Etiquette tips when dining out for business

Joyce Baker, at right, is the assistant director for Career Development.

As I reflect on Wednesday’s etiquette dinner, I feel grateful. Grateful because 70 Ivy Tech students, employees, and guests gathered together for a wonderful meal prepared by our own catering service. All who attended seemed to enjoy the food, the company of friends, and the presentation by Karen Hickman of Professional Courtesy, LLC.

Hickman presented on business dining etiquette. Business lunches and dinners can actually be job interviews without the typical questions. How we present ourselves can speak louder than words. Here are some of the major takeaways from Hickman’s presentation:

When dining for business

  • Food allergies can be a serious issue. A polite host asks if you have dietary preferences and/or restrictions, and as a polite guest, letting your host know ahead of time can save an awkward situation.
  • As the guest, when ordering, do not order the most expensive item on the menu unless your host is encouraging you to do so.
  • As the host, if your guest orders an appetizer or an expensive dish, you should, too.
  • Be a courteous guest and send a handwritten thank you note to your host. Doing so within 24 hours is ideal.
Seventy people attended Wednesday’s business etiquette dinner.

Difficult-to-eat foods

  • Asparagus is cut and eaten with a fork. In Europe, it’s eaten with the fingers.
  • Chicken, turkey, and duck are eaten with a knife and fork. Fried chicken is eaten with the fingers at picnics only.
  • Spaghetti and long pasta are eaten by pulling a few strands to the side and twirling the strands around the tines of a fork that is perpendicular to the plate. A spoon is not needed.

Wine and toasting tips

  • The host is responsible for the toast.
  • If a toast is offered in your honor, stay seated and do not drink to yourself.
  • If you are the guest of honor, you should be prepared to respond to your host with a toast.
  • A toast should be brief and appropriate. Remember, a toast is not a roast.
  • Hold all wine glasses by the stem.
Be sure to try a little bit of everything at the dinner, unless you have an allergy.

Deal breakers when it comes to a job interview/business dinner

  • Don’t gesture with your knife and fork.
  • Cut one bite at a time.
  • Do not blow on soup or stir it if it is too hot.
  • Taste your food before seasoning it.
  • Refrain from putting on make-up, combing hair, picking teeth, or blowing nose vigorously at the table. A good rule of thumb is, “If you do it in the bathroom, don’t do it at the table.”
  • Chew with your mouth closed.
  • Try a little of everything presented unless you are allergic to a certain food.
  • Don’t push your plate away from you when finished eating, wait for everyone to finish before plates are cleared.

Joyce Baker is the assistant director of Career Development for Ivy Tech Fort Wayne.

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