Business meetings and negotiations are usually conducted over a meal. Business executives need to observe proper dining etiquette in a business meal. Table manners are very essential whether you are trying to close a deal or a potential employer is taking you to a lunch or dinner interview.
Just as with any type of etiquette, dining etiquette is designed to keep the socially accepted behavior on the table. For example, you may think that it is perfectly fine to pick the food from the plate using your fingers but your business associate will choose not to offer a handshake after you have shown that unappetizing behavior. Poor table manners, inappropriate gestures, and offensive behavior in a business meal can put your business on the line or lose a huge business contract and may possibly ruin your future career opportunities.
Hosting a Business Meal
If you are the host of a lunch or dinner meeting with business associates or potential clients, the bulk of the responsibility in managing the occasion is on you. Know your duties and pay attention to every detail- from the invitation to paying the bill.
In sending out the invitation, plan three days or a week ahead and make sure that the date is not in conflict with your client’s appointments. Choose a restaurant that you are familiar with since that makes you confident with the quality of the food and the kind of service offered. Make a reservation prior to the dinner meeting. Inform them of the number of persons and the preferred date and time. Once everything is set for the venue, confirm the appointment with the client the day before.
Being the meal host, arrive on the venue before the time. Plan the seating arrangement strategically. If you have two clients, do not sit in between them as your head will be moving from left to right and back and forth during the conversation.
When ordering food, allow the guest to order first. Also, you must initiate the conversation. If it is a breakfast meeting, get down to business as there is limited time. For a lunch meeting, wait until the food is served. But dinner meeting is the best time to build rapport. However, when you know your clients well, it will not be hard to do small talks and get down to business without spending time for acquaintance. Lastly, as the host, you are responsible for paying the bill.
Rules on Table Setting
Every individual in business must have basic knowledge of the typical table setting which includes the placement of utensils and other condiments. On a dinner table, your water glass is located on your right and the bread dish to the left is yours. Utensils must be used from the outside in. When cutting a piece of meat, hold the knife with the right hand and the fork on the left. Pick the sliced meat with the fork on your right hand this time.
A dropped utensil must be left where it is and just ask the waiter to replace it with a new one. Used utensils must not be placed on the table cloth but on the meal plate. Table cloths are for food crumbs and wiping the mouth clean after eating. Thereafter, the utensils must be positioned at 11:00 (angle) across the plate.
Mind your Personal Habits
A respectable individual always manifests socially accepted behavior even when dining. When eating, chew with your mouth closed and do not talk with food in your mouth. Moreover, do not gobble the food quickly. Try to avoid ordering food that is messy and difficult to eat. Refrain from burping but if a quiet sound escapes, politely say “Excuse me”. Do not lick your fingers but clean it with a napkin instead. When sipping soup, never lift the bowl to savor the last drop.
Your mobile phone must either be turned off or put in a silent mode during the meal. Since it is a business meeting, refrain from drinking alcohol. But if the client insists, limit it to one glass or two.
These table manners can give you a huge break on your career opportunities or professional success. If you are trying to close a deal, you will more likely achieve the negotiation you have been waiting for if you show refinement during business meals.