Etiquette is said to be an example of ones ethics in action. In a business setting for dining your behavior or etiquette is a loud and clear message as to your personal ethics or business ethics. Many a client will size up your behavior as a precursor to how they will be treated during business transactions. Staff will asses even it subconsciously your leadership skills during the dining experience. So will your boss.
Being gracious, polite and kind are always a good place to start. This applies towards the business participants with whom you are dining and to the staff that is serving you. If you mistakenly make a cultural error the act of being gracious, kind and polite will certainly help to smooth things over.
Try to be aware when possible about the dining needs or preferences when you are in charge of picking the dining establishment. You don’t want to take that potential new vegetarian client to the local steak house.
Try to learn a little about the cultural habits of your dining companion. Some cultures make a lot of noise with the meal, others eat in silence. Pay attention and go with the flow.
Use conversational continuance phrases like how so or and how. This helps to keep the conversation moving. It is always best to keep the others talking. Sports, food and scenic vistas are good light topics. Stay away from politics and religion. They are not subjects that enhance digestion or business usually.
If your boss or a client has taken you out take time to send a hand written thank you. Make sure to include the name of the spouse if they were present. This will set you on a good path for invites to future meals and to increased business.
If you drink, do so in moderation, and only if the others dining with you imbibe. Never order a drink if the boss or client doesn’t. You can always have a couple later. Familiarize yourself with how to order wine even it you don’t drink just in case the need arises.
Turn the cell phone off. Give your dining partners your full attention. No matter how important you are, the world will not end if you don’t answer the phone during the meal.
If the food arrives for others before yours arrives encourage them to eat now and not wait for you. Do not make a scene with the service staff as it will often make you not the server look bad. Graciously accept your meal when it does arrive. Quietly have it packed to go or politely canceled if you are pressed for time as in a luncheon situation.
Never argue about who is paying the bill. If you organized the meal you should be prepared to pay. If it is all colleagues graciously pay your part, or pick up the tab and have some one else pick it up next time.
Genuinely enjoy the experience and do your best to lead the other diners in that direction. Dining is a time for bonding and fellowship and can serve to create lasting business relationships that benefit all parties. Thank everyone for coming even if you are the one paying. Thank the staff for their attentiveness to your dining experience. Tip properly to insure proper service in the future.