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The Etiquette of Dining

The Etiquette of Dining

You are what you eat, according to an old American saying. For the rules of business etiquette, you are not only what you eat, but how you eat. Every society has its rules governing the all-important custom of breaking bread, and the United States is no exception.

In the business worlds, breakfasts and lunches are usually the best times for business meals. Dinners are usually reserved for very special occasions or out-or-town guests. Occasionally, if you are hosting the meal, and your guest is staying at a local hotel, then an afternoon coffee and tea meeting in the hotel lobby can be very useful.


If you are the host of a meal, you should follow a few important rules:


In scheduling the meal, never ask the guest where they would like to eat. Instead, pick two restaurants, pick two different hours, and offer your guest those options.

A day before the meal, check with your guest to confirm the date, time and location.

Arrive to the restaurant early enough to pay for the bill ahead of time. It is best that the meal's bill is attended to without your guest present.

Once your guests arrive, you should appear as if you have just arrived. Do not order a drink until your guests have all arrived.

et your guest warmly with a handshake when he or she arrives. Keep your coat on until they have also arrived.

Take the worst seat. Offer your guest his or her choice, but in no case should your guest be facing a mirror or the bathroom or kitchen doors.

You should set the tone of the meal: You should offer your guests the opportunity to order a cocktail or appetizer to start if you feel that is appropriate. Do not order alcohol if your guest abastains. Offer your guest suggestions for food. Order as many courses as does your guest so that you start and finish at the same time.

Offer your guest coffee and desert, but do not insist. Respect their dietary needs and desires, and you should follow suit.

If you are a guest, here are some important rules to know:


Never be late. Always arrive at least five, but no more than 10, minutes prior to your engagement.

Keep your voice low and pleasant; follow the tone set by your host as to the ordering of alcohol and the discussion of business.

Keep your personal accessories in your back at your feet. Do not overload your table setting with your sunglasses, electronic devices, handbags, etc.

If you have a cell phone or beeper, turn them off, unless you have a situation you must attend to, in which case you should warn your host ahead of time.


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