Let's do lunch


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Let's do lunch

  1. 1. Let’s Do Lunch By Chelse Benham “Good manners will open doors that the best education cannot.” - Clarence Thomas, Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Business lunches are a daily staple of the restaurant industry. Breaking bread is universally accepted as a means to forging new working relationships or solidifying agreements between parties. However, as with all areas of business, there are some hard and fast rules to know to successfully maneuver through the dining experience. Perhaps, there is no area more scrutinized than the dining table where etiquette minutiae are put to the test. “We offer a proper dining etiquette workshop and workplace professionalism workshop to students,” said Velinda Reyes, assistant director at The University of Texas-Pan American’s Career Placement Services Office. “These workshops give helpful tips to students to assist them as they start their first job.” The Creative Group, a research marketing firm in Menlo Park, Calif., released its 2003 survey about dining etiquette called “Hey Waiter!” located at www.creativegroup.com In that survey, 250 executives were asked what are the biggest faux pas committed during business lunches. The research found being impolite to the wait staff is the single biggest blunder a professional can make during a lunch meeting. Showing up late ranked as the second worst mistake. Not dressing appropriately and displaying poor table manners were also cited as common problems that leave poor impressions. "Displaying poor manners when interacting with the wait staff – or anyone – during a business meeting will prompt prospective clients and business partners to question whether they and their staff members will be treated the same," said Tracey Turner, executive director of The Creative Group, in the posted survey. "Showing up late is a similar sign of disrespect. The key to a successful lunch meeting is making people feel comfortable. Behaving graciously throughout the meal will go a long way toward forming a positive working relationship." Turner offered the following tips for ensuring a successful business lunch: • Choose the right location. Bypass the trendy new hot spot for a more quiet and easy-to-find restaurant that you know provides excellent food and service. Make sure a variety of menu options are offered so people with dietary restrictions will be accommodated. • Arrive early. Get to the restaurant before the people you're meeting. That way you can select a comfortable table and be there to greet them.
  2. 2. • Avoid messy foods. Bypass potentially sloppy dishes such as ribs and spaghetti. Avoid food that is eaten with your hands such as hamburgers or fried chicken. • Keep it short. While you want to postpone talking shop until after you've ordered, don't let the lunch go on too long, since your clients may have limited time to meet. • Give them your undivided attention. Avoid taking cell phone calls or other distractions. As the host, it's your job to make sure the meeting is productive and on topic. According to www.dummies.com seating arrangements make a big difference and can psychologically influence your overall meeting effectiveness. Whoever wants to exert influence needs direct eye contact with the person she wants to influence. Therefore, it is best to be sitting directly opposite that person to maintain direct eye contact. This is considered the most strategically powerful position. Many job offers or contracts have been lost because of bad table manners. According to Barbara Pachter, president of Pachter & Associates and a business etiquette expert, in her interview with the Harvard Business Review, there are some things you should never do at the dinner table: • Hold up the order because you can't decide. Decide quickly or at least by the time everyone else is ready. Don't ask the waiter to explain everything on the menu. You'll come across as indecisive and annoying. • Take someone else's bread or drink out of another person's glass. In most place settings, the bread plate is on your left and the water glass is on your right. Remember this rule: "food" has four letters and so does the word "left;" "drink" has five letters and so does the work "right." • Tuck your napkin under your chin. Remember, you're not at a family picnic! Your napkin goes on your lap when everyone has been seated. Etiquette dictates that you wait for your host to do so first. When leaving the table temporarily, put your napkin on your seat. When you're finished eating, place the napkin to the left of your plate. • Hold your fork as if it were a pitchfork. You'll look like you just came out of a cave. Also, when you're speaking, keep your utensils down. Don't wave your fork or knife in the air. • Lick your fingers or utensils. Never use your hand to clear crumbs off the table either. • Drink too much alcohol. It's always better and safer to abstain. If you do choose to drink alcohol, limit yourself to one glass. • Fight over the check. The host is the person who did the inviting, and that person pays the bill – regardless of gender. Be gracious. Do not fight
  3. 3. about the bill or offer to pay the tip. And it is always appropriate to send a written thank you to your host within two days. When selecting your meal Sue Fox, author of “Etiquette for Dummies,” suggests it’s always wise not to order the most expensive item on the menu. If a client or your employer is paying the meal, it’s best to order mid-priced items. Fox furthermore cautions against dipping, dunking or wiping sauces with your bread. Breaking one piece of bread at a time and buttering it and then eating it is the extent that bread should be handled. Jill Bremer, owner of Bremer Communications, a training company in professional image development and presentation skills, provides more key advice to table manners. At Web site www.bremercommunications.com it advises if you must remove something from your mouth as you eat, take it out the way it went in. In other words, if it entered your mouth on a fork, remove it with your fork. If it was finger food, use your fingers to remove it. Hold your napkin in front of your mouth to mask the removal, then place the item on the side of your plate. According to Fox, the list of blunders is long and many people make these mistakes with regularity. She lists the following common mealtime errors and situational alternatives: • You drop a utensil onto the floor. Never lean over and pick up the utensil. In any situation where servers are present, beckon a server and explain what happened. The server will bring you a new one. • You’re served a piece of food that is not cooked properly. This situation can be especially dangerous with meat. Call the server over and quietly explain the situation. The server will take away your food and bring you a replacement. • You find a foreign object in your food. Again, find your server and discreetly explain the situation. • You dislike the food being served or can not eat it. Simply say “No thank you.” There is no need to be critical or add a commentary while declining the food. Because mealtime meetings mean discussing business, Fox says to be prepared to talk through the meal. This can be a difficult task to accomplish when there is food in your mouth or you’re about to take a bite. It is best to take small bites of food. Be sure to completely finish chewing and swallow the bite of food before speaking. It is offensive to see bits of food in the mouth or even worst spitting food while speaking. Aside from being rude or discourteous to wait staff, the following are some of the worst dining mistakes that can be made at the dining table according to Fox:
  4. 4. 1. Talking with food in your mouth and chewing with your mouth open. 2. Picking your teeth at the table. 3. Resting your elbows on the table. 4. Leaving your purse, keys, sunglasses or other objects on the table. 5. Having poor posture, slumping and appearing too relaxed at the table. 6. Using cell phones and pagers while dining. 7. Eating too fast or too slowly. 8. Pushing away the plate or bowl when finished. Helping to remove plates or piling them up. 9. Playing with your hair or earrings, or touching your face and head. 10. Speaking, laughing or disagreeing too loudly. 11. Eating before the host has begun to eat. 12. Wiping the mouth rather than dabbing it with your napkin. Pachter further explains that finishing the meal is equally important and you don’t want to destroy the positive impression established up to that point because of silly errors made at the end. At the conclusion of the meal, Pachter suggests imagining your dinner plate as a clock and place your utensils in the 4:20 position. She reiterates that it is considered rude to push your plates away, stacking them up or handing them to the server. Furthermore, place your loosely- folded napkin on the table just as you stand to leave, not before. Maneuvering through a meal doesn't have to be scary. Like all elements of etiquette, it boils down to common sense. Knowing the guidelines for dining etiquette gives you confidence so that you can relax and enjoy the meal and the company. Ultimately, good table manners are an asset whenever you eat and practicing them regardless of the situation ensures that they become habit and a part of your eating style at all times. “Don't reserve your best behavior for special occasions. You can't have two sets of manners, two social codes – one for those you admire and want to impress, another for those whom you consider unimportant. You must be the same to all people. “ – Lillian Eichler Watson, author