How to maintain business lunch and dinner etiquette

How to Maintain Business Lunch and Dinner Etiquette

Interviews are often stressful – even for job seekers who have interviewed many times. Interviewing can be even more stressful when you are expected to eat and talk at the same time. One of the reasons employers take job candidates out to lunch or dinner is to evaluate their social skills and to see if they can handle themselves gracefully under pressure. That’s important for many roles, and particularly for positions that are client- or customer-facing.

How to Handle Lunch and Dinner Interviews

Dining with a prospective employee allows employers to review your communication and interpersonal skills, as well as your table manners, in a more relaxed (for them) environment. Table manners do matter. Good manners may give you the edge over another candidate, so, take some time to brush up your dining etiquette skills.

Interview Dining Tips

  • If you’re feeling nervous, check out the restaurant ahead of time or visit the restaurant’s website. That way you’ll know exactly what’s on the menu, what you might want to order, and where the restrooms are located.
  • Arrive early. You can ask the restaurant’s host if there is a reservation under the interviewer’s name. If not, wait outside the restaurant for your interviewer to arrive.
  • Wear an interview-appropriate outfit (even if the restaurant is more casual than the company office).
  • Turn off your cell phone or put it on silent. Resist the temptation to check it (even if others at the table are looking at their phones).
  • During the meal, mind your manners. Say “please” and “thank you” to your server as well as your host. And, remember what your mother spent years telling you: keep your elbows off the table, chew with your mouth closed, sit up straight, and never, ever speak with your mouth full.
  • Is the table full of utensils? My British grandmother taught me an easy way to remember what to use when. Start at the outside and work your way in. Your salad fork will be on the far left, your entree fork will be next to it. Your dessert spoon and fork will be above your plate.
  • Liquids are on the right, solids on the left. For example, your water glass will be on the right and your bread plate will be on the left.
  • Put your napkin on your lap once everyone is seated.

During the Meal

  • Don’t order messy food – pasta with lots of sauce, chicken with bones, ribs, big sandwiches, and whole lobsters are all dangerous.
  • Keep conversation light toward the start of the meal. You can ask interviewers if they’ve been to the restaurant before, chat about the weather, or ask how their day has gone.
  • Don’t order the most expensive entree on the menu.
  • When you do order your meal, make it something that’s easy to cut into bite-size pieces. During the meal, take small bites, so that it’s easy to finish chewing and swallow before responding to questions and participating in the mealtime conversation.
  • The polite way to eat soup is to spoon it away from you. There’s less chance of spilling in your lap that way too!
  • Break your dinner roll into small pieces and eat it a piece at a time.
  • If you need to leave the table, put your napkin on the seat or the arm of your chair.
  • When you’ve finished eating, move your knife and fork to the “four o’clock” position so the server knows you’re done.
  • Remember to try and relax, listen, and participate in the conversation.

To Drink or Not to Drink

  • It’s wise not to drink alcohol during an interview. Interviewing is tough enough without adding alcohol to the mix.

After the Meal

  • Put your napkin on the table next to your plate.
  • Let the prospective employer pick up the tab. The person who invited you will expect to pay both the bill and the tip.
  • Remember to say “thank you.” Consider also following-up with a thank you note which reiterates your interest in the job.

More Interview Tips

Review these job interview etiquette tips for before, during, and and after a job interview, to ensure that your job interview etiquette is up to speed and you’re making the best impression on the interviewer. Also brush up your interview skills, to make sure that you’re a perfect candidate and don’t inadvertently make any mistakes. Find out how to interview, tips, what to wear, and what not to do during the interview.

Decorum is an essential part of the business world, from the boardroom to the dining room. That’s because the way people carry themselves can say a lot about how they may do business. Adhering to the right business dinner etiquette can help ensure you make a good impression every time you are at the dinner table. Impress prospective customers, maintain relationships with existing ones, and project a winning image with these tips on business dining etiquette.

Before Dinner

Get to Know Your Peers: Always do a little homework on who you’ll be dining with beforehand to get to know your business associates. Make notes about individuals’ backgrounds and their companies to help guide your conversation.

Consider Having a Snack: To avoid unseemly overeating, eat a snack to tide you over before you head to dinner. Even if you’re going to a top-notch restaurant known for its delectable dishes, this dinner is all about the conversation so you’ll want to focus on that, not devouring the food that’s in front of you.

Pick Your Attire: If you’re not sure what type of dress code will be expected of you, check out the restaurant to get a feel for the formality of the dinner. And when in doubt, always err on the side of overdressing for a meeting.

Make a Good First Impression: Greet table guests with a firm handshake, good eye contact, and introduce yourself with a polite enthusiasm—just don’t overdo it on any of these facets. Be sure to wait for the host to sit before you do so yourself. Then place your napkin in your lap when seated at teh dinner table.

During Dinner

Keeping Things in Order: When it comes to ordering, avoid alcohol entirely, even if your host insists. However, if you are dining with a person with whom you have a well-established and casual relationship, a small amount of alcohol as a toast will not spell disaster. For food, you’ll want to avoid certain messy meals that will call unnecessary attention to you. For instance, you probably don’t want to be donning a bib and cracking open king crab legs or attempting to spool spaghetti with a thick, red sauce in front of your business associates. Additionally, be mindful of any foods that could get caught in your teeth.

Pace Yourself: Once eating, try to stay focused on the conversation, since the dinner is all about the business relationship that you are establishing or furthering. So you’ll want to pace yourself: ripping off just a bite-size piece of bread at a time and cutting just one bite of food before moving onto the next. Not only is this proper business dinner etiquette, it will also allow you to maintain a presence in the conversation during the meeting.

Cut the Right Way: It’s a commonly overlooked fact that American and European diners are expected to cut their food differently. In the US, the proper etiquette involves using a fork in the left hand to hold down the food while cutting with the right, before eating with the fork in your right hand. However, with the European style, you keep the fork in your left hand to eat. When eating Asian cuisine, all of this utensil etiquette goes out the window, of course, as you’ll be using chopsticks. If you’re an inexperienced chopstick user, consider practicing ahead of time to look like a pro during your dinner. Never use your chopsticks to spear your food or point across the table.

Rest Your Utensils Correctly: Because you’ll be absorbed in conversation and pacing your eating, it’s important to know the correct way to place your silverware when you’re not eating. In between bites, rest your knife on the edge of your plate in the “one o’clock” position and your fork tines up at about “four o’clock.” Once you are done eating, signal to the wait staff that you are indeed finished by placing your fork and knife side by side on your plate at about “four o’clock” with the tines facing up. In Europe, the correct resting position is to place one utensil over the other, making an “X” in the middle of your plate. Signal that you’re finished eating in the same way as American etiquette dictates, but instead, place your fork with the tines facing down. Chopsticks can be rested across the top of your bowl, side by side at any time, but be sure never to cross them. This is considered rude in many Asian countries.

During dinner, be sure also to keep in mind the most basic of table manners and etiquette tips: no elbows on the table; do not reach across the table for items; chew with your mouth closed; and, perhaps most importantly, remember to thank your host at the end of the meal.

If you’re going to dinner in another country for the first time, do some research ahead of time on the particular business dinner etiquette and conventions unique to that location. For instance, while any person definitely want to avoid slurping their food in the States, this actually can be considered a compliment to a chef in Japan. In India, the Middle East, and some places in Africa, it’s disrespectful to eat with your left hand. And in Thailand, a fork is only supposed to be used to push food onto your spoon.

Sometimes a polite and professional appearance can be just as important as your business acumen in making a winning with lasting impression on your business counterparts. With these etiquette tips in mind and some common sense, you can ensure that you look the part and impress clients with your business dinner etiquette.

November 14, 2017

How to Maintain Business Lunch and Dinner Etiquette

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Doing business in China is all about relationships and therefore you’ll often need to attend a business lunch or dinner with your supplier. Read our guide to find out why relationships are so important in China, and read below to find out the proper etiquette for dining with your business partners in China.


