Acting professional during dinner is not an easy task. Often we find ourselves dining out with colleagues, client and business partner or prospective partner. It is always a good thing to be aware of etiquette and know when to utilise them appropriately as following dinning rules is key.
Strategically, people opt for a business dinner to get to know the other party better. So, how you behave through the dinner tells your host a lot about you and your professionalism. You should be socially aware of things going on around you when it comes to business dining as there’s often a lot itsy-bitsy remember. What should you order to eat and drink? What fork for dinner, oyster, desert and salad?
Being self-conscious of body language and behaviour during dinner is a necessity in order not to pass the wrong impression across to your host.
People notice how you comport yourself on a dining table. To help you make the right impression and get business dinner ready, here are a few our fine dining tips to memorise in order to make the right impression on your business dinner.
However, note that these are just a few generic etiquette tips. So, it is important to be mindful as the world and location vary where some of these tips don’t apply. When in doubt about the dining etiquette of your location, you could do more research and plausibly ask a friend beforehand.
Before The Dinner
- Have a Little Meal Ahead
Irrespective of the type of restaurant you may be dining i.e. luxurious five stars or three stars, you should consider having a little meal ahead of time rather than showing up very famished. Showing up famished increases the risk of focusing more on the food rather than conversing with your host. A snack is more appropriate to have to keep the balance being famished and not overly famished.
- Dress Appropriately
Dressing elegantly to any dinner party is core. Similar to any corporate event, picking out what to wear for your dinner can be quite daunting. The standard expected for every corporate outing should be your first clue in selection. On the formal side, business casual is more appropriate apparel for a meeting with a potential business partner, client, or firm representative while casual attire is tolerable for meetings with a start-up. When in doubt, you could look up the dining venue on the Internet to see ambience you get.
Note. It is recommended that comfort and sophistication compliment your style. Do look snazzy for it is better to be overdressed than underdressed.
- Always Plan to be on Time
Being on time is a key necessity. Planning your outing in advance is a good practice to ensure early arrival at your venue. If you’re running late or likely to arrive late, do give your host or the restaurant a call and let them know. In a circumstance where you arrive earlier than your host and they are running late, wait at least 15- 20 minutes before giving them a call.
- The Smartphone
It is a no-brainer that you should have a device free dinner. Your phone should be on silent mode as a vibrating phone is equally as bad as a ringing one. Never let your phone be a distraction on a dinner table. Always keep phones off the table.
- Exchange Pleasantries
Exchanging pleasantries with something other words like a warm and firm handshake, accompanied by good eye contact, to introduce yourself and get to anyone you don’t know is a great way to create a friendly yet professional dining environment before any feast. Focus on memorising names particularly the host’s, as you’ll need to remember it to thank them afterwards. This is an essential etiquette to practice with a prospective client or an important business partner. It acknowledges your meeting in an exceptional way
- Item Placing
The rule states that you should never put any of your belongings on the table, no matter how small it is. Some restaurants may allocate a mini trolley cart to your table for your bag. However, the right place to put your bag is under your chair or wedged between your back and the back of the chair. If it’s small enough, you can place on your lap and cover with your napkin while you dine. Your coat or jacket can be placed over the back of your chair, or on a nearby coat hook.
- Seating Arrangement
Ensure that you wait until your host sits first. Countries conversely differ with this rule, as it is more polite for the host to remain standing until the guests are all sat. In an event where there is no host, you may want to consider waiting for the oldest people at the table to sit. Familiarise yourself ahead with your location’s etiquette concerning seating decorum if unaccustomed. Your host may also have seating arrangements planned beforehand therefore, you should allow him to give you directions. Guest of honour always have special seat set for them by the host and host sits to the left of the guest of honour while other guests are then offered to seats around the table.
Pick up the napkin from the table as soon as you sit down. Unfold and place it on your lap ensuring the open end of the fold is not facing you. It is rather outdated to tuck the napkin into the front of your shirt, dress or waist. So, never do that, as it is unacceptable these days. Always put the napkin on your seat if you have to excuse yourself. Doing this means and tells the server that you will return shortly. When you are done eating, put it on the left side of your plate as this explains that you are done eating.
