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!

If you haven’t been there and aren’t confident that the mood will be right, don’t choose the newest, trendiest hotspot. You may be sure that the food will be nice and the service will be dependable if you choose a restaurant you are familiar with. Additionally, I realize that this may seem foolish, but book a room. If the restaurant is “closed for family vacation” or “closed for renovations,” you don’t want to discover this when you arrive for your meeting.

2. Confirming with your guest the day before

Verifying the time and location of your breakfast, lunch, or dinner with your guest the day before or the morning of is a thoughtful gesture and a great chance to do so.

3. Arrive early to the restaurant.

Speak with the maître d’ and request that they add the proper gratuity to the bill after receiving your credit card. Your supper will come to a lot more pleasurable conclusion as a result. There won’t be any fumbling for the check or awkward pauses while you examine the bill, calculate the tip, etc. You may make your guest feel at ease while gently concluding things. Inquiring about which table will be yours beforehand allows you to plan your seating arrangements and guarantee your guest the “best seat” at the table.

4.  When deciding on what to order, keep it simple.

You are familiar with the menu if you are familiar with the restaurant you chose. I advise choosing a dish that is simple to eat, clean, and doesn’t demand much of your time. ‘Pretty Woman’ comes to mind; do you recall the escargot scene? When you should be attending to the matter at hand, you don’t want to be thinking about how you’re going to juggle the crab legs or the spaghetti.

5.  Take a little time and engage in some ‘polite conversation’ before getting down to business.

Making a few menu recommendations is often a great touch because it helps your guest and lets them know what you plan to purchase. A solid rule of thumb for when to start talking business during a lunch or breakfast meeting is after the orders have been placed. Save the business discussions for after the meal and keep in mind to involve all of the guests in the “polite conversation” during the dinner. Business dinners are typically more formal and include spouses or other visitors. Whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or supper, end the meal with a personal statement to strengthen the bond between you and your dining companion.

Last but not least, after the meal, don’t forget to deliver a handwritten thank-you note. We are all aware of how great it is to get a handwritten note in the mail as a pleasant little surprise. After your business meal, spend a few minutes telling your guest how much you valued your time spent with them. Don’t worry about the procedure; a brief letter works better than a long one. Consider this a chance to strengthen and expand 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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