The 7 Business Meal Etiquette Mistakes You're Probably Makin

by | May 04, 2010

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A business meal isn't justabout taking time to taste the rubber chicken.  While sharing a meal with someone in the samebusiness can help you advance in your job or make new connections, doing thewrong things at the table can have the opposite effect.

There are plenty ofunwritten rules that you need to keep in mind, says Deborah Goldstein, a diningexpert and founder of event planning and education company Table Matters.

Here are Goldstein's topseven business meal mistakes to avoid:

1. Checking Your Cell

Peeking over at your cellphone can annoy your colleagues or boss; be sure to turn off ringers or emailbuzzing noises so you're not tempted.  Andwear a wrist watch so you can easily check the time there instead of on yourphone.

2. Ordering Messy Food

Anything on the bone orpasta with tomato sauce can mean you'll end up messy after the meal.  Stick to easy-to-cut foods like chicken orsomething you'd eat with one hand like soup or risotto.  Salad is another potential pitfall, saysGoldstein.  "You should not cut yourlettuce and it can be hard to spear."

Cutting your salad: a business dinner no-no

3. Dressing Casually

"Keep in mind, you aredressing for business, not for the restaurant, so a barbecue joint may warrantbusiness attire," Goldstein explains.  The outfit you choose for a business mealshould be slightly dressier than what you'd wear to the office.  "Err on the side of too formal," shesays.

4. Drinking Like Usual

Even if you're ordering aglass of wine to calm your jitters, be careful.  "Alcohol hits differently with emotions,"Goldstein says.  "Drink half of whatyou usually would."

5. Reaching For The Bill

While there are a host ofcaveats, typically if you're just starting out at your company and are takingpart in a business discussion, there's no need to grab the check.  On the other hand, if you're just going outfor a casual lunch with co-workers it means you'll split the cost.

6. Being Indecisive

Changing your order ortaking too long to order can be unprofessional.  Instead, stick with your original selectioneven if you've changed your mind.  Duringthe meal you're being judged in a professional manner and behaving as you wouldduring just a regular dinner can hurt your chances to impress.

7. Fidgeting

Playing with your hair,jewelry, or even utensils comes across as unprofessional.  While fidgeting can be a subconscious nervoushabit, be aware of your body language during the meal.

Whatever you do, stayconfident.  Being comfortable at thedinner is an important part of making a lasting impression.  And, of course, be nice to your server!

Alina Dizik

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