Do not use the napkin to wipe your face after a meal but to blot your mouth. If your napkin falls on the floor, politely ask the server to get you a clean one. Ladies do blot your lipstick with a tissue before coming to the table in order to avoid staining the glasses and napkin. Do not squeeze up the napkin and toss on the table. If everyone is rising from the table after the feast, do place your napkin to the left of your place setting.
- The Place Settings
For occasional dinners, you will find out that there are more utensils other than a standard fork, knife, and spoon. It is best to be prepared so you know what goes for what. Etiquette rule states that the utensils are usually placed in the order of their use. It is always safe to start from the outside and work your way in. Think about the solids on your left and liquids to your right. I.e. Your bread plate will always be on your left while your wine, water, and coffee cups will be on your right.
Source: The Kitchen
The illustration above identifies the structure of a table setting.
- The water glass will always be on the left side of your wine glass
- Your salad fork will be placed on the outside of your place dinner fork, and it is always smaller than your dinner fork
- The Forks usually go on the left, although if you ever see a small fork on your right-hand side, it is an oyster fork.
- Never rearrange the dining table.
- Do not wave around your eating utensils
- Ensure not pick anything that falls off the table, leave it while you wait or ask politely the server to get you another one.
Using Your Utensils
As illustrated above, there are different glasses for different drinks. It is vital to always know the right one to choose. When making a toast, always keep direct eye contact and never tap the side of the glass with utensils nor touch glasses with other guests as you could damage the expensive glass. Do not hold the glass to the server when he is pouring you a refill, never signal with hands that you do not want more, rather tell it to him verbally.
- Make a simple order
Some foods like lobsters, finger foods and any meal with a lot of sauce are a little difficult to eat. When ordering your food, you can avoid experiencing some of the potential difficulties of the main course by avoiding unfamiliar orders. Place an order for a food that is enjoyable and easy to eat. Avoid eating foods that stick to your teeth like burgers, broccoli or seed filled meal for you do not want to discuss business over messy food stuck in your mouth or all over your face and fingers.
- Be Time (Menu) Conscious
Do not waste too much time with the menu. Have a quick glance and make up your mind prior to the waiter’s arrival.
- Be Polite
Remember to always remain polite to the server, host and everyone else on the table.
- Body language
Do not lean over the table or slouch. Always sit up straight. Do not place elbows on the table between courses when there is no food on the table. Crossing or wrapping of legs around the table is not allowed; your feet should rest flat on the floor. Do not rock back in the chair.
- Passing food
Pass food to the right if the food is not being passed to a particular person. One of the diners either holds the dish as the other diner takes some food, or the diner can give the dish to the other diner, who then serves herself. Heavy or awkward dishes are put on the table with each pass.
Placing your Order or Ordering your Food
- Be prepared to make your order
When it is time to order up, do not make a scene and ensure you are not being indecisive. Read through the menu as soon as possible and except you have a food allergy, never ask the server to explain every meal on the menu.
- Avoid Alcohol
Choose mocktail or soda over alcohol. Your drink is to compliment your food and not to get you drunk. There are many reasons to avoid alcohol at formal meals. This is because alcohol fuzzes the mind and you need to keep your mind together all through the dinner. Order something non-alcoholic, even if your host orders alcohol. If your host insists that you have a glass of wine, do indulge but limit yourself to a glass and drink slower than your host. Do not order the most expensive
- Avoid High-priced Meals
Save expensive for your own personal dinner exploration. It is rude to order something much more expensive than your host. Be conscious of what your host orders If possible; order whatever your host orders even if it is an appetizer. But, if your host is yet to make an order, it is okay to ask for his recommendation.
- Wait for your host and everyone before you eat
Never start eating until your host does first neither should you eat until everyone at the table has been served their food unless the host indicates otherwise.