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Business dining etiquette


HAVE you ever been out on a date or business dinner and found yourself sitting at the table looking at the utensils and glasses, wondering which utensils you should use? I know this has happened to many.


As a professional or business person, it is imperative to have dining etiquette.

Not knowing how to handle yourself in a dining setting may be detrimental for your image.

This article will address some of the basic rules of business dining etiquette.

  • Pre-Dinner Etiquette
    •Arrive on time.
    •Call ahead if you know you will be late.
  • Sitting Down
    •Do not place any bags, purses, sunglasses, cell phones, or briefcases on the table.
    •When you are all seated, gently unfold your napkin and place it on your lap.
    •Many a times I have seen people take their napkin and tuck it under their chin in their shirt or blouse. No it is not a bib, it does not belong there.
    •Wait for all parties to arrive before beginning any part of the meal.
  • Place Setting
    •Forks, butter plate are on your left.
    •Glasses/Cups, knives and spoons are on your right.
    •Use your utensils from the outside in. Meaning your silverware for your starter will be furthest away from your plate.
    •Dessert utensils may be above the place setting or served with dessert.
  • Ordering
    •Do not order the most expensive item. What your host orders will give you a cue of what you should order.
    •Avoid finger foods or difficult foods that are difficult to eat.
    •In general, do not order alcohol at a business meal.
  • General Dining Etiquette
    •Turn off cell phones.
    •Have proper posture.
    •Keep elbows off the table.
    •Do not apply makeup or comb your hair at the table.
  • Napkins (Serviettes)
    •Use your napkin frequently.
    •Do not use your napkin as a tissue.
    •If you have to sneeze, turn your head away from the table.
  • While Eating
    •Wait for everyone to get their meal before starting yours.
    •Do not talk with your mouth full.
    •Do not chomp ice or chew bones (ladies).
    •Take small bites.
    •Try to pace yourself to finish at the same time as everyone else.
    •If you leave the table, excuse yourself and place your napkin on your seat.
    •When you are finished eating, place your napkin neatly to the left of your plate.
    •When you are finished eating, place the knife and fork prongs down side by side on the plate with the handles at 4 o’clock;
  • Paying the Bill
    •Tip appropriately. The general rule is 10%-15% for moderate service and 20% for excellent service.

Nonto Masuku is an executive partner of an image management consultancy firm.

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