Throughout the history of commerce, many a deal has been made at the dinner table. Business dinners are a great opportunity to lay a foundation for long, potentially lucrative professional relationships.
Etiquette is important when hosting business dinners, as a breach of decorum can derail a relationship before it even begins. Professionals tasked with hosting business dinners can take the following tips to heart before sitting down to break bread with their colleagues.
- Choose a restaurant that can cater to various diets. Hosting a business dinner can be similar to hosting family during the holiday season, when hosts must cater to guests with various food allergies and dietary restrictions. Asking for such information in advance of a business dinner may seem intrusive to guests, so try to find a restaurant that offers a flexible menu capable of accommodating vegetarians, vegans and guests who might be gluten-free. Avoid restaurants that specialize in styles of cuisine that might be unhealthy or so extraordinary that guests might be hesitant to order anything from the menu.
- Confirm the reservation. Make the reservation well in advance of the date of the dinner, and don't forget to confirm the reservation a week beforehand. Confirming a week beforehand gives hosts time to book another reservation should theirs have been canceled by mistake.
- Arrive at the restaurant before your guests. Hosts should arrive at the restaurant before their guests so they can address any potential issues in advance of the beginning of the dinner. Arriving early gives hosts time to ensure the table set aside for their party is not in a heavily trafficked area of the restaurant, such as adjacent to the kitchen or restroom. Hosts who arrive later than their guests may also give guests the mistaken impression that they are unimportant.
- Let guests order first. Once everyone has sat down at the table, hosts should allow guests to order first. Doing so saves guests who don't want to eat that much the potential discomfort of sitting there while their hosts eat an appetizer and/or large entrée. If guests choose to abstain from alcohol, follow suit. If guests want to have a drink, hosts can limit their consumption to a single beverage.
- Don't eat too quickly or too slowly. Hosts should try to keep pace with their guests in regard to how quickly or slowly they eat. Guests might feel uncomfortable if they finish first or feel pressured to eat quickly if their hosts finish first.
- Pay in advance. Business dinner guests do not expect to pay for their meals. While it's widely accepted that hosts will pay, it can feel awkward to have the bill brought to the table. Upon arriving early, hosts can give their credit cards to the wait staff and ask that they be charged without having the bill brought to the table. If necessary, step away from the table during the meal to sign the bill and address any discrepancies.
Business dinners have sparked many successful professional relationships, oftentimes thanks to hosts who took the time to ensure the dinners went off without a hitch.