Networking is one of the most interesting advantages of a business trip. When you meet a colleague or a customer, most probably a business dinner will follow to strengthen the relations between. A business dinner is not actually just for eating together. It’s a strategy to know someone better and your dining manners will tell much about you. And this dinner might presumably initiate a partnership - or not - so you should pay adequate attention to business dining etiquette to make a hit with the opposite party. If you want to get off to a good start to your business partnership, take a look at these business dining etiquette tips and be ready to impress!
However, remember that dining etiquette may differ from country to country, so it’s always wise to check or ask your local colleague’s advice before you travel to a specific country.
Don’t Risk Being Late
Being late is unacceptable for any kind of formal meeting, excluding exceptional circumstances. So the first rule that you should follow is being there on time. If you come earlier than the decided time, never call the host or your colleague before you wait for nearly 15 minutes.
Make a Good Start
First impression is crucial for a business dinner. So you have to be careful about your outfit, your greeting style and your sitting at the table. The restaurant and the person’s title is important when you choose your outfit but if you’re not sure, dressing smart casual is always advantageous.
When you arrive, shake hands with everyone and introduce yourself if you need to. Never sit down before your host does. If you have coat and bags with you and if the restaurant doesn’t have a cloakroom, the best place to put your belongings is under your chair or over the back of chair.
Forget about Your Mobile Phone
If you think you can put your mobile phone on the table, please don’t. It’s even irritating while you’re dining with a friend and it’s totally intolerable while having a business dinner. Never forget to turn it on silent. Vibration is also unacceptable. If you’re expecting a really important call, you can kindly inform your colleague (or your host) about this situation and as their permission to answer this call but keep it as short as possible.
Not Be Indecisive
Eating may be a matchless moment for you but at a business dinner, you can ignore the catching the best taste phase for a moment. If you scrutinize the menu and ask dozens of questions to the server, this will make you seem too picky or indecisive. If you don’t have a specific food allergy, try to make your choice as fast as you can.
No matter if you are a guest at the business dinner and if your host will take care of the check, or you will share it, try not to choose the most expensive food in the menu. Even if you will pay your own food it may seem like you are showing off. Don’t go for the cheapest item either. Be moderate.
Don’t Be the First to Eat
If you’re starving, try to eat something before you arrive at the restaurant and don’t dive into your meal before everyone else. This is a rude behavior and can make your colleagues irritate.
Don’t be the first to eat and do not overeat. Don’t make yourself seem like you’re there only to eat. Eating very little is also rude, though. Instead, try to finish your plate (this doesn’t mean you should lick your plate clean) and eat a bit of everything from your plate.
Know How to Place Your Utensils
The positions of your utensils matter and may differ from Europe to USA or Asia. If you’re having your business dinner in USA and want to signal the server that you’re finished, you should position your knife and fork parallel to each other and the handles should look towards your right shoulder. The fork should face upwards.
If your business dinner is in Europe, the positions of your utensils are the same except for one difference: your fork should face downwards.
For more details about how to use and position your utensils both in continental and American style, you can take a look at Carey Sue Vega’s article on American vs. Continental Style Dining.
Make that Attempt to Pay the Check
If you’re a guest at that dinner, you can make that attempt to pay the check even if you’re sure your host will pay the check, but never insist. Kindly thank them and let them pay. If you’re eating together with a group of colleagues, sharing the bill is the best thing to do. But if you believe the community is OK with that, and if you feel like paying for a treat, do it! But make sure you you’re doing it without lording it over.
A No-Brainer: Taste First Before Salting
This is the old rule that we all know but let’s remember it again. Even if you’re a salt fan, never salt your food before tasting it because it will make you seem like you’re biased.
Drink Your Soup like a Pro
Drinking your soup from a bowl may seem like piece of cake! But it actually has its own manners. You will find your soup spoon on the far right. While drinking, scoop your soup from the furthest side of the bowl and hold the spoon parallel to your face. Never slurped if you are not in Japan (or in some Asian countries it is considered as polite) and don’t overfill your spoon. While you’re finishing, tilt the bowl away from you.
Be Careful about the Shared Food
Shared food is a delicate subject. If you eat more than anyone on the table, you may irritate them. So be careful and try to control yourself even if it’s your favorite food. Plus, dipping your bread or food into the shared sauce is extremely rude. If there’s a shared food on the table, spoon a reasonable amount of it to your plate.
Will You Use Chopsticks?
Using chopsticks may be challening if you’re not accustomed to. However, in some cases you may have to use chopsticks, so let’s have some knowledge about using them effectively. Chopsticks should be in your right hand. The first one should firmly be positioned under your thumb and supported by your ring finger. You should hold the second one as if you hold a pencil. The first chopstick never moves. The mission of it is to support the food that you grasp with the second chopsticks (the upper one). Remember, you should never use these chopsticks to point anything on the table or dig your food. Use them just to eat your food.
Napkin’s Position Matters
When you sit at the table, you should immediately put your napkin on your lap. If you have to leave the table for a reason and will come back (try not to do it if you really dont have to) put your napkin on your chair, not on the table. This is a sign that you will turn back.
Coughing or Sneezing
This happens. You may have to sneeze or cough while eating. To be polite, turn your head to your left and cover your mouth with the top of your left hand.
If you are ordering drink together with your colleague, try to remain moderate again both in the point of amount and price. If your host is ordering, you can follow their lead and limit yourself one or two glass of drink at most. If you are the guest at the dinner, try not to drink more than your host.
Have Knowledge about the Table Setting
Table setting is almost universal and having a knowledge about it makes things really easy for you during your dinner. Generally, you will see three forks and three knives at both sides of your plate. The ones that are furthest from your plate and comparingly smaller, are for starters and salad courses. The ones between are for fish courses and the outer ones are for meat courses. Fish knife has a sharp end and it is wider than the other ones.
Bread plate is positioned at the left of your plate with a butter knife. The fork or spoon that will be used for the desserts are in front of your plate. Water glass is the one on the left and comparingly larger than the other glass. The one on the right is for wine.