Business meal etiquette


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  • Increasingly business meetings are conducted with food and or drink in one’s hands.Employers may want to see you in a more social situation to see how you conduct yourself, particularly if the job for which you are interviewing requires a certain standard of conduct with clients and superiors. You could be critically scrutinized on your table manners and conduct. On a practical level, interviews that last for several hours may extend through mealtimes, and the employer is acting as a gracious host to provide you with meals. The meal is a time to visit and interact, and this is always more important than the function of eating.
  • If you've never met the recruiter or hiring manager before, then we suggest that you meet in the workplace and drive together, or that you follow them to the restaurant.  This way everyone arrives at the same time, and you don't have to worry about trying to recognize a new face at the restaurant.Who is paying?Come prepared to the business meal in the same way you would for a job interview.  You're primary objective is to participate in a fruitful conversation; eating is secondary.  In addition to being prepared to ask questions about the hiring company, it's also a good idea to have more casual topics to talk about.  You don't want to be lured into a debate, so stay away from topics such as politics and religion.  Talking about activities or hobbies such as gardening and fishing are better ice-breakers.ollow up your verbal lunch invitation with an e-mail confirming the guest list. You don't have to be obnoxious about it. A simple, "Hey, just a note to let you know I've made reservations for two at Chez Pierre's at noon next Tuesday," would be enough to get this message across: No interlopers, please.
  • Dress appropriately for the function. If it's a simple business luncheon, dress as you would for work. A dinner event is typically a bit more formal or dressy. Keep in mind, it's always better to be overdressed for an event than underdressed.
  • RULE #1: Business dining is all about conversation.Come prepared with appropriate dinner conversation.  You need to contribute to your table talk in a way that sets other dinner guests at ease.  Research in advance. Who will be attending?  What interests might they have?  What topics are in line with the focus of the function? When the inevitable lapse in conversation occurs, know leading questions that will encourage table guests to begin talking about themselves.  Questions such as:“I’m interested in knowing a little about the kind of work you do?”“Please tell me about your interest in the organization represented here?”“Have you heard the speaker before?”RULE#2: It’s not about you.Make an effort to meet everyone at your table.  If you find that you are seated when others arrive, graciously move your chair back, walk over to table guests, introduce yourself and initiate conversation. Try to remember their names. Show an interest in what they have to say and in their well being.  Be observant.  Does the person next to you need the sugar and cream?  Pass it before being asked.  When the meal is over, remember to thank your table guests for the opportunity to get to know them a little better. Tell me about where you live.”, “Where did you grow up?”, “Where did you attend school?”, “What are your hobbies?”, “how do I bring up business topics over a meal without sounding pushy?” Do not bring up business before the entree is consumed. Be sensitive to when your guest is ready to talk business. Most people prefer to wait and talk business only over dessert and coffee. Others may want to plunge right in; therefore, begin discussing business when the client appears ready. A pleasant conversation and meal will often do more for your business relations than a nuts-and-bolts discussion. Be especially sensitive when entertaining clients from other cultures. Americans in general tend to rush over meals. For most cultures, dining is a ritual that flows slowly and pleasantly. Do not be surprised if your client does not even discuss any business over a meal. Your guest will give you signals, so be alert.Do not monopolize the conversation. Show a genuine interest in getting to know your client and/or your guests better by asking thoughtful questions about safe topics such as sports teams, hobbies, movies and other general interests. Avoid personal questions that may make your client feel uncomfortable.Remember that closing a deal is not your primary focus. Use this time to promote good will rather than attempting to make a sale. Remember, your focus is on building the relationship - and that's why you should also follow up in writing with a quick thank you note that thanks your prospect or client for his or her time.
  • Take small bites, so you can swallow quickly when asked a question.Save finger foods for another situationDon't order anything messy or drippy, or that you haven't tasted before. That goes for burgers and fries, clams, spaghetti (small-shaped pasta is OK), or anything that might splash on you or your guest. If you have to squeeze a lemon, make sure it's covered by your hand.RULE #3:  Don’t be the first.While the meal is being served, wait for all the guests to receive their food before starting.  If your table is hosted, watch and wait for your host to begin eating. If you are attending a buffet meal, wait until at least a few guests seated with you have returned with their food before starting.RULE #4: Small is better.Mealtime conversation can flow smoothly if you remember that when eating, small is always better.  Place only one small portion of food in your mouth at a time.  There is nothing more offensive than sitting across from a person who speaks with their mouth full of food.  Use your knife and fork to cut one small portion, then set the knife down on the corner of your plate.Dinner roll and butter are to remain on your bread and butter place, along with spreading knife.  Break off one bite-sized portion only; apply butter to it with spreading knife and return spreading knife to corner of bread and butter place.  Then put the single piece in your mouth.You will be amazed at how quickly you can chew and swallow a small portion.  A quick dab at the corner of your mouth with your napkin can provide a couple seconds of thought before responding to questions.Which bread plate is mine?I'm sure most of us have looked at what we thought was our bread plate only to find our neighbor using it. Here's the rule: Eat to your left, drink to your right. Any food dish to the left is yours, any glass to the right is yours. If your neighbor has accidentally used your bread plate, don't embarrass him or her. Quietly ask the waiter for another
  • One drink is OK in most situations, but I’d suggest waiting to see if the host orders a drink first. Coffee is safer, so when in doubt order a non-alcoholic drink. But you want your fellow guests to be comfortable, & a glass of wine or culturally-appropriate drink is often a social courtesy.Consume alcohol in appropriate levels. If you notice that nobody else is drinking, do not drink either. Typically, two glasses of wine during a dinner is not considered excessive. But, drinking more than that can open you up to scrutiny. Additionally, you don't want to get a bit tipsy if you're trying to conduct business.
