Maintaining a professional image is always important and dining in a business setting can be an opportunity to make a good impression. For young graduates new to the corporate world it can be daunting, but knowing the correct business dining etiquette is a silent plus on your curriculum. Here is a quick guide to getting it right:
Arrival – Be on time, or better, a little early. If you arrive first don’t go straight to the table, wait for your host. Be sure to greet everyone at the table as they arrive and try to remember names.
Ordering Food – Try to follow the lead of your host. Don’t order the most expensive item on the menu, or the cheapest. If the host doesn’t order first, ask for recommendations. Beware of tricky foods that are difficult to eat and don’t order something that you are unfamiliar with!
Alcohol – For a business lunch, alcohol should be avoided, even if the host is having a beer or glass of wine. It is perfectly acceptable to have an alcoholic drink during an evening dinner but you should limit yourself to one glass, as dancing on the table may not be your best look!
Table Manners – How you eat, hold your cutlery and even communicate with service staff, will send a message to those around you. Consider what message you want to send! Table manners vary according to cultures but the continental style of eating is considered the most acceptable manner of eating internationally and will never be wrong. Brush up on how to use your utensils, eat bread and napkin placements before you go.
Conversation & Talking Business – Your host will usually guide the conversation in the right direction. Small talk is to be expected at the start of the meal with business topics generally being introduced during the main course. During shorter business lunches the small talk may only last until the food has been ordered. Try to prepare a few conversation starters beforehand if you are nervous. Who will be attending the meal? What are their job positions in the company? What interests might they have? What nationalities will be present? Religion, politics and controversial subjects should always be avoided.
Paying the bill – The globally accepted rule is that the person who is hosting the dinner is the person who pays for the dinner and the tip. There is no need to offer, just be sure to thank your host!
The Etiquette Consultant