As with a business meeting in China, arrive early or at least on time. Being late is a sign of disrespect. You should dress in accordance with everyone else at the dinner. If they’re all wearing suits, you should do the same. However, if they’re more casual, you can be too.


Chinese dining is usually at a round table however, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a still a hierarchy, in place in regards to seating. The host of the meal usually sits facing the door. If the table is rectangular, the host will most likely sit in the middle of the table. Sometimes this seat will have a napkin folded like a crane on the plate in front of it. The primary guest of the host, in most cases that would be you, will sit to his or her left. It’s always a good bet to wait until you’re invited to sit, rather than choosing a seat yourself. That way you won’t inadvertently disrespect the host.

The host of the meal usually sits facing the door. If the table is rectangular, the host will most likely sit in the middle of the table. The primary guest of the host, in most cases that would be you, will sit to his or her left


Business negotiations rarely take place at a business lunch or dinner, rather it’s a time for developing your business relationships or guanxi, which you can read about in our guide to China. Keep the conversation light and pleasant, complimenting the food at the dinner, discussing the weather, your hometown, or the Chinese landscape. Expect to be asked personal questions about your age, marital status, or income. It is okay to evade these questions, but in China they are not considered rude. For more about conversation in China, you can refer to our guide.

Ordering the Food

If a menu has not been preset, expect a lengthy discussion about what to order. It is necessary for everyone to agree, so be receptive. Do not suggest American food even if it is offered on the menu. China is considered to have some of the best food in the world, so be open-minded and try the dishes your host recommends.

It is necessary for everyone to agree, so be receptive. Do not suggest American food even if it is offered on the menu.

The Toast

After being seated, do not immediately begin to eat or drink, instead follow the lead of the host. The host will typically begin with a toast to the primary guest’s friendship. There is often a toasting glass that will be filled with wine or baijiu, a strong distilled alcohol. Do not drink from this glass unless a toast is offered.

When toasting with the host, it’s good etiquette to clink your glass lower than the rim or his or hers. It’s a sign of respect.

When toasting with the host, it’s good etiquette to clink your glass lower than the rim of his or hers. It’s a sign of respect.

Although it varies by region, some Chinese business people believe that drinking together is proof of a close relationship. It is acceptable to ask if this is a local custom; Chinese business people will respect your interest in their social culture. If there is a reason why you cannot drink, advise the host of this before the meal.

Everything you need to do business in China, all in one place.

If you are the guest of honor, it will be your responsibility to toast a few courses afterwards. Keep your toast sincere and shorter than the host’s. As part of a toast, one normally says “gan bei” (pronounced gahn-bay) which translates as “dry cup” or “bottoms up.”

It is also not uncommon to go around the table toasting each member of the party.

Eating the Meal

Starting to Eat

After toasting, the host will begin the meal by beginning to serve others at the table, as Chinese meals are typically served family-style or from common dishes that are shared. This is your cue that you may begin eating.

Using Chopsticks

How to Maintain Business Lunch and Dinner Etiquette

Regardless of your ability to do so, it is polite to use chopsticks during your meal. Aside from the soup course, every course will be eaten with chopsticks. It is considered bad etiquette to do the following:

  • Do not tap your chopsticks on the side of your plate. This is considered to be the behavior someone who is starving and begging for a meal.
  • Pointing is considered rude in Chinese culture so do not stretch out your index finger when using chopsticks and never point with them.
  • Do not suck a chopstick.
  • Do not poke at dishes inspecting them and not knowing what you want to take.
  • Do not rub chopsticks together.
  • Do not insert chopsticks vertically into a dish, always at an angle.
  • Do not drop your chopsticks.

It is acceptable to rest your chopsticks horizontally on the side your bowl or plate.

Table Manners

It is considered perfectly acceptable and even courteous to the host to burp, slurp, and belch while eating in China. However, you should follow the lead of those around you.

Toothpicks are commonly used between courses. While using the toothpick, good etiquette dictates that you cover your mouth with your other hand.

Emptying Your Plate

The general principle in China is to eat a little of everything. Ample food will be served. Sample from every dish despite the fact that you may be unfamiliar with some such as dog meat, blood, scorpions, snake, and grasshoppers. The host will be offended if food is left untouched.

Leave food on your plate after each course. It is considered an offense to finish everything as it signals to the host that you have been left unsatisfied.

The End of the Meal

A fruit or dessert course signals that the meal may be ending soon. Meals officially end when the host stands up, thanks the guest and other members of the party for attending then leaves. Hot towels may be offered at the end of the meal. You will not be asked to leave, but the host’s departure is the signal that it is time to go.

Paying for the Meal

The host pays for all the other participants at the business dinner in China. Should you decide to host yourself, bear in mind that it is considered rude to tip.

The host pays for all the other participants at the business dinner in China. Should you decide to host yourself, bear in mind that it is considered rude to tip.

Following these tips will help you build trust with your supplier in China to protect your business. Want more tips on working with your suppliers in China? Check out our comprehensive guide on How to do Business in China. Veem offer a cheaper and safer way to pay your business partners, whether they’re in China or any of the 60 countries we serve.

How to Maintain Business Lunch and Dinner Etiquette

We’ve all seen it: business deals happening not in the office or over the phone, but across a dining table. The business lunch (or dinner) is standard practice for working with both customers and business partners. But the proper protocol for a working lunch or dinner can be tricky. Who chooses the restaurant? If it’s you, which type of restaurant do you pick? Are there any ‘off-limits’ topics? And if your boss invites you to dinner, what are the rules? Here are some basic tips and tricks for business lunch (or dinner) etiquette.

Types of meal meetings

There are various reasons to conduct business over a meal. You may be informally getting to know a client, celebrating the signing of a contract with a customer, discussing tough negotiations with a business partner in a more relaxed environment, or simply taking a break with colleagues to satisfy your hunger.

Whatever the reason, it’s important to realise there are rules to follow and roles to play. And these differ depending on the occasion and who’s in attendance.

1. The internal business lunch

Who selects the restaurant?
A regular and friendly lunch with colleagues does not actually fall into the category of internal business and therefore requires no real precautions. Let the group democratically decide where to get a bite to eat.

If you ask your boss to join you for a meal, however, you should consider a few things. For example, the choice of restaurants is important and should be of a high standard. If you don’t have a good recommendation, you may want to let your boss decide.

With colleagues, seating shouldn’t matter. If you’re with the boss, let them take the lead. Wait to see where they sit first or whether they indicate a certain seat for you.

Topics of conversation
If you’re with your workmates, enjoy the chance to talk to them outside the office. Just remember that you shouldn’t use this time as an opportunity to gossip or badmouth your boss or other colleagues. And although having a one-on-one with your boss might seem daunting, just be yourself and let the conversation flow. Business should be the focus, but you will most certainly exchange banter during the meal. If you’re worried about getting the conversation started or other awkward silences, consider some topics ahead of time. Maybe your boss spends the weekends playing golf, or perhaps you know some people in common.

Who pays?
With a group lunch, people generally split the bill, unless you’re shouting someone for their birthday. If you invite your boss to lunch, etiquette dictates that you should pay. If the boss wants to discuss business with you, he or she should pick up the bill.

2. The informal business lunch

Who selects the restaurant?
Informal business lunches are often common practice for meeting with business partners or clients to discuss a project or contract negotiations. The company or person hosting the meeting should suggest the restaurant. Think practically – easy access and short waiting times are more important than a fancy atmosphere for this kind of meal.

With a group, it’s a good idea to try to alternate your business partners or clients with your own employees. You may want to speak with your colleagues about this before the lunch.

Topics of conversation
This type of lunch may be a continuation of business discussions from that morning in the office, and your manner should always be professional. However, the informal business lunch can also often be conducive to more relaxed, more candid conversations. This might just be where you get the deal done! On the other hand, lunch may simply be a reprieve from business negotiations. Take some cues from your guests (or your hosts) and try to go with the flow.

Who pays?
The lunch host should pay the bill – and do so gracefully. You want to make a good impression on your business partners.

