When you think about proper dining etiquette, devouring a turkey leg over a business lunch likely doesn’t come to mind. That’s not what we think of either, but in the spirit of State Fair fever that grips many people this time of year, we wanted to provide you some dining etiquette tips that will work on the Midway—and off.
- If you make a reservation to meet someone, treat it like any other appointment and stick to it. Call ahead if you’re going to be more than 15 minutes late and cancel as far in advance as possible if your plans change.
- At a restaurant, it’s a napkin; at the fair, it might be your pant leg—but we recommend against that! In a restaurant setting, as soon as you are seated, remove the napkin from your place setting, and put it in your lap. At the end of the meal, leave the napkin semi-folded at the left side of the place setting. It should not be crumpled or twisted.
- The fair is about eating food with your fingers, but in business, not so much. Keep this simple rule in mind regardless of setting: Eat to your left and drink to your right. That means any food dish to the left is yours, and any glass to the right is yours. If you’ve moved from the fair to a nice restaurant, use the silverware farthest from your plate first. Working from the outside in, using one utensil for each course.
- Pass food from the left to the right. Do not stretch across the table or cross other guests to reach food or condiments. Pass the salt and pepper together.
- If food is caught between your teeth, wait to remove it privately; never use a toothpick in front of others. (And don’t be tempted to use the stick to extract that last bite of corn dog from your teeth!)
- Whenever possible, switch conversation partners from time to time during the meal. Steer clear of sensitive or controversial topics, such as money, religion, gossip and politics.
- Finally, don’t dive into business conversation immediately. A business lunch or dinner—regardless of setting—is as much about the opportunity to build a business relationship as it is to actually conduct business.
Business lunches and dinners can be very productive and positive for the simple fact that they take place outside of the office setting. When all is said and done, relax and have fun. (And don’t forget to try a deep-fried Twinkie!)
Learn more about mastering business etiquette in a Dardis Communications’ Professional Presence, Image & Etiquette seminar.