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HomeArts & CultureCulinary Rules – A Guide to Business Dinner Etiquette

Culinary Rules – A Guide to Business Dinner Etiquette

When you go out with a client or your boss for dinner, it’s not just the food that’s going to get scrutinised. The way you conduct yourself during a business dinner could leave a lasting impression on whoever you’re meeting, and you want to make sure that impression is a good one.

In order to avoid any dining faux-pas, check out our top tips for business dinners. There are some basics that we all need to get right; it’s not just about which cutlery you should use.

Choose the right restaurant.

This one only applies to the business dinners you’re hosting, but it’s important to pick a fairly neutral environment. Not only do you need to think about the ambience – you won’t want anywhere that plays loud music – but also the type of food that they serve. You may love Japanese sushi or Brazilian barbecue but your guests may not be fans. Going to a more generalised restaurant like a steakhouse will mean that there are lots of “safe” options on the menu to suit different palates.

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Arrive promptly.

Showing up late can leave your guest or host feeling awkward as they sit in a busy restaurant waiting for you to arrive. Give yourself time to arrive early, especially if you’re the host – you don’t want your guests to feel they have to hang around at the bar.

Switch off your phone.

Switch off your phone before you even walk into the restaurant. No-one likes to play second fiddle to a mobile device, and the person(s) you’re meeting needs to know they have your undivided attention.

Avoid contentious conservation.

It’s good to engage in some small talk to break the ice, but there are certain topics that can be risky. For example, don’t launch into a discussion on religion or politics; you may have your own opinions, but you don’t want to risk offending anyone.

Observe table manners.

Observe the basics of good table manners – place your napkin on your lap, pour water for other people before pouring your own glass. If you’re hosting, ask whether anyone wants alcohol before placing an order. As a guest, you should wait to see if your host orders an alcoholic drink before you do. Wait for everyone’s food to be served before starting to eat yours.

Eat moderately. 

Yes, eating is part of the purpose of your meeting, but with a business dinner, consumption should be your secondary concern. Eat a reasonable amount, but remember you’re there to focus on the business.

​​Mind the bill.

Don’t haggle over the bill. As a general rule, it’s the host of a business dinner who pays, and it can be perceived as rude if you start to insist on paying. If you’re a guest, remember to thank your host, and if you’re the host, don’t let anyone else pay, but thank them politely for offering to do so.

Getting the basics of business dinner etiquette right isn’t rocket science, but following these tips could help you cement a good business relationship rather than put it at risk.


Also published on Medium.