Business Meal Etiquette and Advice On Eating With Clients
What to Order and How to Act When Eating Out with Business Associates
Dear April Masini,
I was recently promoted from an administrative position to a sales representative at my company. While I am excited about the new opportunity, one of the most intimidating aspects of my job is setting up meetings with my clients. As the sales representative, I often need to take them out to eat or for coffee. I'm not sure what's appropriate. What types of restaurants should I be suggesting? And once I'm there, what do I order?"
New and Not Sure
April Masini's Advice :
Dear New and Not Sure,
It's great that you understand the importance of meeting with clients outside the office. Many rules of dining etiquette are standard, but there are some exceptions in a business setting. Sharing a meal or having a beverage with your clients and even your colleagues or co-workers allows you to establish a more personal relationship with them.
By following some basic guidelines, you'll be able to handle your business meetings with professionalism, and your confidence will increase.
What meal is appropriate for what topic? The more important topics should be discussed over breakfast or lunch. Coffee and drinks are not appropriate because they are not real meals. They are “add ons” when it comes to business meals, and they don’t provide enough time or decorum for a serious topic. Dinner is the end of the day when most people are tired or want to spend time with their families. The most important meals, by far, in the business world, are breakfast and lunch.
What to order and what NOT to order?
Business meals should be about the business. The choice of venue speaks to the impression the inviter wants to make on the invited. A meal at the Four Seasons will make a more serious impression than a meal at a burger joint. Impressions count.
Food should be just as serious. Order the house special if you’re familiar with it, and recommend it to your guest. Don’t order the house special if you’re not familiar with it or if it’s prepared in a “hit or miss” consistency — sometimes it’s great, other times it isn’t. Like your clothing, stick with classics. Omelets, fish, salads are all fine. Stay away from finger foods or celebratory foods like waffles with ice cream. You want to appear that you’re responsible, successful and consistent. Order the same way.
Use common sense!
Think about your order, your client and the length of time you'll need for your discussion when making your decisions. As you get to know your clients better and increase your confidence in your new position, dining with other professionals will become increasingly easy.