Dining for Success, Part 3: 15 Tips for a Successful Business Meal

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version Part 3 of 4, by Bill Rohlfing

Your table manners represent you: a polished, poised, and sophisticated executive. Parts 2 through 4 provide 15 tips to avoid the most common dining etiquette mistakes.

4. If you need to remove a foreign object from your mouth, cover your mouth with your right hand and remove the object with the index finger and thumb of your left hand. If you feel too uncomfortable, excuse yourself from the table and remove the obstruction in the privacy of the restroom, away from the table.

5. Think of salt and pepper as married (or very happy travel companions). Salt and pepper are always passed together, even if your client only asks for one.

6. Try a bit of everything on your plate unless you have a food allergy. You will come across as juvenile if you eat only your steak and potatoes and turn up your nose at your peas and carrots.

7. Do not monopolize the conversation. Show a genuine interest in getting to know your client and ask thoughtful questions. Read the paper, listen to the news, and use the web to find out what topics might be of particular interest to your client. Try to remain relaxed and the conversation will appear effortless.

8. When leaving the table during the meal, place your napkin on your chair and push the chair back under the table. It is not important to announce where you are going, especially when you are using the restroom. Simply say, “Please excuse me” before you leave.

9. Tell your client if they have something in their teeth. While it may feel uncomfortable to broach the subject, soften the alert with “I know you would want to know.” Your client will be grateful that you didn’t let her walk around the rest of the day with something in her teeth.

Go to part 4.

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