Seek Knowledge and Insights

The final conversation pointer during fine dining is to seek knowledge and insights from other guests, staff members or experts. Fine dining often attracts individuals with diverse backgrounds, experiences, and expertise, making it an ideal platform for learning and discovery. Therefore, asking other guests about their expertise or experiences, engaging with restaurant staff on culinary techniques or service standards, or seeking insights from sommeliers or chefs can help expand your knowledge and appreciation of the fine dining experience.


1. Wear Proper Attire

The first confidence-building pointer is to identify the dress code for the occasion. Many fine dining establishments and formal events have specific dress codes that guests are required to follow. These requirements may include wearing formal attire such as a suit or dress, or adhering to a specific color scheme. In addition, understanding the dress code can also help individuals feel more comfortable as they will not feel out of place or underdressed. Proper attire can enhance the overall dining experience and make individuals feel more confident.

2. Practice Table Manners

The second pointer is to practice table manners. Knowing proper table etiquette such as how to use utensils, proper placement of plates and glasses, and appropriate napkin use can help individuals feel more at ease and confident. In addition, table manners show respect for those dining with you and help to create a more comfortable atmosphere. It is also important to remember to remain seated until the host or hostess invites you to leave.

3. Order Appropriate Food

The third confidence-building pointer is to order appropriately. This means taking into consideration the type of establishment, occasion, and guests. It is important to be mindful when ordering and to avoid foods that may be offensive or difficult to eat in a formal setting. For example, ordering food that requires using your hands or making loud slurping noises can make others uncomfortable.

4. Drink Responsibly

The fourth confidence-building pointer is to drink responsibly. Alcohol is often served at fine dining establishments and formal events. It is important to remember that drinking too much can lead to making poor decisions and potentially ruin the occasion. Ordering a single drink or choosing to abstain from alcohol altogether can help individuals feel more confident and in control.

5. Engage in Polite Conversation

The fifth and final confidence-building pointer is to engage in polite conversation. Table talk should be kept light and respectful of all guests. It is important to avoid discussing sensitive topics such as religion or politics that may cause tension at the table. Instead, focus on sharing positive experiences and getting to know the other guests in attendance.

In the current business and economic climate, how beneficial are such training investments to individuals and organizations?

SV: TalkShop’s fine dining and social graces training offers crucial knowledge, skills, and mindsets that attendees need to navigate formal and business networks successfully. The program’s application provides requisite skills and knowledge that enhances participants’ confidence and social interaction abilities. Learning the basics of formal dining, conversation, and self-presentation makes a substantial difference while navigating social and business interactions:

1. Improved business and social networking

The ability to navigate fine dining settings is critical for successful networking and building professional relationships. TalkShop’s training equips individuals to hold their own during formal business dinners and other social interactions.

2. Improved corporate representation

TalkShop designs the training to assist representatives in showcasing their company’s brand while at meals, events, or conferences. Proper social graces are particularly crucial when representing one’s company in business settings.

3. Increased confidence and personal charm

The course enhances the participant’s personality, speech, and presence. Through practice and a better understanding of the social graces, participants develop their charisma, charm and increase self-confidence.

Dr. Viesca elaborates that “as social animals, humans have developed intricate social customs that not only govern daily interactions but also determine social mobility. Fine dining and social graces training, therefore, offers a refined way of navigating the business and social world. TalkShop holds training programs in the best fine dining venues in the region to create a conducive and enjoyable learning ambiance for all participants. We want to create memorable moments and enhance their culinary experience. We make sure that when they sign up for our fine dining and social graces training, they get the opportunity to socialize, appreciate diverse cultures, and explore new horizons.”

Over the years, Talkshop has established an excellent reputation as a provider of topnotch training programs in fine dining and social graces. For instance, a professional review by the Philippine Tatler Magazine highlights Talkshop’s expertise in fine dining and social graces training (Danao, 2018). Danao (2018) praises Talkshop for its comprehensive training modules, which cover various aspects of fine dining, including table manners, types of cutlery, formal and informal dining, and wine appreciation. Another source of information on Talkshop’s training programs is TripAdvisor. Several individuals who have taken Talkshop’s course have left positive reviews, commending the instructors’ knowledge and teaching methods (TripAdvisor, 2021). Talkshop continues to receive numerous recognition for its training programs, attesting to their efficacy.

Talkshop as a provider of high-quality training is well-established. The programs are recommended for individuals intending to create the right first impression and excel in social and business settings.   As an ISO-Certified, Civil-Service accredited learning institute that specializes in personality development and communication excellence courses, TalkShop continues to conduct fine dining and social graces training that hones in and goes beyond the culinary experience, by improving ones confidence, communication skills, and appreciation of fine dining as a means of entertainment, socialization, and self-expression.

Posted by TalkShop
Sheila Viesca, TalkShop CEO and Director of Communication finished her bachelor degree in Literature, masters in Entrepreneurship, and doctorate in Applied Cosmic Anthropology. She designed the Philippines' Language Competency Benchmark for the Department of Education and pioneered Integrated Language Teaching (ILT) in workshop designs and corporate communication training. You can follow her on Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, LinkedIN, and Google+


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