Most business professionals are aware that how they look and present themselves to others can create lasting impressions. This is no different when participating in or hosting a business meal. You can be sure that others will also judge your D.E. -- Dining Etiquette.
As the author of two business etiquette audio cassette series and many books on business manners and protocol, (the four-booklet series 21st Century Pocket Guides to Proper Business Protocol, Complete Business Etiquette Handbook and Professional Impressions … Etiquette for Everyone, Every Day), let me share some time-tested tips to ensure your success in any dining situation.
From the arrival of the appetizer through the final cup of coffee, your behavior at the lunch or dinner table will leave an impression -- so make it a great one!
The following guidelines will guarantee gracious manners whether you are dining at a four-star restaurant or in a hotel banquet room:
- Treat your server with respect -- address the person by name if requested, otherwise use "waiter,""waitress," "sir" or "ma'am."
- Pay attention to what your waiter or waitress looks like so you can recognize him or her later.
- Catch his or her eye or use a discreet wave of the fingers to request service.
- Call someone "Honey," "Sweetie," "Dear," "Garçon," or "Boy."
- Snap your fingers to get his or her attention.
Place settings can be perplexing -- facing multiple spoons, forks, and beverage glasses can be confusing -- and the more courses, the more utensils. The most correct, but not the most commonly used, place setting in the United States is based on the idea that you work your way through the utensils, from the outermost one to the innermost one on both sides, but you may just as easily come face-to-face with Left-to-Right, User's Choice or the Formal Place Setting.
Here are three guidelines to steer you safely through the maze:
- Napkin Niceties
The napkin should go on your lap once everyone has been seated. If it is a large napkin, fold it in half. If you leave the table briefly mid-meal, the napkin is placed on your chair. At the end of the meal, put your napkin to the left of your plate.
- Managing Silverware
Confused about which item is yours? Here's an easy way to remember: The word "left has four letters, so does the word "fork." The word "right" has five letters, so do the words "knife" and "spoon." This is a great way to remember that the fork is on your left, and the knife and spoon are set to your right. Always hold your silverware toward the handle, away from the tines, blade or bowl of the spoon. If you are eating American style (switching the fork to your right hand after cutting), cut two to three pieces at a time. If you are eating Continental style (keeping the fork in your left hand), cut one piece at a time. Put your silverware on the plate while chewing, not on the table, and never wave it in your hand.
- Bread Plate Basics
I'm sure that most of us have looked at what we thought was our bread plate, only to find our neighbor using it. Here's the rule: Eat to your left, drink to your right. Any food dish to the left is yours, and any glass to the right is yours. If your neighbor has accidentally used your bread plate, don't embarrass him or her. Quietly ask the waiter for another.
There are 10 basic points to remember about proper dining etiquette:
- Don't clean your plate. It's okay to leave the parsley, carrot curls or other garnish.
- Don't salt and pepper your food before tasting it.
- Don't turn your wine glass upside down if you do not want wine. Either say "no thank you," shake your head or put your fingertips over the rim of the glass.
- Never cut bread or rolls. Break off and butter one piece at a time.
- When in doubt, use a utensil rather than your fingers even with foods you eat by hand at home. Cut French fries, bacon and any food with a bone -- even chicken.
- Use the edge of the plate to twirl pasta, not a spoon.
- If you spill coffee or tea into your saucer, ask for another saucer. Do not dunk. Do not blow on your beverage to cool it.
- Tuck paper trash--empty sugar packs, plastic cup from creamer, wrapper for the straw under the rim of your plate or on the edge of the saucer or butter plate.
- Don't ask for a "doggy bag."
- If you are not sure how to eat something that comes with what you've ordered, leave it or watch to see how others eat it and imitate them.
Learning to navigate the business meal smoothly can prevent any embarrassing social gaffes or missteps -- which ultimately could make or break a business relationship and even prevent one from starting.Article copyright 2004 Marjorie Brody and Brody Communications Ltd. Marjorie Brody, CSP, CMC, PCC, is an internationally recognized speaker, and coach to Fortune 1,000 executives. She connects people to their potential by helping them break through the invisible walls of poor communication and strengthen their professionalism, persuasiveness and presence. Marjorie created Brody Communications Ltd. as a part-time training company and turned it into a successful, multi-million dollar venture. Marjorie is author of the book Speaking is an Audience-Centered Sport, and more than a dozen other career-related books. She is a recognized media expert whose commentary on workplace/career issues is regularly featured on TV and radio shows, and in newspapers and magazines. To contact Marjorie or book her as a speaker, trainer or coach, call 800-726-7936, or visit www.MarjorieBrody.com for more information.