3. Official business

Who selects the restaurant?
Hard-core business discussions and negotiations often take place in the evenings. If you extend an invitation, always consider your business partners when deciding on a restaurant. If you know them well, you can go with their preferences. If in doubt, choose a quiet restaurant with a wide selection of dishes, including vegetarian options. If you’ve not been there before, you may want to check out the atmosphere in advance.

When you have several guests, as the host, you should seat the business partners along the table, with the most important closest to you. Ensure you make all necessary introductions if there are people who’ve never met. As the host, it’s your responsibility to make sure everyone is comfortable and enjoying themselves.

Topics of conversation
Generally, the host also leads the business discussion and makes sure all stakeholders at the table get their say – and their questions asked and answered. If possible, hold off on the business talk until dessert and coffee, as long as you’ll have enough time to cover everything.

Who pays?
The host should pay discreetly. Quietly excuse yourself from the table shortly after dessert and pay out of sight of your guests.

Whether you’re having a spontaneous lunch or a planned business dinner, make sure you know the proper etiquette before mealtime. It’s easy to make a faux pas that could reflect negatively on you or your business.

October 20, 2014

How to Maintain Business Lunch and Dinner Etiquette

Whether you’re grabbing a quick lunch with colleagues or need to impress a client at a formal dinner, maintaining a professional image is important. However, dining in a business setting can sometimes be tricky. Never fear! Here’s a refresher of business dining etiquette tips to help you mind your manners and make a good impression at your next business meal:

1) Before the meal, shake hands with anyone already sitting at the table. If necessary, introduce yourself. Be sure to remain standing until your host sits. Once you sit down, place your napkin on your lap only after everyone else is seated and your host has moved his or her napkin. If someone arrives to the table after you do, it’s polite to stand up to greet them.

2) When the waiter approaches the table, don’t ask him to explain everything on the menu (one or two items are okay, especially if you have a food allergy or a dietary restriction such as a gluten intolerance and need clarification on a dish). If you appear too picky or indecisive, your peers may become annoyed.

3) Follow your host’s lead – if they’re first in line to order, choose something similar to what they order. For example, if they opt for a salad, try not to go for the prime rib. If the host isn’t first in line to order, then ask for his/her recommendation. And of course, don’t order the most expensive thing on the menu.
Pro Tip: Order foods that are easy to eat, such as chicken, fish or salads. Avoid dishes with a messy reputation such as spaghetti or a greasy burger (as hard as that may be to resist!).

4) As mentioned above, it’s best to follow your host’s lead when it comes to ordering an alcoholicHow to Maintain Business Lunch and Dinner Etiquette beverage. If you choose to drink, limit yourself to one beer or glass of wine.

5) Drink from your own water glass and don’t make the mistake of taking from your colleague or client’s bread plate. Remember that your beverage will always be placed on the right side, above your knife and soup spoon, and your bread plate will always be placed on the left side, above your fork(s).

6) Try a little of everything on your plate unless you have a food allergy. You could come across as unsophisticated (and juvenile) if you eat only your steak and potatoes and ignore your veggies. If the food served is not to your liking, it is polite to at least attempt to eat a small amount of it. Additionally, don’t over indulge or ask to finish anyone else’s food.

7) Cut only enough food for the next mouthful (cut no more than a few bites of food at a time). Eat in small bites and slowly. Do not “play with” your food or utensils. Never wave or point silverware, and do not hold food on your fork or spoon while talking.

8) Avoid talking about religion, politics and other controversial topics. If someone else brings up an issue you’re uncomfortable with during the meal, politely try to change the subject as subtly as possible.

How to Maintain Business Lunch and Dinner Etiquette9) If you need to leave the table during the meal, place your napkin on your chair and push the chair back under the table. There is no need to announce where you are going, or what you will be doing when you get there.

10) A cough or a sneeze should be directed into your left shoulder, shielded by your left hand, keeping your right hand germ free. Avoid using your napkin as a tissue. Speaking of germs: if you drop your fork on the floor, leave it there! It’s not necessary to dive under the table to fetch it. Simply ask your server for a new utensil and encourage the rest of your group to continue eating.

11) Your mother’s request when you were a kid works here, too: keep your elbows off the table! It’s also courteous to never talk with food in your mouth.

12) Once you have finished your meal, signal your server to clear your place setting by resting your fork (tines up) and knife blade inward, with the handles resting at five o’clock and the tips pointing to ten o’clock on your plate. If you’re unable to finish your meal, it’s considered unprofessional to take home leftovers.

13) Don’t argue over the check or offer to pay the tip; the host who invited you must take care of both. Be sure to kindly thank your host for the meal; shake hands before you leave and maintain good eye contact. Helpful hint : If you’re hosting the dinner and a guest offers to pay the bill, politely decline.

A business lunch or dinner is a great opportunity to let your professionalism shine – whether you’re going to a local steakhouse or dining abroad. While business dining etiquette rules can vary country to country, the general guidelines remain the same: practice good manners and use common sense. For more advice on making a good impression while dining internationally, including more tips on tipping, check out our post Business Etiquette Abroad: How to Avoid Culture Shock When Traveling.

Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox

How to Maintain Business Lunch and Dinner Etiquette

When you’re invited to a casual business lunch, anticipate that it will be anything but casual. Your behavior is on display just as if you are in a business meeting. Any error you make can become a permanent stain on your professional record.

That’s why it’s important to keep these dining etiquette tips in mind in order to stay in top favor with your business associates and potential clients.

1. R.S.V.P.

If you receive an invitation to a business meal, it’s courteous to respond promptly. If you wait longer than one week, it might look like you’re holding out for a more attractive option. If you respond but don’t show up at all, you most likely won’t be invited again. Always follow through, keep your word and be on time.

2. Place your napkin in your lap.

To indicate good manners right off the bat, open your napkin and place it on your lap when you sit down. Never tuck it into your shirt or use it as a handkerchief. If you have to excuse yourself and visit the restroom or make a phone call, place it on your chair. At the end of the meal, place it neatly on the table, to the left of your plate.

3. Don’t overeat.

Don’t belly up to the trough just because you’re dining on an expense account. Order a simple lunch that you can gracefully eat in the allotted lunch hour. You’ll be seen as confident and in charge when you choose reasonably. Stay away from messy and difficult-to-eat foods including ribs, lobster, corn-on-the-cob, oversized sandwiches and pasta with a red sauce.

4. Don’t talk with your mouth full.

This one harkens back to the childhood basic training: take a small bite, chew, swallow and then talk. If you must say something, cover your mouth with your hand, or gesture with a “wait a moment” finger and then talk once you’ve swallowed.

5. Try it, you might like it.

There may be times when you’re served an unfamiliar dish. Try it. You may be surprised to find that you like it. You run the risk of offending your host if, when traveling internationally, you won’t try something new. If you have any dietary restrictions or food allergies, let your host know ahead of time. Eat what you can and leave the rest.

6. Remember the ‘BMW’ rule.

Have you ever eaten someone’s bread by mistake? To avoid this awkward situation in the future, remember that B: Bread is always in the left, M: Meal is always in the middle, and W: water is always on the right.

7. Leave your plates in place.

Never stack your dishes when you’re finished eating. Leave them in place and place your knife and fork side by side, on a slant across the center of the plate, in the 10:20 o’clock position. This is a silent signal that indicates that you are finished.

8. Treat the staff well.

You can tell a lot about a person by the way he or she treats a service person. Be sure to treat the wait staff respectfully and thoughtfully. Say “thank you” when service is rendered. How you treat everyone in a restaurant goes farther than just table talk.

Be the gracious host or the stellar guest by remembering these social graces and you’ll get you through a dining engagement without winding up with egg on your face.

Planning and Arriving

Planning the Business Lunch

The following dining etiquette tips will make preparing to host a business lunch a fairly simple endeavor.

If possible, find out whether your guest(s) likes or dislikes certain cuisine. Ask when extending the invitation or call an assistant to get the answer. You could also give your guest a choice of two or three restaurants. If hosting a group, choose a restaurant with a diverse menu.

Invite well in advance. You or your assistant should arrange any business meal at least a week in advance.

