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June 3, 2008

Popularity of Williamsburg Inn's Smart Manners class proves good manners never out of style

Can’t tell a salad fork from a dinner fork? Don’t know the proper way to “pass the salt?” Not sure which wine to serve with chicken?

Proper etiquette at the dinner table can make or break a business deal, or it may be the deciding factor in landing the perfect dream job. That’s why it’s more important than ever to “mind your manners.”

Colonial Williamsburg’s “Smart Manners are Smart Business” class is available to student groups, businesses and other organizations that recognize the value of knowing proper etiquette in any setting. The three-hour class is held on an as-requested basis at the Williamsburg Inn and is taught by Joni Stevens, head concierge; LeRoy Stoutingberg, Inn restaurant manager; and Charles Birr, Lodge restaurant manager and certified sommelier.

Stevens started the “Smart Manners” class in 1999 at the request of a faculty member at the College of William and Mary’s Mason School of Business. Students learn the finer points of etiquette during a reception followed by a five-course luncheon or dinner at the Williamsburg Inn. Topics covered include the proper way to hold a wine glass, identifying the right table utensils and the rules of polite dinner conversation. Stevens discourses on the rules of etiquette, while Stoutingberg demonstrates the correct way to interpret the sometimes-confusing dining menus. Birr enlightens the students on the nuances of wine ordering and tasting. The trio also offers pointers on social networking, from acceptable conversation icebreakers to the proper way to shake hands.

Stevens, Stoutingberg and Birr bring a wealth of etiquette experience to the dinner table. As a White House liaison to the Department of Defense, Stevens assisted with White House functions for administrations from Nixon through Clinton. Stoutingberg began working for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation in 1967, and in addition to managing the Inn’s Regency Room has worked at the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, W. Va. Longtime wine enthusiast and educator Birr served as maître’d hotel at the American Club Resort in Kohler, Wis., and at The Inn at Little Washington in Washington, Va.

In addition to regularly offering the class to the Mason School’s business students, classes have been held for William and Mary’s Wythe School of Law, Virginia State Hospitality degree students, CARMAX of Richmond, and special wine-free classes for West Point High School and the juvenile detention centers of the city of Newport News and James City County.

“Smart Manners are Smart Business” is recommended for school groups, corporations and other service industry professionals who host clients at receptions, dinners and other functions in a formal or casual setting. The class lasts about three hours, can accommodate 20-30 participants and may be scheduled for lunch or early dinner. For each participant, a five-course meal at the Williamsburg Inn’s acclaimed Regency Room is included in the cost of registration. Dietary restrictions, food allergies and the inclusion or exclusion of alcoholic beverages can be discussed when registering for the class. Classes must be scheduled at least three months in advance. For more information, contact Joni Stevens at (757) 220-7958.

Established in 1926, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational institution that preserves and operates the restored 18th-century Revolutionary capital of Virginia as the nation’s largest living history museum. The Colonial Williamsburg Company, a subsidiary of the Foundation, operates a Resort Collection with more than 1,000 guest rooms among five hotels including the landmark Williamsburg Inn, four historic dining taverns and six restaurants, and 66,000 square feet of conference space centered at the Williamsburg Lodge, as well as a new 20,000-square-foot spa, and the Golden Horseshoe golf courses. Each purchase of Colonial Williamsburg products and services supports the Foundation’s preservation, research, and educational programs.

Williamsburg is located in Virginia’s Tidewater region, 20 minutes from Newport News, within an hour’s drive of Richmond and Norfolk, and 150 miles south of Washington, D.C., off Interstate 64. For more information about Colonial Williamsburg, call 1-800-HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg’s Web site at or

Media Contact:
Barbara Brown
(757) 220-7280