Modern Etiquette: Tips for dining for business success

Mon May 17, 2010 9:35am EDT
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By Jo Bryant

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - We all indulge in less-than-perfect behavior in private but dining politely should be second nature - or should at least appear to be - if you are seeking to impress the boss or potential client.

Here are some top tips to ensure social -- and business -- success at the table:

* To start, your napkin should be spread out on your lap, never tucked it into the neck of your shirt even if you want to protect your Salvatore Ferragamo tie. Sit up straight and make sure your elbows aren't encroaching on your neighbor's space. Do not rest your elbows on the table or lean on them when eating.

If you are served a meal that is already on the plate, wait until everyone round the table has been served before starting. When group dining, offer side dishes around the table and hold them for the person next to you.

* Cutlery should be rested on the plate/bowl between bites. Never gesture with your cutlery, and don't scrape or clatter it noisily. Equally, it is bad manners to clank your utensils loudly against your teeth.

Depending on the formality of the occasion, there will be varying amounts of cutlery on the table. The layout should always be the same - fork to the left, knives and spoons to the right. Work from the outside inwards, course by course. Pudding utensils usually sit above the place setting.

* Eat at a relaxed pace and try to match your fellow diners. Keep your mouth closed and noise to a minimum. Never smack your chops. Talking while there is food in your mouth should be avoided at all costs - even when you have a conversational gem up your sleeve.

* Don't drink your wine too fast or ask for a top-up unless you are in very familiar company. Don't overindulge - there's nothing worse than a drunken diner, particularly at a business dinner. * Handling tricky foods?   Continued...

<p>Visitors admire St.Paul's Cathedral from the restaurant floor of the Tate Modern gallery in London March 15, 2007. REUTERS/Alessia Pierdomenico</p>