Choose a restaurant you know. If possible, pick one restaurant and frequent it. This will pay special rewards in terms of your being recognized when you walk in, and it will probably result in better service. You will have to cultivate (and tip) the headwaiter to make yourself known. Also keep in mind that if anyone is going to travel fairly far to reach the restaurant, it should be you and not your guest.

Local custom will generally dictate the time of the lunch. In large cities, lunches might be planned at 1 P.M.; in small communities, 12 noon might be more common.

Make it clear that you are the host.

Tell your guest what to expect to allow your guest to prepare and bring any pertinent materials.

Confirm the time and place and repeat the details of the invitation later in the conversation.

Reserve a table ahead of time. If you have a preference for seating (a spot that’s quiet) tell the person taking the reservation.

Reconfirm with your guest. Call on the morning of a lunch or dinner; if you’ve scheduled breakfast, call the day before.

Business Invitation Etiquette

Business Meal Etiquette – Arriving

Good dining etiquette and the impression you make on your business lunch companions starts when you first arrive at the restaurant.

Don’t be late. It’s appropriate that this is the first rule of dining etiquette. Arriving even five or ten minutes late leaves a bad impression; any later than that sends a clear message of carelessness and thoughtlessness.

Dress appropriately. Error on the side of dressing up. Call the restaurant to see if they have a dress code.

When you arrive at the restaurant and your host hasn’t arrived, etiquette dictates that you wait in the lobby or waiting area for him or her. Don’t go to the table and wait there.

If you are the host, wait for your guest in the lobby. If some of your guests have already arrived, you should wait in the lobby only until the time the reservation is made for. Then proceed to the table and have the maitre d’ or waiter escort the late guests in.

Table Manners

Paying the Bill

The person who does the inviting does the paying. If someone invites you to lunch and the server places the check on the table, don’t make a grab for it. Let the person who invitedВ you have the opportunity to pick up the check and deal with it.

If the server gives the check to your guest ask them for the check. A simple way to prevent this from happening, is to let the server or maitre d’ know in advance that the check should be brought to you.


Whoever is paying the bill should make sure a gratuity hasn’t already been included in the total–something that is standard procedure at some restaurants. Other restaurants may include an automatic gratuity only for large groups. On many occasions, you’ll be tipping not only the waiter but other restaurant staff as well. Tip according to these general guidelines.

The Waiter or Waitress

Twenty percent of the total bill before tax is added.

The Sommelier or Wine Steward

Either 15 to 20 percent of the cost of the bottle or a $3 to $5 per bottle. If you tip a sommelier, remember to deduct the cost of the wine from the bill before figuring the tip for the wait staff.

The Bartender

15 to 20 percent of the tab, with a minimum of $1.00 to $2.00 per drink.

The Coat room Attendant

$2 for the first coat and $1 per additional coat.

The Parking Valet or Garage Attendant

$2 to $5 – tip when the car is returned to you.

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100 Table Manners Tips

How to Maintain Business Lunch and Dinner Etiquette

For more table manners tips, visit our table manners section. The following link will take you to more detailed information to help refine your dining etiquette skills.

Business Meal Follow-Up

Thank-You Notes

A note sent by the guest serves as a thank-you for the meal and an enjoyable time, as well as a confirmation of any decisions that were made. The host should also write, telling the guest how nice it was to dine with him or her and briefly recapping any business details. A follow-up phone call by either party could be made instead, but a note has two advantages: It doesn’t interrupt the other person’s day, and it comes across as warmer and more gracious.

A sample thank-you letter for a breakfast or lunch meeting:

Thank you for arranging our breakfast meeting this morning! I appreciated your being so well prepared and giving your helpful comments and suggestions for content. I’m thrilled to be working with you and Robin. Together we’ll have a very successful June seminar.

Thank you for asking me to be the featured speaker.

Very truly yours,

Elizabeth Winters Professional Speaker

Reciprocating with an Invitation

How to Maintain Business Lunch and Dinner Etiquette

Does inviting someone to a business lunch, dinner, or breakfast does not always mean they are obligated to reciprocate.

You are not expected to repay an invitation to a strictly-business meal (especially one charged to an expense account), no matter who invited you – a customer, a client, or your boss. But you may certainly do so if you have continuing business together.

A client who is entertained by a salesperson or supplier is not expected to return the invitation, even if his or her spouse or family was invited.

Do return social invitations from coworkers and other business associates, whether they’ve extended the hand of friendship to cement a business relationship or you simply enjoy one another’s company away from the office.

Toasting Etiquette

  • The first toast given during a dinner is normally offered at the beginning of the meal.
  • Traditionally, the first toast is offered by the host as a welcome to guests.
  • Toasts offered by others start during the dessert course.

For more etiquette tips and hundreds of toast examples.

– chapter excerpt – the entire article –

It is traditional in Germany to eat the main meal of the day at lunchtime, between 11:30 AM and 1:30 PM.

How to Maintain Business Lunch and Dinner Etiquette

In contrast to a long, several-course meal, a German lunch usually consists of an appetizer (usually soup), a main course, and a dessert.
When you are attending a business conference, both lunch and dinner are considered important components of the conference. Meals allow those attending to make personal contacts and to continue discussing business issues in a more casual atmosphere.

Ladies at the Dinner Table
Contrary to earlier traditions that frowned upon women speaking with the waiter, tasting the wine, or paying the bill, all of these things are normal today. It is not only acceptable for a woman to ask for the bill, but also to enter a restaurant first, and – if acting as hostess – to try the wine before it is served. However, this last situation will usually not come into question at business luncheons because, in most cases, only non-alcoholic beverages are served.

Alcoholic Beverages
The consumption of alcohol in Germany (even during the work day) may be more common than you are used to in your country, and when others drink, you may feel pressured to drink as well. Again, you don’t need to worry – modern etiquette suggests that it is acceptable to refuse a drink. In fact, you can even offer to order drinks for others and refrain from drinking alcohol yourself.

Leaving a Tip
Generally, the rule states that 10-15% of the bill’s total should be left as a tip if you were satisfied with the service you received. If you weren’t satisfied, you can simply not leave a tip, and others will not frown upon you. You may, on the other hand, want to leave more than the standard 10-15% tip if the restaurant staff really went out of their way to accommodate your needs. Also, when leaving, it is polite to thank the staff or your waiter / waitress with, “Danke schön.” (“Thank you.”) This lets you express your appreciation in addition to the tip that you leave behind.

  1. When in Germany, should I conform my table manners to those of the Germans?
    For the most part, you do not have to make too much effort to mirror the Germans at the table. If you practice good table manners at home, they will suffice in Germany; it is not necessary to worry about how to hold your fork or where to place your napkin. But be careful – some behavior should be avoided. For example, in Southern Asia, it is normal to chew loudly when eating and to belch after a good meal. If you were to do this in Germany, it could embarrass you as well as those sitting with you.
  2. What are a few table manners that I should keep in mind in Germany?
    • Before eating, wish everyone at the table “Guten Appetit.” (“Enjoy your meal.”)
    • Only take as much food as you plan on eating. The Germans usually “clean their plates”.
    • When you or others are eating, keep your hands on the table, not under it.
    • Sit up straight, close to the table.
    • Don’t prop your head up with your hands.
    • Don’t bend your head over your food when you are eating or “shovel” your food in your mouth.
    • Don’t begin eating until everyone at the table has been served.
    • Don’t begin drinking until everyone has something to drink and a toast has been made.
    • Look others in the eye when toasting.
    • Do not get up to leave when you have finished eating, but wait for the others; if you came to dinner with others, then leave with them also.
    • Do not belch or chew with your mouth open.
    • When you are finished eating, places your knife and fork together and rest them on your plate.
  3. Should a host pay the bill at the table with the guests present?
    No! It is much more polite to pay the bill at the bar in order to avoid misunderstandings or discussions about paying. This also allows the host to inconspicuously pay, look over the bill, leave a tip, and order an aperitif for everyone.
  4. Is it acceptable to ask for the house wine in a good restaurant?
    Yes! A good house wine is a good advertisement for a restaurant. Also, you can be sure that a wine from wine countries such as Germany, France, and Italy will never be of bad quality. When your budget doesn’t allow an extremely expensive wine, ask the waiter to recommend a low cost, quality wine. By naming the amount that you are willing to spend, you show that you are confident in the situation and not embarrassed to ask.
  5. When I order soup, is it polite to tip up my soup cup and drink the last bit of soup?
    Yes! However, in order to do this tactfully, take hold of one of the soup cup handles, tip, and drink. Keep in mind that this is only polite when your soup comes served in a CUP, not a bowl!
  6. Is it appropriate to use toothpicks or put on lipstick at the table?
    Yes! These are not the most tactful things to do at the table, but if they have to be done, then go ahead. Lipstick can be put on discretely almost anywhere, but is it really necessary to put it on at the table? If you really want to freshen up your make-up, be sure to go to the bathroom.
  7. When I attend a social event, should I wait to take off my sport coat or jacket until I am asked to do so by the host?
    Yes! Good hosts and hostesses should react quickly when they notice that the room temperature is rising and offer to take your coat for you.
  8. Is it true that I should not lay my paper napkin in my plate when I am finished eating?
    Yes! In Germany it is customary to fold your napkin after eating and place it to the left side of your plate. The Germans have a very strict recycling system, and this helps ensure that the napkin ends up in the correct recycling bin. Cloth napkins should also be folded and laid to the left side of your plate, never in the plate!
  9. If I would like to say a few words at the table or to make a toast, is it appropriate to bang on the side of my glass to get people’s attention?
    No! Although you typically see this in old German movies, today it is more appropriate to stand and ask for their attention in a slightly raised voice. Those seated at the table should automatically stop talking and pay attention.

