Power Lunch Like a Pro

 Business Meal Etiquette

by Tina Hayes

Business dining is not just about the meal, but developing relationships. More business transactions and negotiations take place while dining. Business lunches give professionals the opportunity to evaluate and get to know each other better. Are you making a good impression and representing your company by exhibiting the highest degree of appropriate decorum?

Hosting a Business Lunch

As the host, it is your responsibility to ensure your client’s experience is pleasurable. Pay attention to details to warrant a well-executed lunch meeting.

When selecting a restaurant, choose a venue that has quality food and good customer service. If you are unaware of your guest’s dietary preferences, choose an establishment that offers a variety of menu selections. It is also acceptable to inquire if your guest has a restaurant preference. Don’t experiment; if you are unfamiliar with a restaurant, scout it out ahead of time.

Inform the restaurant that you will be hosting a business lunch when you make the reservations. Some establishments have selective seating for these types of meals. Your table selection should afford some privacy. Avoid tables near the entrance, bathrooms and kitchen.

The day before the lunch meeting, reconfirm with your guest. Exchange phone numbers and provide the phone number of the restaurant in case of an emergency.

Try to arrive before your guest to ensure all of your specifications have been met. Pay for the meal ahead of time, or let the waiter know that you will be responsible for the meal. Once all of the preliminaries have been handled, wait in the lobby for your client.

The host is responsible for paying the tab. The person that invites someone to a business lunch is expected to pay.

At the conclusion of the lunch, verbally extend your appreciation then follow up with a thank you card. Take this opportunity to recap any business decisions.

Eight More Dining Tips

1. Introductions and greetings should be made while standing. At a business lunch, it is appropriate for a woman to stand and shake the hand of a male.

2. Order a meal that is easy to eat. Avoid messy and challenging foods such as French onion soup, red pastas, crab or chicken with bones (unless you can skillfully eat boned chicken with a knife and fork). To avoid talking with food in your mouth, take small bites.

3. Allow your guest to order first, then order the same number of courses to keep pace with your dining companion. If your client orders soup, salad or dessert, follow suit.

4. The general rule is not to discuss business during the onset of the meal. Be prepared to initiate small talk by having non-work conversation topics in mind. Be cognizant, however of your client’s time. A business lunch should not consume an entire afternoon (average time one-and-a-half hours).

5. Proper dining decorum dictates that you spoon soup away from you; cut and eat one bite of meat at a time; and do not cut a roll with a knife (break off a small bite size piece and only butter that piece before eating it).

6. Ladies, do not re-apply lipstick at the table.

7. Show a high degree of respect to the wait staff. If possible, avoid discussing mishaps in front of clients. Excuse yourself to handle problems with the wait staff or discuss after the meal.

8. The standard tip is 15 to 20 percent calculated on the pre-tax total of the bill. For those of you that extend your time at the table (over an hour-and-a-half), leave more than the standard tip. Take into consideration the additional customers your waiter could have served.

Tina Hayes owns The School of Etiquette and Decorum and authored “Getting Ahead With Etiquette”. Hayes is a certified graduate of The American School of Protocol. Find out more about her at www.etiquetteschool.us.

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