  • The word “left” has four letters, so does the word “fork.Knife and fork language.When you have finished eating, place your knife and fork side by side on the top right corner of your plate.  The fork should be on the inside of the knife.If you have not finished eating, and must leave the table momentarily during the meal, place your fork and knife in the centre of your plate, with top tips almost joined and bottoms angled slightly in tent-like fashion.  The tines of your fork should be down.Spoons away.If you are eating cold or hot soup, remember to spoon it away from yourself.  You may tip the bowl away in order to eat the last of the soup if you so desire.  This practice may appear insignificant, but really spotlights a polished person.Know your napkin etiquette.Once a clean napkin has been unfolded, it becomes your personal property until the conclusion of the meal.  Do not put your napkin on the table until you are ready to leave the room for the final time.  It should remain on your lap or in your hand for the duration of the meal. If you leave the table momentarily during the meal, place the napkin on your chair.  Use your napkin often during the meal, folding the stains inward so that dinner guests cannot see any soiling.Noses can blow it.When it comes to your nose and business dining, etiquette rules are clear – you never, ever, blow your nose at the table.  You may just end up blowing an important networking opportunity.  Slight dabbing of your nose with a tissue or personal handkerchief is acceptable, as long as you keep these items off the table.  Instead, excuse yourself and head to a washroom or vacated hallway. If you have a bad cold, do yourself and your dinner guests a favor, and graciously back out of the invitation.Rule #10:  If you drop it – leave it.Your serving staff is responsible to replace table items that have fallen on the floor.  Simply ask for a replacement.  There’s no explanation required.RULE #11: Getting rid of unwanted pits.When you have something in your mouth that you do not wish to swallow, like an olive pit, a fish bone or a piece of gristle, use your fork to remove it from your mouth, as unobtrusively as possible.  Bring your fork down to your plate and deposit it on the rim.
  • At a cocktail party or trade show function, circulating among as many people as possible can be a business builder. Do not treat this function as a mini-dinner; use this opportunity to meet and network with new people or to strengthen relationships with your existing clients. At a cocktail event, hold your drink in your left hand so you free your right for shaking hands. When joining a group, get into the conversation by asking questions. Try to make the other person talk more than you do; questioning is a good way to do this.
  • If this meal is going to combine business with socializing, the time to discuss business is after ordering. If a business discussion will take place, try not to strew papers or files over the table. One or two papers, or a single file, should be all that comes out of your briefcase. Keep your briefcase off the table. Keep your voice low, so your conversation is not overheard.RULE #9: Personal belongings are off the table.The meal table is no place for a purse or briefcase or other personal belongings – no matter how small.  Personal effects should be placed on the floor, your lap, behind your back in the chair, or hung on the chair.   Make sure your cell phone is turned off and placed out of sight.
  • Taking NotesThe most appropriate way to take notes during a business meal is to use a letter-sized note pad in a professional portfolio that you place on the table after the meal is finished. You can also use a small notepad (no larger than 5" X 8") at your place on the edge of the table to capture notes during the meal. This is especially useful if your guest chooses to discuss business during the meal. Avoid using a loose pad that shows the leftover edges of pages ripped out. This is unprofessional and disrespectful to your client and to your company.
  • “Who wants to sit around with a check on the table? It lingers. It’s uncomfortable. If you can’t afford to pick up the check for lunch, then you shouldn’t go”If your guest offers to pay, simply say, "Today you're the guest of the XYZ Company.“ DEPERSONALIZE IT!
  • Ending the MealThe business meal is not over until you are out of the restaurant. Before leaving the restaurant, a side trip to the restroom is appropriate. If this is necessary, the parties meet again and leave the building together. It is not appropriate for either the host or the guest to leave first. The parties would shake hands, and may discuss the next meeting before leaving the building.Following UpAfter a business luncheon or any other type of meeting where you were the guest, it is proper etiquette to send a "thank you" note via e-mail within 24 hours after the event. If you don’t have access to e-mail, a phone call would be equally appropriate. If a written thank you note can get to your host/hostess no later than two days after the event, this would be preferable. Since most communications in business today are conducted via e-mail, written thank-you notes are the most memorable. In an era of "high tech and low touch," a written card would have the most impact in conveying your message.If you are seated at a hosted table, send a hand-written thank you note to your host.
  • Business meal etiquette

    1. 1. Business Meal Etiquette How to eat, talk, and schmooze like a professional
    2. 2. Business orpleasure?
    3. 3. Who is driving?Who is coming?Who decides therestaurant?Who is paying?What do you talk about? Business Meal Etiquette
    4. 4. Formulate a plan. Business Meal Etiquette
    5. 5. Dressing. Business Meal Etiquette
    6. 6. Talking. Business Meal Etiquette
    7. 7. Eating. Business Meal Etiquette
    8. 8. Drinking. Business Meal Etiquette
    9. 9. Tablemanners. Business Meal Etiquette
    10. 10. Schmoozing. Business Meal Etiquette
    11. 11. Business. Business Meal Etiquette
    12. 12. Paying. Business Meal Etiquette
    13. 13. Ethics. Business Meal Etiquette
    14. 14. After the meal. Business Meal Etiquette
    15. 15. Questions?©2012 Shannon Crawford Barniskis