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Business Dinner Etiquette: Proper Manners for Dining with Clients

Business Dinner Etiquette: Proper Manners for Dining with Clients

Welcome back to the Gentleman’s Gazette!
In today’s video, we discuss business and client dinner etiquette which is part of
a series with part one being table manners and part two being restaurant
etiquette. Business can be fraught with opportunities for things to go
wrong; if you do everything right, no one really notices it but if you get it
wrong, you screw up big-time and the deal may not happen. So the goal is to keep
others around you comfortable, not to draw any negative attention to yourself
so your personality and what you have to say can shine. Dining out can be so
revealing of one’s character that many companies make it part of their
onboarding process before or when they hire you. It shows how well you can maintain a conversation, how will you fit in socially
with your boss, your team, and how you can navigate basic etiquette. Now, a formal
business dinner has different rules than a casual lunch on event or a meal with
your boss. Of course, etiquettes can also be
different in South America, the US, Europe, or Asia. It’s always important to
understand the culture you’re in and what the local etiquette is. No matter
where you are, a business lunch or dinner always has a host. If you go out with
your superior, your boss chooses the restaurant, as well as the time. If you’re just
going out with colleagues because you’re hungry, there may not be a host
necessarily unless, of course, you want to pick their brain then you become the
host and you invite them. The same is true vice versa. If someone wants to network
with you or understand how you can help them and they approach you, then they
become the host. In that case, just go along or answer the questions. If you
are the host, on the other hand, do your homework and know who your guest is.
There’s no point in inviting a vegan to a steak house. Likewise, I am from Germany and
have no interest in German restaurants in the US because I’m always
disappointed. When you pick a restaurant, don’t choose anything that’s overly loud
or crowded because after all, the main goal is to have a conversation. In the
same vein, don’t choose a restaurant that focuses on sloppy or difficult to
eat foods, so don’t go to the Seafood Boil or to the burger joint that is
really greasy, or to the ramen store where
everything may splatter over your entire business outfit. It is essential to make
a reservation because nothing makes you look as unprofessional as having to
wait for a table because you didn’t take any precautions. Also, when you do make a
reservation you can ask for a quiet table so you can accomplish the mission
you set out to accomplish. Now that you know one, how to identify the
host and two, how to choose a restaurant, three, make sure you put the reservation in
your calendar and show up on time. If you’re the host, arrive 10 to 15 minutes
early so you can make sure you got the quiet table that you want and everything
else runs smoothly. You may also want to take the server aside and tell them that
you’re going to pay for the dinner or lunch. Four, where exactly should you sit?
Obviously, there’s a table but especially with bigger parties, there can be large
tables and specific hierarchies. It’s easiest when you’re the guests. Just wait
until the host tells you where to sit. In case you’re not offered a seat,
wait until your host sits and put yourself in a position that allows for
easy conversation. Now, if it’s just a dinner between two people, it is much easier
than if there are 20 people involved. That being said, sitting all across at the end of the
table would be wrong. Now, if you’re the host and let’s say, you go
out to a business lunch with a larger group of people of different companies,
it pays to put someone from Company A next to Company B followed by Company
A. That way, people can talk and learn from each other. It’s best to think about
the specific seating arrangements before you get to the restaurant so you don’t
have a weird happening of people receiving themselves or moving chairs. In
general, the person highest up on the food chain gets the best seat and so
forth. So sometimes, just the place where you sit at the table can indicate if you’re
a big shot or not. Five, a good host will always introduce new parties to each
other. In a business setting, that means you mention
their name, as well as their position and what they do. If on top of that, you
happen to know more information about those two people, you can share that as
well which gives them a common conversation starting point. For example,
you could say “Tom, this is Matt, he’s our VP of Sales and he graduated from
Cornell with a degree in Engineering” Of course, I’m not going to mention the
Engineering degree if the other person is not an
engineer. Maybe you could also think of hobbies and say “Hey, he likes to play
golf just like you” Now, sometimes at business dinners, you, as
a host, may not know all the people in the other company. In that case, the most
senior person there will introduce their team and so will you.
