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10 Business Meal Tips for Polished Entertaining

Today, business is the largest social environment in the world. Our rapidly expanding global economy forces us to socialize and conduct business at the table more than ever before. It is in this setting that table manners play a major role as relationships are developed and strengthened. There is no better, or possibly worse, place to make an impression than at the table. 

The following tips will guide you in hosting business meals with finesse:

  1. Start by selecting a restaurant with which you are familiar. Knowing the restaurant and staff will make you feel more comfortable.

  2. Arrive early and select a table. Seating and table location are important considerations during business meals. Request a table away from the kitchen, restrooms, or entryway.

  3. Prior to sitting, the host should decide the chair location for the guest. If there is more than one guest, the most important guest should be seated to the right of the host; the second most important guest is on the host’s left, unless there is a co-host. If so, the second most important guest would be seated to the co-host’s right. 

  4. Stand when guests arrive, shake hands, and let them know where you would like for them to sit.

  5. If you are the host, you can make subtle suggestions from the menu. These suggestions ease the guest’s uncertainty about what to order. It also indicates the meal budget and the number of courses. To make your guest feel comfortable, you should order the same number of courses as he or she orders.

  6. At a business lunch, one should opt for manageable dishes that require a knife and fork to eat. Practice good table manners while dining, remembering to swallow before speaking and chew with your lips closed. Pace yourself, so that you and your guest are finished at the same time.

  7. Let your guest know it is okay for him to drink whatever he likes by asking, “Would you like a beverage? Soda, wine, water?” It is okay to have an alcoholic drink if your guest abstains, but limit yourself to one drink. 

  8. Avoid the common blunder of getting down to business. Conversation during the early part of the meal should be about building rapport with your guest. Serious business is saved for later in the meal, after the entrée plates have been removed.

  9. The host pays the bill, which includes the gratuity. As the host, you are also responsible for your guest’s coat check and valet parking tips as well.

  10. Signal the end of the meal by placing your napkin on the table and rising from your chair.


By: Patricia Napier-Fitzpatrick

      March 2017

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