Etiquette and the Business Meal

Every Monday Blogging4Jobs invites our resident Etiquette Expert, CareySue Vega (@Etiquette101), to share tips when it comes to etiquette in the workplace during our own Manner Monday segment.

Breaking bread with colleagues is a huge part of building business relationships.  People want to do business with people they like, people they get along with well and lunch meetings help accomplish that goal. 

Etiquette and the Business Meal


Here are some tips to help businessmen and women present themselves well in a dining situation.

First and foremost, take a deep breath!  It’s not always about using the correct utensil… it’s more about building relationships and making your guest feel comfortable.

1.  As the host, know the restaurant you choose!  Don’t pick the newest trendiest hotspot, unless you have been there and feel certain that it will be the right atmosphere.  By choosing a restaurant you know, you will be confident that the food is good and the service is trustworthy.  And I know this may seem silly, but make a reservation.  You don’t want to show up for your meeting and find the restaurant is ‘closed for family vacation’ or is ‘closed for renovations’.

2. Confirming with your guest the day before, or the morning of, is a nice gesture and a perfect opportunity to verify the time and location of your breakfast, lunch or dinner.

3. Arrive early to the restaurant.  Speak with the maître d’, give them your credit card and ask them to add the appropriate gratuity to the bill.  It will make the end of your meal so much more pleasant.  There will be no fumbling for the check and no awkward silence while you are reviewing the bill, figuring out the gratuity, etc.  You can gracefully wrap things up while making your guest feel comfortable. Arriving early also gives you an opportunity to ask which table will be yours; you can then have your seating arrangements in mind, giving your guest the ‘best seat’ at the table.

4.  When deciding on what to order, keep it simple.  Knowing the restaurant you choose also means you are familiar with the menu.  I suggest ordering something that is easy to eat, is not messy, and does not require much of your attention.  I’m thinking “Pretty Woman”…remember the escargot scene!?  You don’t want to worry about how you’re going to wrangle the crab legs or spaghetti when you should be tending to the business at hand.

5.  Take a little time and engage in some ‘polite conversation’ before getting down to business.  It’s always nice to make a few menu suggestions, this will not only be helpful to your guest, but it will also give them an idea of what you plan to order.  During a lunch or breakfast meeting, a good rule of thumb for when to start talking business is after the orders have been placed.  Business dinners are usually more formal and have spouses or other guests present, save the business discussion until after the meal and remember to include all guests in the ‘polite conversation’ during the dinner.  Whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner, at the end of the meal, wrap up the conversation with something personal, work on building the relationship.

And last but not least… don’t forget to send a handwritten thank-you note after the meal!  We all know how nice it is to receive a pleasant little surprise in the mail in the form of a personal note.  Take a few minutes after your business meal and tell your guest how much you enjoyed your time with them.  Don’t fret over the process, it does not have to be a lengthy letter, short and sweet is better.  Look at this as an opportunity to build and grow your relationship!

To quote Emily Post from 1922, “to make a pleasant and friendly impression is not only good manners, but equally good business.”  Take a deep breath, relax and extend basic courtesies to your guest and you will make a lasting, positive impact.  Bon appétit!

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CareySue Vega

Carey Sue Vega is a business and youth etiquette expert. For ten years, she honed her skills with an international audience as Cruise Director for the Norwegian Cruise Line. Vega has been featured in numerous radio and television shows and magazine articles, sharing her etiquette expertise.  She’s also social savvy with social media. Connect with CareySue.


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