Dining Etiquette: Do’s and Don’ts for Business Success

August 15, 2014  |     |   0 Comment

Businesspeople eating.

My blog focus for the month of August is all about etiquette surrounding what I love most – food, wine and dining!

Understanding and possessing proper dining skills is vital in today’s business world. Business meetings are no longer just the domain of a closed-door boardroom; many take place outside of the office and are conducted at a restaurant over a meal. Possessing proper table manners is a must in the business world because people equate poor dining manners with poor business practices.  Good table manners allow you to concentrate on the important task of any business meal – and that is to participate.

Next time you attend or host a business event that takes place over a meal, apply the following “do’s and don’ts” to ensure you leave a positive first impression and create an opportunity to build positive, productive and prosperous business relationships.

Dining Etiquette Do’s:

  • Take small bites when eating your meal as you will find it is easier to answer questions or join in table talk.
  • Wait until you have swallowed the food in your mouth before you take a sip of your beverage; however, if the food is too hot, take a quick sip.
  • Understand your place setting.  Remember the acronym “BMW” which stands for “Bread, Meal, Water.”  Your bread plate is to the left of your dinner plate and your water glass is to the right. Use your utensils from the outside, in.
  • Once you are seated, place your napkin on your lap. If you leave for a few moments during the meal, place your napkin on the seat of your chair – not on the table. Once the meal is finished, you may then leave your napkin to the left of your dinner plate on the table.
  • Envision your plate as a clock. When you have finished eating, place your knife and fork in the 10:20 “I am finished” position; place the tips of the utensils at 10 and the handles at 4.
  • When sipping a beverage, look into, not over, the cup or glass
  • Do eat your bread one bite-sized piece at a time. Take some butter and place it on your bread plate. Use the butter knife if one is available. Break a bite-sized piece off your bread and hold it on the corner of the bread plate while you butter.
  • When eating soup, tilt your bowl away from you rather than toward you.  Spoon the soup from the front to the back of the bowl to catch a mouthful. Tip the soup into your mouth from the side of the spoon.
  • Do remember your posture at the table.  Sit up straight, and keep your arms (including elbows) off the table.
  • If you drop a utensil, leave it on the floor. Quietly signal the waitstaff to bring another piece, and they will collect the one that fell.

Dining Etiquette Don’ts:

  • Never start eating before a signal from the host to do so.
  • Don’t overload your fork with food.
  • Don’t mop your face with your napkin; use your napkin to blot your mouth.
  • Don’t spread your elbows when cutting food. Keep them close to your sides when eating.
  • Don’t chew with your mouth open.
  • Don’t smack your lips or make loud eating noises such as slurping.
  • Don’t reach across the table or across another person to get something.  If it is out of reach, ask the closest person to pass it to you.
  • Don’t pick your teeth at the table, either with a toothpick or with your fingers. If something gets caught in your teeth, excuse yourself and take care of the problem in the privacy of the restroom.
  • Don’t push your plate away from you when you have finished eating.
  • Don’t gesture with your fork, knife or spoon in your hand. If you are not using the utensil, put it down.

Do you have an important business meeting coming up that is taking place over a meal? Want to brush up on your dining etiquette skills? Please contact me to learn about my personal consultation services and how I can help you; or for a complimentary half-hour consultation: or 613-321-5159.

Erin Crotty is a certified and trained expert in Corporate Etiquette and International Protocol from the Protocol School of Washington.


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