You will find 35 other interesting articles in our book.
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How to Maintain Business Lunch and Dinner Etiquette


The difference between luncheon and dinner is the time of day each is served and the number of courses presented. The traditional hour to serve lunch is 12:30 or 1:00 in the afternoon. Guests arrive a half-hour before lunch and reВ­main for 30 minutes to 1 hour afterward depending on the guests’ schedules and amount of leisure time.

Generally, four courses are presented at a formal luncheon, and one, two, or three courses are served at an informal luncheon. If gentlemen are present, the menu is more substantial because they generally have a greater appetite. Because a heavy meal at noon tends to make people sleepy, luncheon is lighter than dinner. Moreover, most people have less time midday to devote to lunch, and the period allotted luncheon is shorter than dinner.

In keeping with the menu, pre-prandial beverages are generally light, for example, white wine, champagne, bloody Marys, and nonalcoholic drinks such as cranberry juice, grapefruit juice, and mineral water. Hors d’oeuvres and canapés are not served, although optionally a few nibbles, such as mixed nuts or small assorted crackers, are placed about.

Candles are not needed for visibility in daylight hours and are not lighted at luncheon. The exception is an overcast day when a gray sky throws a dark glow in doors and lamps are turned on. To fill the void left by the absence of candles, flank the centerpiece with figurines, fruit, or small bouquets.

For a formal luncheon,the table is laid exactly as for a formal dinner, only less tableware is needed. Although a tablecloth is appropriate at luncheon and unifies the accoutrements of a multi-course meal, at a formal luncheon placemats in shades of white or pastel are also appropriate. A service plate is laid at each cover. Luncheon В­size flatware and plates are used by those who own them, but they are not essential. Generally, the table is laid with place-size flatware and regular dinner plates. Bread is served, and bread-and-butter plates are provided. Multiple centerpieces grace the table, as do compotes of candy. Place cards are inscribed with guests’ formal names. Finger bowls and menu cards are optional. Second portions are not offered because the multi-course menu precludes the need. Although one wine is sufficient, at the hostess’s option two wines are poured. The table is crumbed prior to dessert. Following the meal, demitasse and liqueurs are offered in the drawing room.

An informal luncheon is served by the hostess. The linens range from a white tablecloth to colorful placemats. The table may also be left bare, and as ornamentation and to provide interest the napkins are folded decoratively, Service plates are not used, except as decoration or as placemats. For eight guests or more, place cards identify seating arrangements, inscribed with the guests’ first names or nicknames. Bread-and-butter plates are provided. The exception is when pre-buttered rolls are passed and placed on the rim of the luncheon plate. Because the menu is simple, second portions are offered. The table is not crumbed. Following dessert, hot tea or coffee are served at the table in regular-size cups.

Table Manners

How to Maintain Business Lunch and Dinner Etiquette

It’s easy to impress at the dinner table! Just take a few minutes to read through our table manners section and you’ll be the most sophisticated diner at the table.

International Dining Etiquette

How to Maintain Business Lunch and Dinner Etiquette

Visit our international dining etiquette section for more etiquette tips for your next trip overseas or hosting international guests!

Wine Tasting Etiquette

Once it is poured into the proper glass, it’s time to evaluate and enjoy the wine. Evaluating wine involves four basic steps – looking, swirling, smelling, and tasting.

  • Step #1 – Look. Holding the wine glass up against a white background, such as a napkin or table cloth, to evaluate its color and clarity. Red wines should range in color from deep purple to brick red.В White wines should range in color from lemon gold to golden amber.
  • Step #2 – Swirl.В Swirl the wine in your glass to aerate it.
  • Step #3 – Smell.В Put your nose in the glass and take a deep breath.В Older wines should have subtler aromas than younger ones.
  • Step #4 – Taste.В To taste the wine, fill your mouth about ВЅ full and subtly swish the wine around.

Read More

Table Setting Etiquette

Helpful hints for setting the perfect table!

Visit our table setting section for information on:

Toasting Etiquette

  • The first toast given during a dinner is normally offered at the beginning of the meal.
  • Traditionally, the first toast is offered by the host as a welcome to guests.
  • Toasts offered by others start during the dessert course.

For more etiquette tips and hundreds of toast examples.

Whether it’s a job interview or an important meeting, you need good table manners to impress during a business lunch. Every move you make needs to project confidence and grace.

From using the correct resting position for your cutlery, to pouring the right amount of wine in your guest’s glass, showing confidence at the table shows that you are confident in business.

Depending on the country in which you are doing business, table manners differ. The following advice is intended to give you confidence and grace when dining Continental Style or American Style.

Pause and Finished Signals

The position of your knife and fork while pausing during your meal or when you have finished depends on whether you use Continental Style or American Style of dining.

Continental Style is probably the most widely used; American Style is traditional to the United States. Take a look at the differences below.

Napkin Etiquette

Your napkin can communicate to the server whether you have left the table temporarily or if you have finished altogether.

  • When you sit down, place your napkin on your lap. It should be half-folded with the crease closest to you.
  • When you temporarilyleave the table, place your napkin on your chair to signal that you will be returning.
  • When you have finished and you leave the table, place your napkin to the left of your plate.

Bread and Butter Etiquette

There are two basic rules to when it comes to bread: never take a bite directly from your bread roll, and never butter the whole roll. Bread is an accompaniment to your meal, and as such it should never be eaten like a sandwich.

It is perfectly acceptable to use your hands (as they do in France) when it comes to bread. The correct bread and butter etiquette is to tear off a bite-sized piece of bread, butter that piece only, and then eat it.

Wine Etiquette

During a business lunch, it is acceptable to drink wine if your host offers it to you. Remember though, business lunches are professional; your reputation and professional image are your responsibility.

To stay within reasonable limits, I recommend the ‘none or one’ rule for drinking wine at a business lunch. If you are pouring the wine for your guest, use the guide below:

  • Glass 1/2 full for red wine
  • Glass 2/3 full for white wineThe size of wine glasses can vary greatly. Use your professional judgement to determine if 1/2 glass of red wine will send your guest strolling or tottering back to the office.

When you demonstrate proper table manners, most likely nobody will notice. However, the absence of good table manners will get you noticed for the wrong reasons.

I hope you enjoyed this article on table manners to impress during a business lunch. Please share using the buttons below and sign up for more tips in my newsletter below!

[Header images courtesy of CarlosPorto/ and Marcus/]

Learn more business etiquette tips in my online course.

