Slippery Little Suckers - The Importance of Proper Dining Etiquette

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Who can forget the scene in Pretty Woman when Julia Roberts is attempting to eat escargot for the first time during an important business meeting.
In a less than elegant fashion, the delicacy flies across the room into the hands of a nearby waiter.
While this scene provided us with a laugh, in the world outside the lights of Hollywood, this kind of dining faux pas may not be considered quite so funny.
It may not seem an important business tool, but knowing proper dining etiquette can mean the difference between landing and keeping an important client, a promotion or even your job.
Back in the day, it would have been expected that young executives would possess proper table manners, but in today's fast-paced, technology-driven world, many times that's sadly not the case.
The importance of table manners seems to have fallen by the wayside and because of this, companies are forced to waste time teaching proper etiquette to new employees before trusting them to represent the company at a business meal.
Having this working knowledge can make you a valuable asset to your company.
When you are representing your company over a business meal, there are steps to follow and actions to avoid in order to impress your dining companion(s).
For example, when you are meeting a client over a business lunch on your company's dime, it's improper to tell your guest what or what not to order.
Also, never schedule another business meeting immediately following your lunch meeting.
These types of things inevitably run over and rushing your client through the meal is a sure-fire way to lose his interest and ultimately his business.
If you're hosting a business lunch or dinner where there will be several people dining with you, there are plenty of other proper forms of etiquette to follow.
For example:
  • If you are responsible for making the initial invitations to the guests, be sure they understand the purpose of the meeting.
    Is it a supervisor's meeting? A Board Meeting? A planning session? Formal or casual?

  • If you are setting the menu, always include at least one vegetarian option.
    Not everyone enjoys a side of beef as a meal.

  • Always be the first to arrive.
    Nothing screams "unprofessional" more than having your guests arrive before you.
    Plus, arriving early allows you to discuss any last-minute details with the restaurant staff.
    Wait near the entrance to greet your guests or have the maitre d' show your guests to your table or dining area.

  • As guests arrive, introduce those who may not know each other.
    Don't expect them to do it themselves.

  • As the host of the dinner meeting, it is your job to guide your guests.
    When everyone has arrived, ask everyone to be seated and call the meal "to order.
    " This doesn't mean you have to stick strictly to an agenda and not allow time for socializing.
    It simply means you want to keep your meeting on track.

  • Upon sitting at the table, place your napkin immediately in your lap.

  • Your guests will follow your lead.
    If you are planning to order alcohol, know that your guests will likely follow suit.
    The same applies to appetizers and dessert.

  • Wait until everyone has received their meal before eating.

  • Don't display the fact that you are paying the bill.
    If you can make arrangements for the bill before your guests arrive - better yet.
    A good host doesn't make a big deal of this part of the meal - be discreet.

  • Don't leave until all of your guests are gone.
    Thank each one as they leave.
    Don't forget to thank the restaurant staff before you leave.
It seems like a lot to remember, but after hosting a few dinner meetings and following these steps you're going to be on the fast track to the top of the corporate ladder in no time!
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