"No animal should ever jump up on the dining-room furniture unless absolutely certain that he can hold his own in the conversation." ~ Fran Lebowitz, American Writer and Humorist (b.1950)There are times when you are anticipating, and even expected to dine while conducting business. The holiday season that is nearly upon us, often brings about more of that than we typically experience. I am no food snob, or even Emily Post, and yet, I get asked to share tips and thoughts on Dining Etiquette, which I call "Meeting While Eating" fairly often, and here are my top 10 points to ponder:
1) When leaving the table during dinner, you place your napkin on your chair seat or back, and not on the table...it's dirty, let's keep it off the table. And, when you have your napkin in your lap, keep it folded over with the fold toward you (no bibs or tissues for your napkin's use!).
2) All electronic devices stay off the table during dining. Bring them out only before or after eating (preferably after). Not even having the phone off and face down is okay...it tells people you are possibly interested in something other than them while you are together. Let that time with the other person be "enough".
3) When you are not sure what drink or break plate is yours at a set table, Think "b" and "d"...bread and drink. By putting your thumb and first finger together under the table, you can remind yourself of that to use as "yours". And, if someone takes yours, be kind, and discreetly ask the waiter or waitress for another plate or whatever it is, instead of calling someone out who doesn't know the Think "b" and "d"...bread and drink trick/reminder!
Also, if you use sweetener/sugar packets, the empty packets are to be slid under your plate slightly, and not wadded up on the table. The waitstaff will discretely dispose of those.
4) Keep purses, keys, sunglasses, bags and portfolios off the table while eating. All accessories on the table should be related to the restaurant and/or the meal, and not coming from you...put them in another chair or under yours...or better yet, leave them locked in your car trunk!
5) When at a cocktail party, keep your right hand free to shake hands. Carry your drink in your left hand, and resist carrying food when you're on the move. Stop and eat, dispose of the plate, and then socialize. And, at all types of line-served food, buffet or cocktail party, get a new plate each time you get food.
6) When passing bread, butter, dressing, etc., you offer to your left and pass to your right. And, while we are on passing - the salt and pepper are passed as one unit...even if someone asks only for the salt.
7) Even if you are clearly at a business lunch or dinner where a sale may take place, it is not okay to bring out papers and demo items/products during the meal portion of the meeting. That can be messy for the papers and items as well as the people, so wait until you have finished eating...after all who has ever signed a contract with their mouth full of food?
8) It matters what and how you order when at a group dinner or event! Watch the lead of the host. No doggy bags. Watch ordering appetizers, finger food, desserts, coffees and drinks, as you could be "that guy" or "that girl" who is the only one with 6 courses! Use "please" and "thank you" with wait staff, as they are doing their job, just as you may be doing something related to yours!
9) Chewing of anything other than food is inappropriate - no ice, gum or items will enhance a business meal meeting.
10) Remember, unless you have agreed ahead of time, s/he who invites, makes reservations, pays, and thanks someone for joining, so keep that awkwardness of the bill off the table, so to speak, by being clear ahead of time.Meeting while eating is a way of life for most of us, and these tips will keep you enjoying yourself, your company, your meal, and your results!