In my Bestselling online video course, Business Etiquette 101: Social Skills for Success, you will learn skills in building the know, like and trust factor, networking, conversations, executive wardrobe and your digital footprint. Click the image below to learn more.

Kara Ronin is the founder of Executive Impressions. She is an executive coach who specialises in leadership presence, social skills and business etiquette. She is also the creator of Bestselling Udemy course, Business Etiquette 101. Kara’s advice and unique perspectives have been featured in Time Inc., Business Insider, Ignites Europe (a Financial Times Service), The Muse, The Local France, The West Australian, and more. Kara works regularly with lawyers, investment bankers, and finance professionals to help them build presence, authority and influence in business. Get Kara’s insights delivered straight to your inbox

How to Maintain Business Lunch and Dinner Etiquette

What is business dining?

Definition: A business meal where the chief object is building the business relationship. Although business is usually conducted or discussed, the prime benefit of business dining is the opportunity it affords to get to know each other better and cement business relationships.

Why are business dining skills so important to your career and life?

What you don’t know, can hurt you.

A very successful engineer shared the following personal story.

I enjoy dining with clients and use it as a way to build relationships and referrals. But I wasn’t always so polished at the table. I was lucky, because early in my career I had a supportive and honest boss who told me how poor my table manners were.

He said “You know your stuff. You dress professionally but I’m embarrassed to take you to lunch with clients unless you take some business dining skills training.” That training was one of the best things I ever did. I cringe when I realize how awkward I was at the table.

What about you?

Wow. what an honest mentor! What if you don’t have someone to assess your skills? How can you tell if you need some dining etiquette help? What’s the one crucial table manners skill you should focus on first?

Business dining is more than table manners

Business dining etiquette is more than just good table manners. There are all sorts of considerations that are different from social dining; such as how to seat clients or business groups. When and how should you get down to business.

#1 looking classy at the table tip

But if we were to give you one tip that would help you immediately look better at the table; whether you were social or business dining, it would be how you hold your knife and fork.

Everyone knows awkward

Even though we do a lot of business dining etiquette training and lunch keynotes and have a top rated Dining for Success online course, we haven’t got around to teaching every one in the world. (At least not yet.)

So your dining companions may not know all the table manners rules, but there is one thing that everybody knows. Even if they are not familiar with all the etiquette rules, they know what awkward looks like. So how can you tell if you look awkward at the table?

How to self-assess your dining etiquette

What is the most obvious thing that makes you look awkward at the table? Well, holding your knife and fork in an unusual way when you cut your food, is probably top of the list. It’s right there in front of everyone’s face.

Below are some photos to easily self-check how you hold your silverware.

Four weird ways people hold their cutlery

These are the four most common strange ways that people hold their eating utensils. Pick up a knife and fork, pretend to cut something and check your grip against the photos below.

How to Maintain Business Lunch and Dinner Etiquette

1. We call this “The Kiddie Grip”

Holding your cutlery like children. Watch little kids, this is often the way they eat. If you want to be a 10 at the business lunch, don’t let your table manners make you look like you’re five.

How to Maintain Business Lunch and Dinner Etiquette

2. We call this “The Prison Grip”

Fists clenched on your knife or fork, make you look like the incredible (or inedible) Hulk or you’re a convict on Orange is the New Black. Not the best impression when business dining for a job interview.

How to Maintain Business Lunch and Dinner Etiquette

3. We call this “The Drummer Grip”

Holding your utensils like they were drumsticks. It looks like you’re ready to bang out a beat as the next Buddy Rich or Dave Grohl, which is ok if you’re auditioning for the Whiplash movie. Not so great if you’re dining with your boss and looking for a promotion.

How to Maintain Business Lunch and Dinner Etiquette

4. We call this “The Airline Passenger Grip”

Holding your knife and fork with your wrists cocked at sharp angles. We know it’s a bit cramped eating in airline economy/coach section. If you hold your cutlery like this, it looks like you might not be ready for business class.

How to look classy & smooth at the table

So if you want to look smooth like you know what you’re doing when social or business dining, try to hold your knife and fork as illustrated in the photo below.

How to Maintain Business Lunch and Dinner Etiquette

We call this “The Classy Smooth Grip”

Your index or pointing fingers should extend down the handles. Your left and right hand should look similar to each other. Your forearms and wrists should not be cocked at a sharp angle but should be held fairly straight.

Practice makes perfect business dining

Don’t feel too bad if your grip matches one of the bad examples. Many of us weren’t brought up with parents who had exceptional dining skills (and even if we were, we probably tuned them out).

Unfortunately, bad dining habits have been ingrained an awfully long time , probably since you’ve been eating at your highchair. So you’re not going to change overnight.

But if you’re eating regularly, you have plenty of opportunities to practice. At every meal, pretend that you are dining out, even if you’re eating on a TV tray, watching Game of Thrones. Practice, like they say, makes perfect.

You’re worth it

Think of all the important times you dine out for work and socially: job interviews, dates, client entertaining, weddings, business lunches, parties, service clubs, social functions, conferences etc.

Why not look confident and classy at the table. Make the best impression you can. After all your social and business dining skills are part of your successful personal brand.

Looking smooth the easy way

For easy ways to learn all you need about business dining etiquette or smooth table manners, check out our 40 minute online video dining course ( rated #1 by The Wall Street Journal ) or our e-book Executive Image Power .

More tips

Want more Style for Success tips and advice? Sign up for our free newsletter and updates .Here are some of our blog posts about social and business dining. Networking & Dining

Dining for Fun AND Profit?

Move your team from good… to great! Improve your client entertaining skills with our engaging business dining training and conference presentations.

Article by Joanne Blake – the Canadian business etiquette expert and corporate image consultant

How to Maintain Business Lunch and Dinner Etiquette

Deals & Dining: Business Etiquette Tips

    Derrick Christian II March 21, 2018 Personal Development

Even before the bill comes, it can be a high price to pay when making costly mistakes at the dinner table. Whether a high stakes business meeting or a happy hour with friends where business relationships can be formed, pull up a chair and feast on some tips to taste sweet success at any table you’re invited to sit at.

APPETIZERS: Things to do before the meal.

  • Know Your Company: If eating with someone new or important, knowing interesting facts about their favorite topics makes for great dinner conversation and helps you look like a pro. A quick LinkedIn browse can be a valuable five minutes of research. Casually insert your findings so you don’t come across as an investigative reporter. Making guests hyperaware that you did research may make you look like an opportunist or disingenuous. Pace yourself.
  • Sample The Menu Online: Take a look at the menu on the restaurant website to get an idea of what you’d like. See food photos, user conversations on the best dishes and more on apps like Yelp. This helps you plan calories (if you’re counting), avoid foods you’re allergic to and impress dinner company with cool restaurant facts and your ability to guide them along the menu. BONUS: Through research you’ll also know food pricing, because you should never comment on how expensive things are when seated.
  • Call Ahead: Giving the restaurant a call to ask if there is free, validated or valet parking around the location helps plan a more efficient trip. If you’re meeting a larger group there, asking if they split the check for larger parties helps you know if you need to bring cash. No need to be surprised later.

MAIN COURSE: Things to do during the meal.

  • Quick Bites: Let’s get the easy stuff out of the way: Sit up straight, elbows off the table and make eye contact // Excuse yourself when leaving the table // Use phrases like “Please” and “Thank You”, because…manners. // Always pass the salt and the pepper together, even if someone only asks for one.
  • No Phone Zone: The best two things to look at during a dinner are the other person and the menu. Use your phone sparingly, if at all, or try turning it on airplane mode so you don’t feel pressure if it goes off or lights up
  • Be Inquisitive: Ask the server what their three favorite items are. Asking them to explain everything on the menu makes you look indecisive, but engaging their expertise shows you’re friendly and may open up unexpected options for you and your guests.
  • Breaking Bread: Break off one piece of bread at a time, butter it, eat and repeat. You may want to butter the full piece or make a sandwich. But please avoid that. See, you noticed that “please”, didn’t you?
  • Follow The Leader: If you are the guest, avoid ordering the most expensive item on the menu unless it is suggested by your host. Also, wait until your host eats before you do and delay ordering an alcoholic beverage unless they initiate it.

