January 25, 2012
Digest these business-meal tips
A business meal is never just about the food. It may be about the drink.
If you’re a job applicant or ambitious employee, you should treat with care any job interviews or business meetings conducted over a meal.
They’re only partly social situations. They’re also ways to evaluate your personality, how you treat others, your conversation and your manners.
The basic reminders:
Always defer to the host, the boss or the interviewer in choosing a seat, ordering or leaving the table. If there’s a menu with a wide price range, ask what entrees your host/boss suggests.
Choose something easy to eat. Struggling with slippery spaghetti can be a problem when you’re trying to converse.
Keep the conversation light until the host/boss turns it to business.
Be kind to servers.
Don’t dig in before everyone is served. And watch your body language so that you’re not hunched over your food or shoveling it in.
If something is seriously wrong with the food, be polite when you request a change. If it’s only a small problem, ignore it and go with the flow.
Napkin in lap, of course. And no talking with food in your mouth!
If alcohol is served and the host/boss is drinking and urges you to join in, it’s fine to order something. Drink it slowly. You also may decline without comment.
If the host/boss doesn’t give a clue about whether he or she will be drinking, pass until you’re pressed to join in. Then use the same pricing judgment you applied to the meal order -- nothing too expensive.
If you’re worried that food is stuck in your teeth, it’s better to excuse yourself to the restroom than to pull out a mirror at the table. (And women: No makeup application at the table.)
Remember throughout the meal to maintain eye contact with the others at the table. Spread your attention around if it’s a group situation.
Your goal at the table is to be a pleasant, interesting guest or companion -- someone they’d like to eat with again. That’s what wins hiring or co-worker points.
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