Modern dining etiquette: So much more than the forks!


Dining etiquette. Just seeing those two words together may bring back nightmares of your cotillion days or conjure images of Julia Roberts in a dark ballroom desperately trying to learn all of the utensils before her first business dinner with Richard Gere in Pretty Woman. Despite that first image your fears bring to mind, there are much greater forces at play during a business dinner than knowing which fork to use with the entrée. Why are you attending the dinner? What would you like the outcome to be? Who are the players and how do they all fit into your puzzle? Here are five pre-emptive modern dining tips to ensure your next business dinner is a complete success, even if one of the escargot launches across the room. 

No. 1:  Pre-pare

Business dining shouldn’t be taken lightly. Just like you have done a little internet exploration on the blind date that your friend set you up with last week, there is never any harm in being overly prepared for a dinner that might close a deal. Knowing that your dining partners enjoy travel, just had a baby, or perhaps built a house set you up to ask intelligent questions and thereby engage on a level that isn’t solely about business. 

No. 2: Pre-visit

Never arrange a dinner at a location you are not familiar with. If you aren’t a regular or haven’t ever been, now is the time to visit. Do a trial run. Test out the service, make sure the waiting area is appropriate in case your table isn’t ready, and befriend a waiter, bartender or better yet manager on your trial and allow a great staff to assist you in closing that important piece of business. 

No. 3: Pre-tip

Everyone. From the valet, to the bartender, to the coat check attendant, the less your guests have to think about, the easier your dinner will flow. By playing offense with the staff and pre-tipping they will know that you are serious about this dinner and will up their service level even further. The staff can either make or break a meal and starting out on their good side is always the best policy. 

No. 4: Pre-pay

There is nothing worse than an altercation at the end of a nice meal over the bill. The easiest way to head off this little issue is to put down your card at the same time you are pre-tipping all of the staff. By arriving just 15-20 minutes early and taking care of all of the housekeeping items in advance you have quickly eliminated any barriers in the various meal transitions. Also, you have teed up several magical moments for your guests that will leave them wanting to have you on their team. 

No. 5: Pre-order

And last, but never least, if the situation allows, you should pre-order a few appetizers for your table and have a white and red wine pre-selected. By taking command of the meal, offering suggestions to your guests, and leading them through a plan they didn’t even know existed you will be able to get that much closer to closing your deal by removing any and all hitches to the service.  

The takeaway – plan ahead! By starting a little bit early and placing your efforts on the details rather than the forks you will be able to make everyone your dining with more comfortable and not worry about the little faux pas, because those happen every day. 


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Julian LeaverComment