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Business Dinner Etiquette: Proper Manners for Dining with Clients



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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