Meal Etiquette (Part 1 of 2)

Questions This Guidance Answers: 
  • What do I think about when having a business lunch?
  • What should I choose to eat at a business lunch?
  • What should I talk about during a business lunch?

Good business practice demands good relationships - with customers, suppliers, team members, and bosses. And good relationships usually means breaking bread together. So, are you up to speed on how to have a business meal? Or even worse, HOST the meal yourself?

You are? GOOD! Then you already know when to start talking business, and whether it's different at breakfast, lunch and dinner. You know how much alcohol to drink, and how many glasses of wine there are in a bottle. And the ideal way to pay for a meal, or what to do when the check comes. If you know all THAT, then we bet you also know where to seat your guests, and yourself, whether there are 2 or three of you. And, of course, what to order, and what NOT to order. Soup, you say? NO.

And if you're not sure... that's why there's a Manager Tools podcast covering all that and more.

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Hi guys - great content, was put on to

Hi guys - great content, was put on to it by the crew at Controlling Chaos. Both podcasts fill my commute as I play catchup.

I listened with interest to this show, and had a few things to think about.

You mention that you should not order things that you have to pick up with your hands... agreed, however, if you know how to:
- peel a prawn(shrimp)
- eat corn off the cob
- peel a banana 8-)

with a knife and fork, why not show off??

Also another question...

If in a restaurant with a great view, where one eat has hte view, and the other faces the room - which seat should you take :-)

All the best, I love the show and have plenty of comemnts/questions to post on some of your communications shows after wishing I had heard these shows in the last 12 months...

You guys come up with the best topics!

You guys come up with the best topics! Who'd have thought that meal etiquette was a candidate for MT??!!

I really enjoyed this show. This is the

I really enjoyed this show. This is the first time I have listened and since eating is one of my favorite things to do, I thought that I would have give you a whirl. I cannot tell you how many times I have been at professional meals and thought; "What is he/she doing!?!" And sometimes it is the senior folks I am thinking this about. Why is it so hard to know which fork to use? It is not as if little people jump on the table and move them! Good ole Mom (not that she is old...she would kill me!) taught me...use your utensiles from the outside to bottom. If you are unsure about bread plate and water...remember "bmw"...bread, meal, water (from left to right). And I noticed that you recommend no soup, well if you eat it correctly I think you can be okay. All you need to remember is this simple phase to remeber that your spoon is to be pushed away from your body; "When the boats go out to sea I push my spoon away from me". Oh and don't fill you spoon! Oh one last thing, thank you about the comment regarding how to eat bread; I hope some of the people that I work with are listening because there is nothing more grosse than watching some one struggle with biting through a tough bun!

Mike and Mark- Great podcast! Did

Mike and Mark- Great podcast! Did however notice that your comments about your dinner guests treatment of the wait staff sounded an awful lot like Bill Swanson's Unwritten Rules of Management #32: A person who is nice to you but rude to the waiter, or to others, is not a nice person. (This rule never fails).

Are you guys stealing/borrowing your podcast material from someone too?

On a seperate note, I taught the feedback and the feel, felt, found model to a peer today. Man does he think I am smart. Keep it up!

As the article points out, knowledge of

As the article points out, knowledge of "Rule #32" is not uncommon (particulary for someone who happens to own 4 restaurants ;-) )

I believe this cast was very

I believe this cast was very informative and a nice change of pace. I look forward for similar topics in the future.

Every year my alma mater, Penn State,

Every year my alma mater, Penn State, holds an etiquette dinner where a speaker, usually from MBNA or PWC, will come and discuss proper meal behavior. I found it very useful as a baseline.

But you guys topped everyone else again. Even without visuals, the way you come to situations is just amazing. I'm looking forward to the second half.

Oh, and I could really use some clarification on seating - especially with groups such as when there are 3 or 4 from each party. That always drives me nuts, especially when we split the table. There has to be a better way. And could you please clarify what to do in a 2 on 2 environment. I can't quite picture what you mean.

When there are 3 or 4 from each party,

When there are 3 or 4 from each party, one must make a genuine effort to alternate seating between the groups - no two people of the same group sitting next to one another. This is not a hard and fast rule, as it often simply can't be, but it is something to shoot for.

That said, if you let your group know this, and the other group grabs their chairs all together, and then seems unwilling to change when you suggest, "why don't we mix up the seating?". then simply acquiesce, as creating a scene to enforce manners of course violates the very concept you are attempting to achieve.

Further, in a 2 on 2 environment, sit across from the person in your group. The guidance of avoiding sitting opposite your guest at a 2x2 is mitigated by the different flow of communication, and the interest in minimizing the organizational affiliations of the 4 of you. And, worst case, if you don't achieve it, that's fine.

