Professional lunch and dinner is an essential aspect of our work life, until these days of Covid-19. Although new guidelines are being issued, etiquette will still be as important as before.
Eating alongside people who are not exactly friends or family can sometimes be intimidating or tricky.
As much as you want to be yourself, you still have to create a good impression. Part of doing that is you knowing how to comport yourself during the meal. As you know, it is just about the meal, more importantly, you are there for business, where deals could be closed
Below are 10 dining etiquette rules you should know today:
1. Wait for everyone to arrive before sitting
Per adventure you arrive early, do not got to the table to sit. The polite and adopted rule is you wait for other to arrive. You, sitting at the table all alone does not look good, on others. It makes them appear to be late. It makes you lonely and might be tempted to break other rules like ‘no phone rule’. Please, when next you arrive early at that business lunch venue or restaurant, do not go ahead and sit down at the table, wait for others, so you go sit all at once. This drives home the point that guests should adhere strictly to the time stated on the invitation.
2. Keep pace with other guests during meal
You are not alone at that business lunch. You are there with work colleagues, prospective clients etc. Conversations are bound to be held as dining out involves not just eating, but discussions too.
It is not proper to gobble down your food while others hold a conversation. Try to finish your food at the same time as your table mates.
3. Talking with your utensils in hand
For some of us that that gesticulate a lot when talking, the decent and safe thing to do is keep your utensils down when talking.
According to etiquette experts, holding a knife or fork while talking might look like you are trying to stab your dinning partner. When you want to talk, place your utensils on your plate.
4. Stay Off Your Phone
Staying off your phone for two hours to honour your host and friends is not too much to ask. Using phones while dining out is considered rude.
Unless there is an emergency e.g. call from the babysitter, there is no basis for using your phone. If this happens, excuse yourself gently to go take your call.
When you get to the venue, put your phone to silence immediately, to avoid distraction. If you must talk on the phone and there is no where else to go pick your call, keep your voice down to the barest minimum.
Again, according to Ryan Dwyer, of the University of British Columbia, together with some colleagues, they carried out an experiment, looking at the effect of smartphones on physical social interactions. They did that by inviting over 300 people to dinner, together with their friends and family.
Firstly, it was discovered that those who had their phones on were admitted they were slightly bored during the meal.
Secondly, those who had their smartphones on were distracted, reducing the quality of the enjoyment, during the meal
The whole idea of not using your phone is to not sound rude to your friends, to not give the impression that the person on the other end of the phone is more important and to prevent distraction so the experience can be enhanced.
5. Keep Your Belongings Off The Table
An etiquette expert once said, what you do with your handbag reveals a lot about your manners and personality.
For starters, your handbag should be carried on your left hand. This is essential to give room for shaking hands with fellow diners.
According to the book “1922 book Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics and at Home.” It is very wrong to place your bag on the table. It is considered rude to do that. Please, refer to this post, where I dealt extensively on this.
6. Never pull out someone's chair for them
Regardless of gender, during work related dinner or lunch, you should not pull a chair for anyone. Holding open a door for your guest might be excused though. Barbara Patcher says "Both men and women can pull out their own chairs," she goes further to say that, social gender rule should be left behind in a business setting.
7. Using the napkin
The sole use of the napkin clean the sides of your mouth, during your meal. Sometimes, people use it for all kinds of things like wiping make up or lipstick, blowing your nose etc. I say "If you have to to blow your nose, please excuse yourself and go to the bathroom.
When all are seated, gently wait for your host to pick up the napkin and place it on his lap
(where it should be). What this means is that you guests should do the same. It is also a signal to start doing justice to the nice meal. Please note, it stays on your lap throughout the meal. If you have to leave the table, place it gently on the chair. After the meal, the host signals by placing the napkin on the table, meaning, you should follow suit by also placing your napkin neatly to the left of your plate.
8. Always say "please" and "thank you" to wait staff
This aspect of the whole experience is often ignored. Courtesy requires you to thank anyone who renders a service to you, it does not matter if you are paying the person or not. Remember, the ladies and gentlemen waiting on you while having your meal, they are respectable people too, with families. It is always better to just enjoy the meal, irrespective of your opinion.
Again, according Barbara Patcher "Do not complain or criticize the service or food, your complaints will appear negative, and it is an insult to your host to criticize."
9. Do not help to pack or stack the dishes
Stacking the dishes or packing them is not your job. The waiters are there for a reason. So, please let the wait staff do their jobs.
10. Let the host or your company pay
Again, gender does not matter in this scenario, so long you are the host, you pay. In this case, wisdom comes into play. This is because a male guest might want to pay, in this case, what do you do? You would not want to appear rude to your guest, so you apply wisdom in doing dealing the situation.
After all said and done, if any male guest guest insists on paying and there is other way around it, then let him.