There is nothing more daunting than sitting down at a restaurant table with a prospective employer and not knowing which fork, spoon, or glass to use. Additionally, how do you eat your food and still make a good first impression?
Lunch or dinner interviews are a routine part of the job or promotion opportunity process. Not knowing the basics of dining etiquette can often lead to disastrous results. Dining etiquette is one of the few things that never go out of style, and a potential employer often uses a dining interview as a prelude to a final job offer.
Below are a few tips to put you at ease and help you to create a positive impression when invited to dine for business.
- Always wait until you have received a signal from the host or the staff to move to the table. (Be sure to turn off your phone before you move to the table).
- Review the menu to find items that are easy to eat (cut 2-3 small pieces at a time). Easy to eat is always best when business dining because finger foods can be messy.
- Do not order alcohol or smoke during a business lunch. Opt for tea or water if your host asks if you would like an alcoholic beverage.
- Always wait for your host to begin eating before you start to eat. (If you are at a table of 3 to 10 served by waiters, do not eat until all at the table have received their meal).
- When passing food and condiments always offer to the person on your left and then pass everything to the right. (Pass salt and pepper together, but do not season your food before you have tasted it). Say “no thank you” if you don’t like or want something.
- Keep in mind that your priority is the business at hand and not the meal. Eat at a moderate speed but don’t leave others at the table waiting for you to finish.
- Do not talk when you have food in your mouth and never chew with your mouth open or make loud noises when you eat. If eating soup, do not slurp from a spoon. Spoon the soup away from you when you take it out of the bowl and sip it from the side of the spoon. If your soup is too hot to eat, let it sit until it cools – don’t blow on it.
- Don’t leave the table during the meal except in an emergency. If you must go to the bathroom or if you suddenly become sick, excuse yourself. Later you can apologize to your host by saying that you did not feel well.
- If you must leave the table for any reason during the meal, place your napkin on your chair. Always rest used silverware on your plate (used tableware should never touch the table). Place your dirty napkin to the left of your plate when everyone has finished their meal, and you are ready to leave the table.
- During the conversation (and when you are not eating) always keep your hands on your lap or resting on the table (with wrists on the edge of the table). If possible, have some general conversation topics ready to use during the conversation if necessary.
- If a piece of your silverware falls onto the floor, tell the server and ask for a replacement.
- Be sure to thank the host for the meal and provide a firm handshake before leaving.