Read the full list of etiquette tips HERE.

How to Maintain Business Lunch and Dinner Etiquette

How to Maintain Business Lunch and Dinner Etiquette

How to Maintain Business Lunch and Dinner Etiquette

Impressions matter — especially in business. Oftentimes, you’ll find you have to make a good impression over a business lunch. As it turns out, your choices and behavior at these meals can be very, very important to your success.

And yet, many people aren’t sure of proper dining etiquette. If it’s just the two of your at a four-person table, where do you sit? When is it okay to order an alcoholic drink? How fast should you eat? Which foods should you avoid ordering?

Wonder no more. In this short and entertaining video, adapted from Esquire editor and Entrepreneur etiquette columnist Ross McCammon’s book How to Work Well With Others, you’ll learn some great tips on how to conduct yourself at a business lunch. It covers everything you’ll want to learn to make a good impression and avoid embarrassment — from notorious tooth magnets to whether you should offer to split the check. Check it out.

What are your best business dining tips? Share them with us in the comments section below.

How to Maintain Business Lunch and Dinner Etiquette

Originally published Dec 9, 2015 12:00:00 PM, updated February 01 2017

10 John Street North, Hamilton, ON, Canada


May 18th 2017 – May 18th 2017 06:00 PM – 08:00 PM

Do you find the prospect of a business lunch intimidating? Or do you find yourself so focused on how you’re eating that little attention is paid to who you’re meeting? We can help.

Put your best fork forward and join us at our Etiquette Dinner and learn how you can maintain your professional persona and stay nourished! Evening lead by Stephen Verbeek of SAIV Wealth Management.

Tickets for this event are $50 and include a 3-course meal.


Do you find the prospect of a business lunch intimidating? Or do you find yourself so focused on how you’re eating that little attention is paid to who you’re meeting? We can help.

Put your best fork forward and join us at our Etiquette Dinner and learn how you can maintain your professional persona and stay nourished! Evening lead by Stephen Verbeek of SAIV Wealth Management.

Tickets for this event are $50 and include a 3-course meal.

Do you find the prospect of a business lunch intimidating? Or do you find yourself so focused on how you’re eating that little attention is paid to who you’re meeting? We can help.

Put your best fork forward and join us at our Etiquette Dinner and learn how you can maintain your professional persona and stay nourished! Evening lead by Stephen Verbeek of SAIV Wealth Management.

Tickets for this event are $50 and include a 3-course meal.

Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner Interview Tips

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How to Maintain Business Lunch and Dinner Etiquette

Employers may take their leading job candidates out to lunch or dinner, especially when they are interviewing for jobs where there is a lot of client interaction, to evaluate their social skills and to see how the candidates handle themselves under pressure.

Taking you to breakfast, lunch, or dinner provides the interviewer with a chance to check out your communication and interpersonal skills, as well as your table manners, in a more casual environment than an office setting.

Good manners will give you an advantage over other candidates, so take some time to brush up on your table manners and to be aware of good interview dining etiquette.

What to Wear

Dress professionally for your dinner interview, just as you would for an interview in the office. The venue has changed, but you are still interviewing for a job and it’s important to make a good impression. Here’s what to wear for a job interview at a restaurant, with tips for the best interview outfits for everything from a casual cup of coffee to fine dining.

Remember to be Polite

“Please” and “Thank you” go a long way in making a good impression. That means thanking the host or hostess who seats you, the waitstaff, and your host. Follow up your dinner interview with a thank you note to the interviewer(s) which reiterates your interest in the job.

Remember Your Table Manners

Remember what your mom told you about not chewing and talking at the same time, keeping your elbows off the table, and sitting up straight? Table manners are important when you’re dining with a prospective employer. Don’t be too casual and do pay attention to good table manners – this includes using a napkin and holding your fork properly.

Engage in a Conversation

Dining interviews aren’t one-sided. They are an opportunity for the interviewer to get to know you and vice versa. It’s important to be engaged in a conversation with the interviewer and whomever else is there.

As well as responding to questions about yourself, ask questions and carry on a conversation.

Maintain eye contact, and do your best to draw everyone at the table into the conversation – don’t just focus upon whom you perceive to be the lead interviewer or senior member of management. The more comfortable and relaxed everyone is, the better chance you have of moving to the next round.

To Drink or Not to Drink?

There are two schools of thought when it comes to alcohol and interviewing:

  • The first is that it is important to not drink and to keep your wits about you
  • The second is that it could be awkward if the interviewer orders a bottle of wine and everyone at the table, other than you, has a glass.

Of course, if you don’t drink alcohol there is absolutely no need to drink just because the host is drinking; you can gracefully abstain with a simple “No, thank you.” If you choose to drink alcohol, don’t have more than a glass of wine or so and be very careful to stay focused on the conversation.

Interview Dining Etiquette

If you have never attended a dining interview before, it pays to review basic dining etiquette:

Arrive Early. As you would in an office interview, you need to know the location of the restaurant ahead of time and allow yourself extra travel time to ensure that you arrive a few minutes early – this will allow you to compose yourself before the interview.

Turn Off Your Phone. Before you meet your interviewers, turn off your cell phone completely and stow it where you won’t be tempted to look at it.

Choose Carefully From the Menu. When you order, don’t select the most expensive item on the menu – this may come off as very crass behavior.

Don’t be a Slob. Avoid food that is messy or difficult to eat gracefully – you want your interviewers to focus on your conversation, not the way you are eating or the spaghetti sauce that ends up on your face. Take small bites that allow you to swallow quickly so you aren’t talking with food in your mouth.

When You’re Done. When you have finished eating, place your utensils in the “four o’clock” position on your plate; place your folded napkin to the left of the plate.

Thank Your Host. At the end of the meal, thank your interviewers for their time. You shouldn’t offer to pay the bill or the tip – it’s understood that these will be covered by the interviewing committee.

For more information on handling interviewing during a meal or coffee, please have a look at these additional tips regarding interview dining etiquette.

Come prepared to the business meal in the same way as a job interview. The primary objective is to participate in a fruitful conversation; eating is secondary. It’s also a good idea to have more casual topics to talk about. Don’t be lured into a debate, so stay away from topics such as politics and religion. Talking about activities or hobbies such as gardening and fishing are better ice-breakers.

Select the right type of restaurant for the meeting

A quieter atmosphere, in most cases, is more conducive to business than a loud, deli type environment.

Specify where you should meet

If you are meeting people at a restaurant, specify where you should meet: outside, inside, at the bar, etc.

Tell your guest what to expect

to allow your guest to prepare and bring any pertinent materials.

Call the restaurant to see if they have a dress code.

Select a table away from foot traffic

with your guest seated facing into the restaurant rather than towards a wall. Try to book the best table at the place. It shouldn’t be too close to the kitchen or rest room doors or anywhere where people will pass by often.

It’s appropriate that this is the first rule of dining etiquette. Arriving even five or ten minutes late leaves a bad impression.

Be a good listener

Stay focused. Looking around the room or appearing to be thinking of something else is distracting and discourteous.

Turn off your phone

Now is not the time to be checking your incoming email or texting your colleague.

Paying the Bill

The person who does the inviting does the paying. Tipping In a business setting, tipping is not optional. Consider tipping mandatory when it comes to business entertaining expenses. Even if service is substandard still leave at least some tip. When entertaining a business client it is important to tip an amount appropriate to the level and type of service. Usually 15 to 20% of the total bill before tax.

Proper manners impress clients and associates, you’ll come across as having charisma, and encourages long-term business relationships.

What business dining etiquette tips have work well for you?

How to Maintain Business Lunch and Dinner Etiquette

A considerable number of service organizations and business groups hold meetings in conjunction with either lunch or dinner. The chairman of such a meeting must make every effort to see that careful planning and certain small courtesies are observed. It is discourteous to ask people to attend a luncheon or dinner meeting that neither starts nor ends on time; where the atmosphere is noisy, the food poor, and the speeches, reports and announcements too lengthy.

