Dining for Success, Part 1: 15 Tips for a Successful Business Meal

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Part 1 of 4, by Bill Rohlfing
There is nothing more uncomfortable than sitting across the table from your boss and noticing the tomato soup streaming from his mouth and the breadcrumbs stuck to his chin. Or perhaps you are trying to impress an important client and realize that you are not sure which bread plate belongs to you.
Years ago, as a novice fundraiser, I sat between two VIPs from separate Fortune 500 corporations. One was drinking my water while the other was eating from my bread plate. I was certainly using one of their napkins but wasn’t sure if I should bring it up in conversation.
I had many options—none of them good. Should I drink from the next person’s water glass? Should I skip the breadbasket? Should I offer my neighbor a soiled napkin? How we choose to answer these uncomfortable questions sets us apart in the professional world. We can avoid such problems by learning basic dining etiquette.
A successful business meal requires thought, planning, and attention to detail. Your manners will be observed and evaluated, whether you conduct a professional conversation with an existing client or you attempt to build a relationship with a recruiter on a second interview.
Your table manners represent you: a polished, poised, and sophisticated executive. Your future employer wants to gauge how you might interact with clients, and your behavior at the table indicates how you might handle such interactions. If you constantly make faux pas while dining, this could be disastrous for your career.

Read parts 2 through 4 for 15 tips to avoid the most common dining etiquette mistakes. 

Go to part 2.
Bill Rohlfing is chair of the SPN Practice Intrerview Committee.  Bill has 20-plus years of experience as a manufacturing accounting manager.