A business meal is supposed to be enjoyable not a chore.  Understanding the basics of dining etiquette can prepare you to tackle eating out with clients and colleagues.

  1. If the lunch is scheduled, confirm the appointment with the guest/host, and if applicable, confirm the reservation.
  2. If you are meeting people at a restaurant, specify where you should meet: outside, inside, at the bar, etc.
  3. If you are the host, arrive early.
  4. If you are the host and require a quiet table, ask for one when you make the reservation.
  5. If you don’t get the table you want, don’t make a scene.  Your guest would rather have a second-rate table than have to witness a first-class tantrum.
  6. Turn off your cell phone.  If you must keep it on, set it to vibrate.
  7. Resist the urge to check email during the meal.
  8. When you sit down, put your napkin in your lap.  (Yours should be on the left.)
  9. If you are the guest, do not order the most expensive item on the menu unless your host suggests you do.
  10. If you are the host, give your guests some guidance.  Lead your guests by suggesting appetizers or desserts if they are unlikely to feel comfortable ordering those items in addition to an entrée.   If you can’t afford to make this gesture, take your guests somewhere where you can.
  11. As a general rule, do not order alcohol at lunch.
  12. If you are the guest, follow your host’s lead.  If he or she does not order a drink with dinner and does not suggest that you do, then don’t.
  13. Close your menu when you are ready to order.  A knowing waitperson expects you to do so and will approach your table when you give this sign.
  14. Try to avoid complicated orders if at all possible.  Having food without salt, sauce on the side, etc. does not send a message that you are easy to work with.
  15. Do not order food that is messy or that you do not know how to eat.
  16. Familiarize yourself with a place setting.  BMW is a good memory trick.
  17. From left to right: Bread | Meal | Water
  18. Side dishes will be placed on your left.  Your beverage glasses will be on your right.  If someone takes your tableware in error, simply request a duplicate from your server.
  19. Do not move tableware from its designated spot simply because you feel like it.  You may be left handed, but beverages go on the right.
  20. Get into the breadbasket only after your order is taken.
  21. Pass the bread counterclockwise.
  22. Use a bread plate if there is one.  You will find it on your left.
  23. If the butter is in a large dish or in individual packets, place it on your plate before buttering your roll.
  24. With the exception of toast, do not butter your bread all at once.  Instead, tear off small pieces and butter them as you eat.  Place your knife on the bread plate in between bites.
  25. Pass any communal items without being asked: dressing, butter, salt, pepper, etc.
  26. Pass salt and pepper together.
  27. Offer people the handles when passing items such as gravy boats and cream.
  28. When food arrives, do not season it before you taste it.
  29. Do not eat until everyone is served.  If you are the guest, begin after your host takes a bite.
  30. If you are the host and the food does not all arrive at the same time, suggest that those who have been served begin eating.  You, however, should wait until everyone is taken care of.
  31. Do not send food back unless there is something truly wrong with it: raw meat, spoiled food, etc.
  32. When cutting your food, do not saw at it.  Choose either American or Continental style.  Do not switch back and forth throughout the meal.
  33. Sit up straight and bring your food to you, not your mouth to your food.
  34. When eating soup, spoon the soup away from you.
  35. Do not chew with your mouth open or talk with your mouth full.
  36. Spoons should be placed in the 10/4 position on an underplate if food is served with one; for example, soup or ice cream.
  37. When you have finished, place your knife and fork in the 10/4 position.
  38. Do not “keep your fork” between courses.  Let the server bring you a new one.  If he or she suggests that you do, you may, but do not make that decision on your own.  A quality restaurant has an abundance of flatware.
  39. When you have finished the meal, place your napkin to the left of your plate.  Do not place it on your plate.
  40. If you are hosting the meal, arrange for payment ahead of time whenever possible.  This way you can focus on your guest and not the check.
  41. Discuss business toward the end of the meal.  If you bring it up and the other party changes the subject, take the hint.
  42. Above all, enjoy yourself.  If you make a mistake, just don’t make it twice.