The tradition of dinners where colleagues meet to share a meal and discuss business topics goes way back to the past, when there were no such things as conference calls. In spite of the facilitators that came with modern technologies, a business dinner remains an important way to make deals and arrangements, to determine the company’s next move and to help individuals progress in the company. However, business dinners as rather formal events require a genuine display of good manners from all the guests. Here is a dining etiquette that should help you behave well on such a dinner, regardless whether you are a guest or a host.
Be on Time
There is no such thing as “fashionably late” in the corporate world. Arriving late on a business dinner will only make you appear irresponsible and disrespectful. Furthermore, it is possible that you’ll skip an entire meal and the time when everyone is mingling and introducing themselves that happens at the very beginning. However, you should not arrive too early, either. The best time to be at the restaurant or in the host’s home is 5 to 10 minutes before the scheduled hour. If you arrive at the restaurant before the host, it is best to wait in the lobby.
Your attire for the evening will depend on the formality of the dinner (you should be notified about this when being invited) and the dress code of the restaurant. Call the restaurant in question to check for some special rules about the clothing. In most occasions, you should go with polished attire that accentuates your professionalism. Both men and women should dress conservatively, in fitting and freshly pressed clothing in solid colors.
When meeting and greeting the persons at the table, you should make sure they remember your name, as well as the organization you represent, but without coming on too strong. That should go both ways, though. You must remember the names of the hosts (especially senior hosts), and do your best to remember as many guests too. It will be easier for you to memorize the names if you repeat each person’s name aloud when making introductions.
Seating and Ordering
Do not just rush to find the best seat at the table. Wait until your senior host sits down, and ask if they have preference about seating arrangements, advise at a renowned Manly restaurant. The same goes for ordering food from the restaurant menu. Wait until the hosts make their orders, and then you will know what type of food to order and what the average price range is. You don’t want to order the most expensive meal there is, only to find out that the rest of the table ordered just snacks.
Avoid messy food with dripping sauces or meals that are difficult to eat, such as spaghetti. If the dinner is formal, you should brush up on your skills a couple of days before the event. You can do that by skimming through a book on dining etiquette. Also, try to pass on alcohol or at least don’t go for more than one glass of wine, unless you want to say or do something that could work against your career interests.
Paying the Bill and Tipping
The usual rule of thumb for business dinners is that the person who does the inviting always does the paying too. Still, if you are organizing an event and you expect for all the guests to pay their share, you should discuss that in advance, instead of ambushing them when the waiter comes with the bill. Whoever is paying the bill will also give tips to the waiter (15 to 20 percent of the total bill), the sommelier (15 to 20 percent of the price of the bottle), the bartender (15 to 20 percent of the bar tab), the coat room attendant ($2 for the first coat and $1 for every additional coat) and the parking valet ($2).
There are some things, such as greeting, seating arrangements and tipping, that can be dictated by the local customs, so if you are attending a business dinner abroad, try to research the culture you are visiting.