Of course, if you’re the guest, sometimes, other people are not so well versed in
etiquette and they may not introduce you to the others or vice versa.
In that case, you should briefly introduce yourself. To learn more about
introductions and how to do them properly, please check out this video
here. Six, dress appropriately. As a basic rule to a business dinner or lunch,
you should wear the same things you wear to the office. Of course, if it’s a more
formal business dinner in a nice restaurant, you can dress up more but in
some cases, it’s not advisable to dress better than your boss because he might
get offended. On the other hand, if it’s an important client meeting, you want to
dress up through a usual standard. If the dress code is business casual, please
check out this video. If it’s more formal, check out the business attire dress code
here. Of course, it also depends on the niche. If you’re meeting with someone who
works at a construction site all day, you’ll be dressed differently than when you
meet with someone who works at a law firm all day. Seven, don’t show up ravenous
and don’t try to eat as much food as you can if someone else pays for you. Of
course, hunger can get the best of anyone so if you know you’re hungry
and you have to talk a lot, maybe eat something in advance. Also, if you go out
with your boss and order a gigantic steak during the middle of the day, that
puts you in a food coma afterwards, he knows that you’re not going to be your
most effective that day. Eight, turn off your phone and keep it in your pocket, it’s a
sign of respect to fully focus on the person in front of
you and if you just check text messages or take calls, the other person thinks
they’re not important enough for your full attention. Nine, greet everyone involved with
a handshake and smile. Yes, everyone, not just the boss or higher-ups but everyone
from the top all the way down. It’s very important that you stand up when you’re
doing it, otherwise, it just feels and looks sloppy. Some rules
suggest that men and women are created differently, however, in the business setting,
it should all be the same with a handshake that is firm but not too firm
and a smile. Ten, mind your table manners. You don’t want to look like a pig and
you also don’t want other people to end up with
your soup on their face. To learn more about that, please check out our guide on
table manners, as well as restaurant etiquette. I’ll promise you they’ll make
you laugh and you’ll learn a thing or two. Eleven, don’t order alcohol first
unless you’re the host. That being said, if you’re a host, you may
offer other people a drink. If they decline to have alcohol, maybe it’s wiser
for you to do the same because you don’t know whether projections are on you, if
you do drink during the day, for example. If your host orders alcohol, feel free to
join in and order a glass of wine but you don’t want to get hammered midday or
even in the evening during a business dinner. Now, if this is part of the
interview, I’d strongly suggest you don’t order wine even if your interviewer and
potential boss orders one means you follow suit. I suggest you just say “No,
thank you” and move on. In general, don’t get drawn
into drinking more than you want and also, don’t push others to drink more
than they want. If your glass has a stem, like a wine
glass or a champagne flute, always hold the glass by the stem. Twelve, now, it’s time to
order, do so carefully. That means, don’t order the most expensive dish on the menu
and if you are the guest, you can always follow the lead of your host. Never order
more courses than your host because that may look like you’re abusing their
generosity. Likewise, don’t order messy foods that you have to eat with your
fingers. Avoid looking picky or indecisive and if you have food
allergies, check out the menu beforehand and pick out an item that you can eat so
everything can be smooth you can get right to business. Which brings us to
number 13, the conversation itself and at what point in time you can talk business
without looking weird. Now, if your boss asks you out for lunch or dinner, there
will likely be an agenda and you can just let him
decide what he wants to talk to you about. You can go over all of your projects and numbers so if he asks you questions,
you seem competent and know what you’re talking about right away. Find about
the family or the hobbies or the interests of your boss and revisit all
the conversations you had so you can easily start and keep a conversation
going. If you go out with colleagues for lunch,
you may just want to talk about the project you’re currently working on
or if it’s a bigger project and there’s a standstill, it can really help
to not talk about business at all in that context. Think about it this way, a
business lunch is more like a business meeting where food is served so everyone
can fill up their fuel tank. Since most people have very limited time over lunch,
business is discussed very quickly. Of course, a quick non-business intro and
conversation is just fine. On the other hand, if you’re at a formal business dinner in
Europe, it is essential that you don’t talk business before dessert is served.
