4 table manners to impress during a business lunch

Four Table Manners to Impress During a Business Lunch

Whether it’s a job interview or an important meeting, you need good table manners to impress during a business lunch. 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.

Napkin Etiquette

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.

Wine Etiquette

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.

Continental Style Pause SIgnal
Continental Style pause signal. Knife and fork crossed in an inverted ‘V’ shape. Tines of fork face down, and blade of knife faces inward.
Continental Style Finished Position
Continental Style Finished Signal. Knife and fork are placed in the 4 o’clock to 10 o’clock position. Tines of fork facing down, blade of knife facing inward.
American style pause signal
American Style Pause Signal. Fork and knife parallel. Tines of fork face down, blade of knife faces inward.
American Style Finished Signal
American Style Finished Signal. Knife and fork in the 4 o’clock and 10 o’clock position. Fork tines facing down. Knife blade facing inward.

I hope you enjoyed this article on table manners to impress during a business lunch. Please share using the buttons below and sign up for more tips in my newsletter below!

For more articles on dining etiquette, take a look at “How to Eat and Talk During a Business Lunch“, and “5 Tips for a Successful Business Lunch“.

[Header images courtesy of CarlosPorto/FreeDigitalPhotos.net and Marcus/FreeDigitalPhotos.net]

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About Kara

Kara Ronin is the founder of Executive Impressions. She is an executive coach who specialises in leadership presence, social skills and business etiquette. She is also the creator of Bestselling Udemy course, Business Etiquette 101. Kara’s advice and unique perspectives have been featured in Time Inc., Business Insider, Ignites Europe (a Financial Times Service), The Muse, The Local France, The West Australian, and more. Kara works regularly with lawyers, investment bankers, and finance professionals to help them build presence, authority and influence in business. Get Kara's insights delivered straight to your inbox

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