Business Dining Etiquette: Top 10 Tips

Navigating business dining etiquette is key when making a positive impression and in nurturing professional relationships. Whether you’re attending a business lunch, dinner meeting, or corporate event, following proper dining etiquette can set you apart. Here are the top 10 tips for mastering business dining etiquette that you can use at your next dining event:

1.  Use Your Napkin Correctly

The moment you sit down at a restaurant, your napkin should be placed in your lap- even before you sip your water. Place your napkin on your lap when sitting down. Use it to dab your mouth or fingers as needed throughout the meal. If you need to leave the table temporarily, neatly place your napkin on your chair. When finished, place your napkin neatly to the left of your plate. Never put your napkin on top of the dirty plate, as it creates more work for the host or restaurant and can be seen as disrespectful.

2. Keep Your Phone Away

If it’s not part of the meal, then it doesn’t go on the table. This includes not putting sunglasses, wallets, or phones on the table. In today’s digital world, it’s tempting to check your phone constantly. However, during meals, keep your phone tucked away or on silent mode. Engaging in conversation and being present in the moment will allow for an enjoyable experience. If you are expecting an important call, inform your dining companions at the beginning and excuse yourself to take the call away from the table if it comes through.

3. Hold Your Silverware Properly

Hold your utensils with the handle in the palm of your hand and your index finger along the top of the handle. Use your knife to cut food and your fork to spear and lift food to your mouth. Avoid holding utensils like a pen or stabbing at food. Proper use of silverware is a key aspect of business dining etiquette.

4. Don’t Reach Across the Table

If you need something that’s out of your reach, politely ask someone to pass it to you instead of stretching across the table. For example, “Can you please pass me the bread?” is a polite way to ask for something. Reaching can interrupt conversations and may lead to accidental spills or knocking over items. Pass items to the right when sending food, plates or seasoning to your fellow dining companions. 

5. Avoid Ordering the Most Expensive Items

As a guest, never order the most expensive items on the menu unless your host insists. This shows consideration for the host’s budget and avoids appearing greedy.

6. Wait to Begin Eating

Wait until everyone at the table has been served before starting to eat. If your plate has not arrived yet, kindly insist that others begin while their food is still warm. If your food has arrived and someone else is still waiting, wait until their food comes before you begin, unless they tell you to go ahead.

7. Elegant Eating

When eating, chew your food with your mouth closed to avoid making noises that may disturb others. It’s a simple yet essential courtesy that shows consideration for those around you. Imagine you have a zipper that closes your lips while food is in your mouth. Breathe through your nose, and only open your mouth to speak or take another small bite after swallowing.

8. Pace Yourself

Avoid eating too quickly or too slowly. When the most VIP person at the table is finished, you should be finished too. Pace yourself with the rest of the table, taking small bites and chewing thoroughly before swallowing. This allows for better digestion and contributes to a relaxed dining atmosphere. Only order another course if the majority of the table orders an additional course.

9. Engage in Balanced Conversation

Take turns speaking to everyone at the table. If you have multiple people at the table, speak to one person on your left for one course and switch to the person on your right for the next course. This ensures that you engage with everyone and contribute to a lively and inclusive conversation.

10. Use Polite Phrases When Ordering 

Express gratitude to anyone who serves you during the meal by saying “please” when requesting something and “thank you” when it’s provided. Showing appreciation demonstrates good manners to everyone at the table. When ordering at a restaurant, be sure to say “May I please order the chicken” instead of “Can I get the chicken” or “I’ll have the chicken.”

Mastering business dining etiquette is not only crucial for professional success, but also says a lot about your character and how respectful and considerate you are of others. By following these top 10 dining etiquette tips, you can navigate any business dining situation with confidence and poise. Remember, your behavior at the table reflects your professionalism and respect for others, making good dining etiquette an essential skill in the business world.