Do you find yourself doing a lot of business over meals? If so, you are not alone. The business breakfast, lunch or dinner is a common occurrence today. The purpose of the business meal can vary from interviewing for a job to sealing the deal with a client. Often the reason for the occasion is simply to build a relationship with current or potential clients. Business dining is not to be taken lightly.
The way you conduct yourself at the table can determine whether you land that job, get the promotion or close the sale. I know a highly successful consultant who refuses to do business with anyone who lacks proper table manners. In my business etiquette courses I provide training in every aspect of the meal from which fork to use, where to place the napkin and how to butter the bread. If you want to be successful, learn the rules. For now let’s start with what you should NOT eat while dining out for business.
Stay away from any unknown foods. That’s anything you have never eaten before. One example is the whole artichoke. If you haven’t had one previously, don’t try it now. If your host insists on ordering the artichoke for you, do yourself a favor by admitting that you have never been presented with a whole artichoke and ask how to approach it. Don’t try to wing it.
Avoid shellfish. Clams, mussels, lobster and shrimp with the tails on are challenging at best. All are difficult to manage. Not only is lobster messy and has to be eaten while wearing a bib (how professional looking is that?) and using special equipment, but it is also generally the most expensive item on the menu.
Fresh spinach is not a good choice. That means no spinach salad. While salad would seem a safe bet, spinach tends to stick to your teeth like a fine coat of varnish. You don’t want to spend the entire meal running your tongue over your teeth trying to remove the coating. If you want spinach, order it cooked as a side dish. Other salad greens can be equally hazardous.
You love spaghetti, but enjoy it with family or friends. It is always challenging to get it into your mouth without at least one strand hanging out. Just as you are trying to suck it in, everyone at the table will turn to look at you. At the business meal your fork is for cutting those long strands of pasta, not for twirling. To stay on the safe side, order bow-tie. farfalle, rigatoni or the other short forms of pasta. Leave the linguine, angel hair and fettuccine for another time. Most of the noodle dishes are covered in sauces that could end up on your clothing. Best not to wear the marinara out of the restaurant. It could be a constant reminder of the promotion you didn’t get.
Steer clear of foods that you have to eat with your fingers. Don’t order the ribs, wings or fried chicken unless your host insists on taking you to the best barbecue place in town. Those items are all messy and practically require that you wear a raincoat while eating them. The only thing you should be eating with your fingers is the bread, and that by the way, is eaten, one small piece at a time.
No article or training course on the etiquette of dining would be complete without a warning about consumption of alcohol. Stick to one glass of wine., two at the most. No matter how hard your host tries to convince you to have another glass or how many drinks your guest is having, resist temptation. Alcohol is like truth serum and causes people to say things that in many cases should be kept to themselves. When the meal is over, you want to know that you finished on good terms with your boss or the client. Getting drunk at lunch or dinner will ruin any chance of that happening.
This is only the tip of the iceberg (and I am not speaking of the lettuce) when it comes to business dining. There are 85 tips listed in my book on dining for success. That is just for starters. I have additional resources available on my website and I am always available to present a course on dining for success to you individually or to your organization.
What foods would you recommend avoiding at the business meal?
Hire Lydia to work with your staff to improve customer service and employee relations through the use of those priceless and often over-looked soft skills called manners. Lydia is the “unstuffy” business etiquette expert who helps individuals and organizations add the polish that builds profits. We’re talking about your bottom line here.
Since 1996, countless people have benefited from her wisdom through keynotes, seminars and conference breakout sessions. Her Southern charm and sense of humor have made her a sought-after speaker and consultant.
Based in Savannah, Georgia, Lydia is available for national, regional and local speaking and training engagements. She has suitcase; will travel.
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