Preparing for the Meeting

The chairman should prepare an agenda of all the business, announcements, reports, speeches, and so on that are to be taken up at the meeting. Then if he times every thing, adds on approximately 45 minutes for the serving and eating of the meal, he will know how long the meeting will last. Each speaker should be told how many minutes he has and advised that he will be clocked.

Starting on Time

How to Maintain Business Lunch and Dinner EtiquetteDon’t put on the invitations a time that you know is merely a guess. If time is being allowed for cocktails before the meal, invite people a half-hour earlier. For instance, the invitation could have on it:

This would enable the non-drinkers to arrive in time for lunch and not have to waste time waiting for the others.

Organizing the Head Table

Nothing detracts more from a luncheon or dinner meeting than a head table set for more people than are seated at it. The head table should be filled, even if the dining room captain has to set up a smaller table than had been planned.

Another unwise procedure is to try and seat everyone of some degree of importance at the head table. This can result in a head table so long that it looks ridiculous. When the occasion demands that you have a large number of people at the head table, set up more than one table. As many tables as you need may be placed one in front of the other at different levels. Even a single head table should be raised above the rest of the tables in the room whenever possible.

Invitations to Sit at the Head Table

Let the people you want at the head table know ahead of time. It’s bad manners to wait until just before the meal and then go around inviting people to sit at the head table. It’s usually a good idea to have all the head table guests enter and take their places as a group.

Head table guests certainly ought to include the speakers for the evening, the master of ceremonies, officials of the sponsoring organization, government officials, ministers, priests, and rabbis, and the heads of important local organizations.

If you have to arrange a head table for a series of luncheons or dinners, try varying the group that sits at it. It gets a little dull for everyone to have to look at the same people time after time. As a variation, senior employees or members could be honored in this fashion one day, or the newest ones, or division heads, and so on.

Seating at the Head Table

The chairman sits in the center at the head table, with the guest speaker to his right, If there are several speakers, then the second sits to his left, the third next to the first, the fourth next to the second, and so on. When there is a toastmaster, he sits to the right of the chairman and the main speaker to the right of the toastmaster.

If there are women at the head table, alternate them with men, regardless of other seating protocol.

Usually anyone who has a report to give is seated at the head table, but if you have a full table of speakers and distinguished guests, then have reports read from the front of the room and let the people who make them sit elsewhere. When there are no special guests, the principal officers of the organization or club sit at the head table.

When to Start the Program

The program or business should start as soon as the group has finished eating. If time is limited, announcements and introductions of guests can be made during the meal. But the tables should be cleared of main course dishes before the pro gram or serious business is started.

When Noise Is a Problem

Delegate someone with a sense of diplomacy to handle kitchen noises, outside disturbances, and talking after the program begins. If drinking causes someone to become thoroughly obnoxious, have him escorted outside as quietly and unobtrusively as possible.

When the Chairman Wants to Attract Attention

The chairman should stand quietly for a few seconds and tap lightly with his gavel. He can then begin talking in a normal voice to the first few tables. Those sitting at the back tables will become curious and start listening.

Actions at the Head Table

Anyone who sits at the head table is bound to attract a certain amount of attention. Little mannerisms of which the individual isn’t aware can be irritating to the members of the audience. Common examples are squirming in a chair or tilting it back, scratching, tugging, and (the unpardonable rudeness) yawning. Also to be avoided are note taking and obvious glances at a watch or clock. The only acceptable behaviour for guests at the head table is to sit quietly and listen attentively to the speakers.

How the Chairman Should Look

The appearance of the person who conducts a meeting is of the utmost importance. The audience will notice hair that needs combing, clothes that are unpressed, shoes that need to be shined, and, in the case of women, hems that are uneven. Men are advised to wear a neat, well-pressed, conservative suit, an immaculate shirt, an unobtrusive tie and socks of a matching hue, and polished shoes on which the heels are not run down. For women the recommended attire is a well cut suit or plain dress in solid colors. Extreme designs and bold patterns are taboo.

No Need for Comedy

The person conducting a luncheon or dinner meeting needn’t feel called on to be a comedian. If an amusing and relevant story occurs to him, it’s all right to tell it, but forced jokes and off-color stories are unacceptable.

Thoughtful Acts

It’s a polite gesture for the person presiding at the meeting to recognize the individual in charge of arrangements and, when the food and service merit it, the chef and head waiter. He may mention them by name, thank them, and ask them to take a bow. Another thoughtful gesture is to send flowers used as table decorations to ill members of the group, or to a hospital or institution.

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    Business Lunch Etiquette: 8 Rules

    Amid technology overload, face-to-face interactions are even more important. Follow these rules to make sure lunch meetings are both fun and productive.

    How to Maintain Business Lunch and Dinner Etiquette

    Back in the days of Mad Men, the business lunch was essential. Offers were made, partnerships formed, and deals were closed daily over lunchtime martinis.

    For the most part, that type of midday meeting is long gone. But with today’s communication technology overload, the face-to-face business lunch is still an important way to build relationships–and is perhaps even more valuable today than it was 50 years ago. (It’s just less likely to include three martinis and a glass of port.)

    Follow these simple rules to make a business lunch both productive and enjoyable:

    Get the Invitation Right

    Lunch with a client, potential business partner or new colleague can often be more productive than an office meeting. Getting out of the office and off the phone creates an environment more conducive to relaxing and candid conversation.

    When inviting someone to lunch, be respectful of his or her time and position. If inviting a superior you don’t know well, don’t risk being presumptuous–you might opt for suggesting coffee instead.

    Who Chooses the Spot?

    If you’re inviting, offer up some suggestions and let your guests pick. If they don’t care, it’s on you. But make sure to be careful and anticipate their preferences. You don’t want to bring a vegetarian to a steakhouse. If inviting someone to discuss next year’s budget cuts, best to skip the meal at the most expensive restaurant in town. If your guest choses the place, don’t forget to compliment her on the choice.

    Time & Place

    Get there early. Always know the set-up of the restaurant and make sure both the venue and your table are right for your objective.

    One of my colleagues swears by this rule. If it’s a celebratory or casual lunch with people he knows well, he gets a table in a central area, closer to the bar, where it’s typically more boisterous. If it’s a serious conversation and he wants to get something accomplished, he opts for a quiet table in the corner.

    When to Talk Business

    On the golf course, the common rule of thumb is not to get down to business before the fourth hole. At the table, it’s a bit more ambiguous.

    My advice: If you’re having a social conversation, don’t bring up business until you have received your drinks and ordered your meals. Then, when business talk commences, frame the conversation around your guest. Ask about her business, what she’s working on and where she needs help.

    This will give you a clear understanding of context and provide a natural segue into explaining how you and your company might be of assistance.

    Speaking of Drinks.

    Sorry, Don Draper–if you’re taking clients to lunch and your company is paying, you should probably skip the alcohol. But if your client wants to imbibe, let him order a drink. A good rule of thumb is to let your guests order first, so they’re not inhibited by your choice.

    Handling the Bill

    There is an art to handling the bill. You want to be graceful about it. When the check arrives, be nimble and reach for it swiftly–but keep looking your clients in the eye if they’re speaking.

    By all means, don’t stare at the line items with anything like shock or horror. That said, if there’s an error with the bill, excuse yourself to talk to the waiter separately without making your guest feel uncomfortable.

    And when it’s time to pay, act naturally: Don’t disrupt the conversation, but make eye contact with the waiter so that he picks up your credit card quickly.

    Turn Off Your Phone

    You may already know how I feel about this, but I’ll say it again: Turn off your phone. Now is not the time to be checking your incoming email or texting your colleague. I’ve seen some people pick up their phones between courses instead of talking to others at the table. Just don’t.

    Finally . Have Fun

    Be yourself! There is a reason you’re not in the office. You can accomplish quite a lot with business lunches, but you shouldn’t lose sight of why they work so well: When people can relax and have a good time, they’re more likely to open up, making it easier to strengthen a business relationship.