Dining Etiquette at a Business Dinner

It’s important to present yourself in a professional fashion in any business setting—from networking events to meetings with prospective clients to job interviews—to ensure you make a positive impression on those around you.


Proper dining etiquette is not always enforced or practiced in modern society, but it’s particularly important to remember during a business dinner. Those around you are paying attention to how you conduct yourself, and how you behave throughout the dinner tells them a great deal about your professionalism. Below are some key etiquette tips to remember during your next business dinner.


Switch your phone to silent

This almost goes without saying, but make sure your phone is silenced before arriving to any business dinner. Do not take calls or check your messages until after you’ve left, and do not rest your phone on the table.


Shake hands

Upon arriving, shake hands with everyone present at the table. Make an effort to remember everyone’s names as you meet them, too. It’s also a good idea to wait until the host sits down before you do; however, this rule can vary from country to country, so make sure to do some research. If other guests arrive after you, stand to greet them. Unfold your napkin once seated and place it in your lap.


Order carefully

Business dinners often present the debate as to whether it’s appropriate to order an alcoholic beverage. In most cases, it’s best not to unless your host does or encourages you to do so. If you do order an alcoholic beverage, limit yourself to one and do not drink too quickly.


When ordering your meal, listen to what your host orders and follow their lead. For example, it’s best to avoid steak if they order a salad. Do not order the most expensive item on the menu, and try to choose foods that are easy to eat; burgers, spaghetti and ribs are all best left for more casual settings.


Eat mindfully

When your food arrives, make an effort to try everything on your plate, and do not ask to try anyone else’s dish. Do not rush through your meal and only cut small bites at a time. Avoid gesturing with your utensils, and do not hold food on your fork or spoon while you speak. Remember to keep your elbows off the table, too.


If you must leave the table for any reason during the meal, do so quietly and leave your napkin on your empty seat rather than on the table. When you’ve finished eating, place your knife and fork together on your plate—fork tines should face up and the knife blade inward—with the handles at five o’clock and the tips at 10 o’clock to signal to your server that they can remove your plate. It’s also not considered professional to take home leftovers.


Do not argue over the cheque

When the cheque arrives, do not argue over who is paying; the host should pay the cheque and the tip. You can make a tentative reach for your wallet and offer, but the host should politely decline. Be sure to thank your host as you leave, shake hands and maintain eye contact. It also doesn’t hurt to send a follow-up thank-you note or email the next day.


There are plenty of online resources available with more etiquette tips, but the ones above will help get you started. As stated previously, it’s always a particularly good idea to brush up on etiquette if you are dining in another country since customs vary from place to place.