“Dazzling a potential client, business partner or employers with your good manners and social graces can result in a job offer or lucrative contract. Alternatively, a lack of composure or proper table etiquette could mean a missed opportunity.” warns Tracey Turner, executive director of The Creative Group.
Turner’s offers tips for executives to using during their next business lunch:
Don’t be late. Executives typically have a limited amount of time for lunch, so tardiness can be extra offensive. Greet your lunch date with a firm, warm handshake. Once everyone is seated and your host has placed his/her napkin on his lap, immediately do the same.
Know your way around the table
Familiarize yourself with a standard table setting. Beverages, soup spoon and knives will typically be on your right; forks and your bread plate will be on your left. The rule of thumb, start from the outside and work in, holds true when it comes to which utensils to use first. If you’re dining in an especially swank establishment, take a moment to brush up on the proper use of additional accoutrements, such as fish knives, finger bowls, etc.
Order with care
Ignore your craving for the barbecue pork sandwich or any other potentially messy dish. By sticking to easy-to-eat items, executives will save themselves the embarrassment of sauce dripping down your shirt. Also, don’t order the most pricey entrée if you’re not paying, and follow the lead of your host when it comes to appetizers, desserts and other extras. It’s best to refrain from drinking alcoholic beverages, even if your host orders one.
Give your host your undivided attention
Don’t start eating until your host has given you a cue to do so, and try not to leave the table until the meal has concluded unless it’s necessary. If you must exit, leave your napkin folded on your chair. Make sure your cell phone and pager are turned off before you are seated. Never accept a telephone call while at the table. If it’s an emergency, excuse yourself and take the call outside the restaurant.
Be pleasant and courteous to the wait staff
Nothing is more disenchanting (or humiliating) than dining with someone who is surly or rude to the wait staff. That doesn’t mean you have to meekly eat the wrong dish if it’s served to you, but you should be polite to everyone you encounter. Behaving in an inconsiderate or arrogant fashion will likely cause a business associate to question whether you’ll display the same attitude when working with him/her.
Take time to chat
Don’t delve into business until you’ve placed your order. Instead, make conversation, and try to get beyond the weather. Most people love to talk about themselves, so ask thoughtful questions that aren’t too personal in nature, and actively listen to your dining companions’ responses.
Despite all of your preparation, you may make a faux pas during a business lunch. A fork could slip out of your hand, or a piece of food could get stuck in your throat. If something doesn’t go according to plan, don’t let it fluster you.
Exit with ease
Once your host has finished and placed his/her napkin on the table, you should do the same. Don’t ask for a doggy bag – it may be frowned upon if you’re a guest – and be sure to thank your host for the meal.