Etiquette is sometimes lacking among today's young employees.
Here are a few simple reminders to help them get off to a good start at your next business lunch.
What kind of impression are your junior staffers making during business meals? As bright as they may be, many may not have been taught proper business dining etiquette, and the stress of the situation may shed a glaring light on bad habits. If you think a quick refresher course is in order, cover these basics:
Be Prompt and Polite.
If there's one message you want your young associates to take home, it's the importance of being prompt for any appointment in or out of the office. If they are unavoidably detained (traffic or parking difficulties are the most likely delays), they should call ahead to let their party know they'll be late. If they're the ones waiting, they should wait about 15 minutes before calling to check on a late arrival, in case a phone call isn't possible.
Proper etiquette requires waiting for your guest to sit before taking your own seat, unless you're invited to sit first. And it's fine to sit down if you're waiting for someone, but both men and women should stand up at the arrival of another guest.
Keep It Neat.
A dining table is a shared, intimate space. Diners should keep personal items, especially cell phones, sunglasses and purses, off the table. It's best to cut meat one small bite at a time, to break off small pieces of bread one at a time and to take small forkfuls of food. If there's just one butter dish, use a clean knife to take what you need and place it on your bread dish. Also, encourage associates to avoid ordering anything that may be messy to eat, such as some forms of pasta, poultry or fish on the bone, and finger foods.
Follow the Leader.
A great rule to pass along is when in doubt, follow the lead of your guest or a superior. If they've ordered an appetizer or salad, you may do so. If you're the first to order, ask your dining partners their preference.
To avoid drawing unwanted attention to their dining habits, associates should avoid ordering the most expensive items on the menu. In general, it's best not to order alcohol; however, if a guest orders wine, it's acceptable to allow your glass to be filled if you wish.
Use utensils from the outside in. Cut food with your dominant hand, using a fork in the other hand to hold it - then switch the fork to your dominant hand to eat. If you pause in eating, place your knife and fork at 8 o'clock and 4 o'clock on your plate; placing your knife crossed under your fork, with both handles at 4 o'clock, signals the server to remove your plate.
If you initiated the meal invitation, you pay the check and leave a 15- to 20-percent tip unless the gratuity is included in the bill, or the service was particularly poor or exceptionally good.
While tips like these may seem like common sense, they aren't taught in most universities. Spending a few minutes helping your associates learn the basics can pay off in the impression they'll make on your clients and business partners.
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