Entertaining a client? Dining with your boss? Interviewing for a job? All of these can be described as “special lunches”.
The following is excerpted from an interview with Barbara Pachter, an etiquette consultant that appeared in Bottom Line/Personal, in December, 2012. Some of the points are quite basic — but others make a lot of sense. Take a look.
WHAT NOT TO ORDER
Ordering food that’s challenging to eat. If you order spaghetti in tomato sauce, a single splatter can make you look like a slob. Order crab legs and your attention will be focused on cracking them open. Instead, order an easy-to-eat meal that you have eaten before.
Failing to mirror your guest’s order. If your dining partner orders an appetizer or dessert, you should order the same (you don’t have to finish it). Otherwise, there will be an awkward time when one of you is eating and the other is not.
Placing a complex order. Ordering off the menu or saying things such as “hold this” or “put that on the side” can make you seem difficult to please.
HOW NOT TO EAT
Eating much faster or slower than your dining partner. Matching your table mates’ eating pace will make them feel more in tune with you. It also avoids awkward stretches when one person is eating and the other is not.
Eating someone else’s bread. Some folks accidentally take their neighbor’s bread or water when dining. Think “BMW” as in auto: Bread on your left, Meal in the middle, Water on your right.
Saying, “Take this back.” Sending food back means that your guest will have food while you don’t, which throws off the timing of the meal. It also make you look picky.
Choosing an inappropriate restaurant. If you’re the host, select a restaurant where you have dined previously so that you can be certain it is appropriate and to your guest’s liking.
Letting guests handle their own problems. It’s your responsibility as host to look after your guests. If a guest is served the wrong meal you should say, “Let’s have this taken care of” and, unless your guest declines your assistance, signal the waiter and politely explain what the problem is.
Let guests know why you selected a restaurant. This shows that you put some thought into the meeting. When your guest arrives you can say, “I know you like steak and this place has the best steak in town.”
Ordering one of the most expensive dishes on the menu. Your host may consider this taking unfair advantage. It’s acceptable only if the host orders a high-end item or recommends one.
Being unprepared for light conversation. Even if the purpose of the meal is to discuss an important topic, there’s likely to be small talk. Check whether there’s anything new going on in your dining partner’s life.