Business Communications
The Business Meal

by Jacqueline Farrington

Choose the restaurant.

   Never make your guest decide where to eat. Ask him or her if there are any special preferences or restrictions, then give them a choice of one or two options.

Make it convenient.

   Choose a location and time that is convenient to your client, not to you.

If you invite, you pick up the tab.

   Never allow any confusion as to who pays. Arrive early to give the maitre d' your credit card before the meal so that the check is not placed on the table.

Make your guest comfortable.

   When you arrive early, keep your coat on and act as if you have just arrived when they do. Don't order a drink or sit down before they arrive. If they are late, don't make it an issue. Allow your guest to follow the maitre d' to the table and to take the best seat. Your guest should never face the wall, a mirror or the kitchen.

Suggest menu items.

   This will give your client an idea of your financial limitations, but don't be cheap! Suggest at least one expensive item on the menu. Allow your guest to order first and order the same amount of courses. If they don't drink alcohol, neither do you!

Turn off mobile phones, beepers and blackberries.

   If you must use these items, turn on the vibrating option and excuse yourself from the table to take the call. Many restaurants now request that you do not speak on the telephone at the table. Remember to respect not only your guest, but other diners as well.

Avoid loud restaurants.

   Don't make it a challenge for your guest to hear you.

Reserve business for last.

   Unless you absolutely must discuss business immediately, save it for after the meal, when coffee has been served. Some people don't mind discussing business when eating but many people think it is inappropriate to eat and conduct business at the same time. Be sensitive to the needs and habits of your guest. If they signal that they are ready to conduct business early in the meal, follow their lead.