As you progress in your career, chances are you will be asked to join a group of colleagues and/or senior managers for a business dinner. This could be a celebratory event, a holiday gathering, or simply a meal while traveling meant to be shared with co-workers. There are a few things you will want to know, however, before attending.
- When invited to join a more senior person for dinner, by all means accept. This will be a terrific opportunity to get to know them outside the office atmosphere. Make sure you leave enough time, however, and don’t schedule anything else that evening. Business dinners can take up to three hours.
- If wine is served, and you would like a glass, feel free to partake. However, I recommend sticking to one glass, two at the most, as studies have shown that drinking with business associates is likely to get out of hand more quickly than drinking with friends.
- When ordering off the menu feel free to order an appetizer or salad, in addition to a main course. Your host should let you order first, then follow suit with the same number of courses. If you don’t know what to order you can ask your host for a suggestion.
- Even if you get your food first, don’t start eating until anyone else at your table, and especially the host has been served.
- Your host will sit at one end of a rectangular table and the most important seat is to their right. Your host may direct you where to sit, but if not, feel free to sit anywhere except to their right. Same rules go for a square or round table.
- If you need to leave the table during the meal to use the rest room and/or make a phone call, excuse yourself, and leave your napkin on your chair.
- Follow the general rules of dining etiquette, remembering to use silverware from the outside in, keep elbows off the table, place dirty silverware back on your plate, bread is offered to the left and passed (along with butter) to the right, and the glass to your right is yours.
- When the check arrives the person who has invited you is expected to pay. If you initiated the dinner, it is anticipated that you will pick up the tab. To insure that you get the bill first, you can tell the waiter or maître‘ d to hand it to you, or offer them a credit card up front.
Business meals may seem like a terrific opportunity to try an exclusive restaurant that you wouldn’t ordinarily go to. This may the case, however business meals are not about food. They are about spending time with colleagues in a more social atmosphere. It is not the time to eat something unique that you have never tried before. It is more a time of ordering blander easier-to-eat food, and using the time to converse on a different level than you do in the office. Bon appetit!