At first, it may seem counterintuitive to talk so late about business at an
essentially business dinner, at the same time, anything else would be considered
rude by your host or by the person you invited to it.
Of course, if the other party leads the way, wants to talk about business right away,
you shouldn’t make them feel uncomfortable either. Just go along and
talk about business.In the US, there are not such clear-cut rules but you
should never start up with business right away. Do your homework, know what
the other people are interested in, where they went to school, what their position is,
and what they do. Most people like to share their achievements and
accomplishments so you can figure out what they’ve done, I’m sure they’d love
to talk about it. At the same time, it makes himself more comfortable around
you and if you show an interest for them, they are much more likely to show an
interest in you. The last thing you want to have happen
is that business is all settled by the time the drinks are served and you have
not enough on your homework because now, there is a long dinner,
if likely, awkward pauses that makes the other party maybe rethink the
commitment they just made with you because you seem like a strange guy. As a general
rule of thumb, religion, sex, or politics should never be subject of discussions
at a business dinner. My father in law used to run his own business and when they went
on a business trip with a few people of his team to a big client in Boston, they
had dinner together. Now, one of his employees said that his neighborhood was
infested with Democrats and the client took my father-in-law aside and said “If
you’ll ever bring this person again, we’ll stop doing business with you right
away.” So he was lucky because they knew it wasn’t his fault but saying things
like that is just plain stupid. Chances are they might be offended and you can
only lose. Instead, stick to hobbies, interests,
and of course, business. So once the meal is over, it’s time for the bill. The most
important aspect of paying at a business dinner is this question, why? Because you,
as the host or guest, you never want to appear showy or screw things up. Ideally,
you’ve taken a server to the side beforehand, maybe giving him your credit
card, so he could just charge it and it’s just a smooth transaction without any
weird questions or back-and-forths. If the question of payment never arises, the
other person can see that you can organize things and get stuff done. Now,
for some reason, you can’t get a hold of a waiter or it’s not an option, when the
bill comes, you discreetly take it and place your credit card inside of it. The
worst thing you can do is pull out your wallet and put in one Benjamin Franklin
after another, it is just showy and weird. Also, never argue over the bill because
that’s just strange. If you’re the guest, just offer to pay, the host will likely
say “No, I’m going to take care of it” and it’s the end of the story.
Now, if the host pays in full, you should say thank you. If you, for some reason, you
split the bill, that is fine too. Now, what about the tipping in servers?
Tipping can hugely depend on the culture you’re in and so it pays to know in
advance what to do, when, and where, and what the usual amount of tip is. Also, you
want to treat all service with respect because treating them in a mean or rude
way can signal to your business partner that you have a problem with people
management and he may not want to do business with you because of the way you
treat others. To learn more about tipping, how to treat the servers, how to hold
your fork properly, and how to avoid committing faux pas, please check out
our table manners guide as well as our restaurant guide here. In today’s video
I am wearing a typical business dinner outfit it consists of a business suit it’s a
three-piece suit with a double-breasted vest
it is dark grey so it’s perfectly appropriate it has a very faint stripe
and works in any kind of formal office I’m pairing it with a white shirt
because again it’s formal with a proper necktie it has a printed motif on it it
is red and picks up the color of the stripe in this suit
my pocket square is a white linen pocket square folded in an uneventful TV fold
which is standard for a formal business dinner
my socks are also not flashy they match the color of the pant leg and they have
a little bit of a red clock in it which again picks up the color of the rest of
the outfit my shoes are from Crockett & Jones they are a monk strap shoe that’s
a full brogue and it works well with the formality scale of the suit which is
formal but has a few more casual notes such as the red color you can find the
socks the pocket square and the tie in our shop here I suggest you stay clear
of any kind of flashy jewelry or boutonnieres because it’s over-the-top
the only thing you should be wearing is maybe a wedding band and cufflinks these
ones here are red carnelians in sterling silver for Fort Belvedere you can
find them in our shop here

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