Modern Etiquette: A Playbook for Modern Business Dining

Mon Feb 27, 2012 1:10pm EST
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By Pamela Eyring

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The ways in which business gets done in today's global marketplace is evolving at a rapid rate. Even in the midst of new paradigms and emerging technologies, one thing remains constant: big deals often come together over meals.

Given that a simple faux pas at the table can make the difference between being shown the money or the door, it's time to review the Do's and Don'ts of Business Dining. 1. Be On Time.

Timeliness is among the first and most significant impressions you can make at a meal or event. If you are the host, being there first to greet your guests demonstrates a level of professionalism and consideration that will be noticed and appreciated. Similarly, if you are a guest, arriving on time makes a very positive statement about your expectations for the meal and the relationship. No matter what Hollywood or style gurus might have you believe, nothing demonstrates a lack of respect more than being "fashionably late." 2. Turn Off All Devices Before Being Seated.

Whether you're the guest or the host, your dining companions should have your undivided attention during your time together. Your phone should never leave your pocket or purse during a meal, let alone see the top of the table. This is your chance to demonstrate that you value your companion enough to give 100 percent of your time and attention during the meal. 3. Follow Good Form.

Practicing good form at the dining table is a subtle but effective way to demonstrate your level of professionalism. Simple rules to consider include the following:

* Always open your napkin and place it on your lap below table level. Keep it on your lap at all times, not tucked into your collar. If you need to leave the table for a period of time, place it on the seat of your chair. At the end of the meal, place it loosely to the left of your plate.

* Use flatware (cutlery) from the outside in. Once you pick up and use a piece of silverware, it shouldn't touch the table. When you are finished with your meal, place your knife and fork on the plate so that the handles are on the lower right edge (20 after the hour on a clock) and the tips on the upper left (10:00). This allows a waiter to see you are finished and assists during the removal of the plate.

* Never "borrow" food from another's place setting. When you are seated, assess your setting with BMW (Bread, Meal, Water) in mind. That is, your Bread plate is always on your left, your Meal is in the middle, and your Water is always on your right. This will save you the embarrassment of inadvertently using or drinking from your companion's place setting. 4. Savor The Opportunity And The Meal.   Continued...