Sealing the Deal Over Lunch
November 1st, 2011
Enter gracefully and do not be late. Executives typically have a limited amount of time for lunch, so tardiness can be extra offensive. It is important to greet your lunch date with a firm, warm handshake-this is a critical time for first impressions. Once everyone is seated and your host has placed his or her napkin on their lap, immediately do the same. It is also imperative to know your way around the table. Familiarize yourself with standard table settings. 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 is generally, start from the outside and work you way in. if you are dining in an especially swanky establishment, take a moment to brush up on the proper use of additional accouterments, such as knives, finger bowls, etc.
It is important to order your meal 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 spilling and staining their clothes. It is also etiquette not to order the most expensive item on the menu if you are not paying. Follow the lead of the host when it comes to appetizers, desserts, and other extras. It is also best to refrain from drinking alcoholic beverages, even if your host chooses to order one.
Do not 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 is absolutely necessary. Give the host your undivided attention. If you must exit, leave your napkin folded on your chair. Make sure your cell phone is turned off before you are seated and never accept a telephone call or text message while at the table. If it is an emergency, then simply excuse yourself and take the call outside the restaurant. Being pleasant and courteous to the wait staff is important whenever you go out to eat and especially when you are in a business setting. Nothing is more humiliating than dining with someone who is rude to the wait staff. That does not mean you have to meekly eat the wrong dish if it is 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 will display the same attitude when working with him or her.
Take the time to chat with people at the table. Chemistry is key. Try not delving into business until you have 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 are not too personal in nature and actively listen to your dining companions’ responses. Remaining calm is also key. 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 does not go according to plan, do not let it fluster you.
Exit with ease. Once your host has finished and placed his or her napkin on the table, you should do the same. Do not ask for a doggy bag because it may be frowned upon if you are a guest. Be sure to thank you host for the meal. Ultimately, the key to successful business lunch etiquette is be polite, friendly, and aware of your surroundings.