Whether it’s a job interview or an important meeting, during a business lunch you are judged on your table manners. Every move you make needs to project confidence and grace. From using the correct resting position for your cutlery, to pouring the right amount of wine in your guest’s glass, showing confidence at the table shows that you are confident in business.
Depending on the country in which you are doing business, table manners differ. The following advice is intended to give you confidence and grace when dining Continental Style or American Style.
Pause and Finished Signals
The position of your knife and fork while pausing during your meal or when you have finished depends on whether you use Continental Style or American Style of dining. Continental Style is probably the most widely used; American Style is traditional to the United States. Take a look at the differences below.
Your napkin can communicate to the server whether you have left the table temporarily or if you have finished altogether.
- When you sit down, place your napkin on your lap. It should be half-folded with the crease closest to you.
- When you temporarily leave the table, place your napkin on your chair to signal that you will be returning.
- When you have finished and you leave the table, place your napkin to the left of your plate.
Bread and Butter Etiquette
There are two basic rules to when it comes to bread: never take a bite directly from your bread roll, and never butter the whole roll. Bread is an accompaniment to your meal, and as such it should never be eaten like a sandwich. It is perfectly acceptable to use your hands (as they do in France) when it comes to bread. The correct bread and butter etiquette is to tear off a bite-sized piece of bread, butter that piece only, and then eat it.
During a business lunch, it is acceptable to drink wine if your host offers it to you. Remember though, business lunches are professional; your reputation and professional image are your responsibility. To stay within reasonable limits, I recommend the ‘none or one’ rule for drinking wine at a business lunch. If you are pouring the wine for your guest, use the guide below:
- Glass 1/2 full for red wine
- Glass 2/3 full for white wineThe size of wine glasses can vary greatly. Use your professional judgement to determine if 1/2 glass of red wine will send your guest strolling or tottering back to the office.
When you demonstrate proper table manners, most likely nobody will notice. However, the absence of good table manners will get you noticed for the wrong reasons.
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