Business Dining Etiquette

Business parties, business lunches, business dinners, drinks and nibbles – all staged around a vaguely festive theme – will proliferate this December as diaries are wound down, decisions are delayed and appointments are rearranged for the new year.

Dining etiquette for business is a topic well covered for good reason – nothing turns off a boss, client or your co-workers like a lack of table manners. This time of year is rife with business dining etiquette mishaps and faux pas so it is worth keeping your guard up when letting your hair down!

Once upon a time, table manner taboos were drilled in childhood like a list of Commandments – Thou shalt not eat with your mouthful, Thou shalt not place your elbows on the table etc. These days attitudes are thankfully more liberal, but there is a place for manners nonetheless, especially if you are looking to impress… or at very least looking not to offend.

So consider this brief but very useful guide before you step out on your Christmas party trail.

1) Bad Eating habits:

This faux pas never goes of fashion. While it may be difficult to eat gracefully due to the very nature of food consumption, you can at least try to limit the collateral damage. By this I mean doing your upmost to save fellow diners from the sight of your prawn linguine tumbling around your mouth like it’s on an economy cycle.

Also resist the temptation to answer a question in mid chew. Even the longest pause, while you masticate and swallow, is better than speckling the table/tableware/said diner with debris. If you really must talk, use a free hand as a modesty shield and keep it short until the portal is clear.

 2) Bad Nibbles Habits:

Many festive parties offer a selection of drinks and nibbles. My first bit of advice for these gatherings is to beware. A snatched vol au vent between three glasses of wine does not line the stomach to provide protection from a rush of alcohol to the senses with potentially career damaging consequences (you may want to peruse Surviving the Christmas Party tips at this point).

Whatever you take from a sharing platter is now yours, regardless of whether the first bite yields a nasty surprise. Do not return it. If there is a dip, follow protocol and dip once only (your saliva is not for sharing). On that note, if the platter contents are to your liking, leave some for somebody else!

3) Bad Phone Habits

We don’t want to see your phone. We don’t want to see you on your phone – talking or texting – and we definitely don’t want to see a picture of what we’re eating on your phone. Just put the phone away and keep it there until, you have left the building.  Put it away.  PUT IT AWAY.

4) Bad Smoking Habits

This is a funny one. Smoking is either social or anti-social depending on which side of the fence you sit. Lighting up inside is not really an issue because nobody does that anymore anyway. However, nipping out for a cigarette requires a bit of strategic planning i.e. choose a convenient moment (preferably after the meal).

Resist the temptation to spend too long in the smoking zone, and do be aware that to a non-smoker you will stink like a used pub ashtray on you return. Post cigarette, wash your hands, chew on some gum and resist breathing over fellow diners.

Remember that impressions – good or bad – can last and while you might not be aware of your shortcomings, it’s never a bad idea to conduct a mental checklist to make sure that you hit the festive season at the top of the your game. Bon appétit!

Luan de Burgh

November 2017

Luan de Burgh is a speaker, writer and founder of de Burgh Training – a specialist business communication training provider dedicated to helping people perform at their highest potential.