Even if you do get the seating right, if you are a lousy conversationalist, no one will remember the seating.


MelissaMac- Great note! It seems to


Great note! It seems to me, regardless of which way you (almost) fill your spoon, it still has to pass over your lap and shirt/blouse on the way to your mouth, unless you are so gauche as to lean so far forward as to keep your spoon over the table.

It's not the filling, it's the spilling. ;-)

And I have to say, the reason for the suggestion is that normally confident people at such meals, having spilled something on their shirt/blouse, spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about their gaffe, and not on the conversation, the deal, the relationship, or the work.


IndianaRoger- Thanks for the kind


Thanks for the kind words regarding Feel Felt Found!

And, I find certain wording of your other asssertion ... "obejctionable". Where I come from, what you have said is impolite, even in jest.


Gnattey- Your comments about bananas


Your comments about bananas et al simply remind us that some exceptions prove the rule. If you order a banana, feel free to peel it and eat it without utensils. ;-)

And, the guests would get the view. The base rule is facing the room, trumped by the view exception.


Peter - We did! A year ago!

Peter -

We did! A year ago! ;-)


Great podcast and subject. Here is a

Great podcast and subject. Here is a question that I'm never sure of: when to eat when your meal is served but not others? This is particauly tricky when there are more than 4 people. For example, if 6 out 10 of us are served and there appears to be a "lag time" before the others are served, do I wait? Does it matter if I am served something hot (i.e. soup or steak) and time is of the essance (to eat)? Is there any situation where you would eat before others or is the rule to wait?

Mark, Mike and Others- First let me

Mark, Mike and Others- First let me apologize for my earlier comments. In an attempt at injecting a little humor, I crossed the line. I am sorry for the comments made and sincerely apologize for the appearance of questioning your character. Lesson learned. IndianaRoger

IndianaRoger- Accepted! I meant my


Accepted! I meant my comments more for the larger audience than for you specifically. We get lots of comments, and want to try to keep things pleasant and professional for all.


Good podcast, guys. When you talked

Good podcast, guys. When you talked about seating arrangements, it made me recall a trip I made to Japan a few years ago. On two different occasions, I learned that to the Japanese, the best seat is the one that shows you in the best light as opposed to the one giving you the best view.

The first was a dinner meeting in a tatami room of a shabu shabu restaurant. You'd think all seats are equally good here, as you are in a room surrounded by paper walls. However, prior to the dinner, my Japanese colleagues worked out the seating plan in order to sit the senior member of our group of clients with his back to a nice floral arrangement, as opposed to facing it. They explained to me that it is important to make the guest look as good as possible, as opposed to giving him something good to look at.

Similarly, in a conference room at our company office, rather than seating the guest delegation on the side of the conference table facing the view of Tokyo, we sat them with their backs to the windows, and the home team facing the view. Fascinating stuff - and maybe I'll be able to use it to my advantage some day...

i will use these tools and pass the

i will use these tools and pass the tips on to all my teams ,first class podcast

Dear MT'ers, After listening to the

Dear MT'ers,

After listening to the Meal Interviews casts, I looked back and noticed this thread on meals. In the casts M&M give great reasons for staying away from entries that have sauces. With that being the benchmark by all means try to avoid Chinese restaurants. I have been living in China for close to 5 years and I just want you to know that Chinese food can be the messiest food to eat. It is unbelievable how many stains I have on my clothes from all the different sauces and oils. Unless you are in China then play it safe and head elsewhere.

As for Chinese business meal etiquette, I would be glad to share all that I know, but it would take to long, so just write me directly and I will glad to fill you in.

Once again another great cast M&M!

Lunch with the Director

Fellows I (male) am going to lunch with my Director (female), my boss (male), and a direct (female). How should the seating arrangements be made. The Director is hosting, but this is the first time I am eating with this mixture.


This is potentially delicate...

...but probably not worth worrying about.  There are conflicting rules here, all valid.  While many female professionals profess a desire for an egalitarian workplace, they are to some degree trapped by social treatments that are different.  I had a female direct that said I should have been embarrassed that I pulled out the seat for my wife but not for her, at a meal which I was hosting and included my children, and me wrestling one of them into a high chair as well.

You're not responsible for seating.  Take your cue from the director or your boss, and ignore gender.


Meal Etiquette - French Companies

 Thanks for the very informative pod cast. It reminded me of a situation I experienced with a French company, whereby the lunch was very long and, for the first  1.5 hrs to 2 hrs, the conversation did not involve work at all.  I have discussed this with friends and colleagues since and this appears to be the norm. It does not affect the etiquette mentioned in the pod cast but it is a cultural variation worth bearing in mind!