For most business professionals, having dinner with colleagues, managers, higher-ups or clients is a regular occurrence that must be taken seriously. Whether it is for a holiday party, a celebration or a shared meal with co-workers, it’s crucial to know proper etiquette before attending so that you remain as professional and proper as possible. Here are some important tips to follow when having dinner with other professionals.
First, always accept an invitation from a senior person. It may be nerve racking at first, but ultimately it is a great chance to get to know this person outside of the office. Always make sure that you have enough time to attend (many business dinners can take up to three hours). Do not schedule yourself for any other appointment that evening, so that you can focus on the dinner and networking.
The host should sit at one of a table. The most important seat at the table is to their right. When arriving, ask your host where to sit. If they are impartial to seating, sit anywhere except that seat. This applies to any size table, whether square, round or rectangular.
As for alcohol, feel free to partake in a glass of wine. I would recommend one to two glasses at most. In terms of food, order that appetizer or salad as well as a main course. The host should always order first, then follow suit with the same amount of courses they have chosen.
If you aren’t sure what to order, ask the host for a suggestion of what to eat at this particular restaurant. This will show them that you trust their taste. If you happen to receive your food first, never start eating until everyone else at your table has been served.
Always follow general dining etiquette by using silverware from the outside in. Never place your elbows on the dining table. When you have finished a course, place your dirty silverware back onto the plate. Always offer bread to your left and pass it (along with the butter) to the right. Drink out of the glass to the right of your plate.
If at some point you need to leave the table during the meal, excuse yourself and leave your napkin on your chair. When the meal ends and the check arrives, it is expected that whoever invited you to the dinner will pay the bill. If you were the one to initiate the dinner then you should pick up the tab. If this is the case, tell the host or the waiter ahead of time to five you the bill or offer your credit card up front at the beginning of the meal.
Remember that business meals are not just about food, but spending time with your colleagues in a social atmosphere. Use the time to network, learn things about your co-workers and have a light-hearted time. Building powerful relationships with those you work will yields a better workplace and greater success in your work ventures. Relax, have fun and enjoy!
Sharon Kornstein AICI CIP is the owner of Image Design Consulting LLC. They are a full service style and image consulting company in Livingston, New Jersey. Some of her services include personal shopping, business dinner etiquette training for clients in the New Jersey area, wardrobe organizing and virtual makeovers virtual makeovers. Sharon also speaks to graduating college students about the proper way to act and function in business settings.