Our Dinova corporate members understand the power of business dining. Every business meal shared together is a chance to charm (or alarm).

Learning the mechanics of the business meal can contribute greatly to business success. Master these essentials and whether an annual review lunch with the boss, that big client dinner, or the business deal of a lifetime, you’ll be ready to shine.

When You’re a Guest

 Follow the Leader. Your host will drive the business conversation, interact with wait staff and pay the bill. Pay attention and enjoy yourself.

Keep it Clean. Leave messy spaghetti, barbecue and shellfish for another day. Stick to easy-to-eat dishes that won’t drip, splatter or splash.

Be Reasonable. Order from the midrange of menu offerings. Avoid the most expensive dishes unless they’re specialties of the house, or offered by your host.

Stay on Course. If your host suggests a first course or cocktail, go ahead and order one. Business meals are about more than food. Don’t rush. Multiple courses provide time for conversation.

Prepare for the Meal. Think of the meal like an offsite business meeting (without the white board and bagels). Be ready to discuss pertinent topics. Keep printed handouts to a minimum. You can forward documents afterwards with your thank you email.  

When You’re the Host

If You Extended the Invitation, You’re Hosting. You’ll make arrangements, lead the conversation and pick up the check.

Make Reservations to minimize waiting. Need an especially quiet table with privacy? Now’s the time to ask. Confirm the morning of your event.

If hosting, arrive promptly and wait for your guest(s). When a restaurant is busy and the waiting area crowded, you may proceed ahead to the table when offered. Don’t pick up your napkin or begin the meal. Let the wait staff know the rest of your party is on the way.

Shake hands and smile. When your guest arrives, stand and extend a welcoming handshake. Offer a warm greeting such as “Great to see you. I’m really looking forward to this.”

Seating Smarts Position the VIP in your party with the best view of the dining room, away from hectic service areas.

When and How to Talk Business

Take a few minutes to settle in before turning to work, especially if your conversation might be sensitive. A good time for discussion is after you’ve ordered and are waiting for your food.

Try not to put your companion on the spot by asking detailed questions. If concerned about performance numbers and other data-driven subjects, bring along the necessary reference. Keep an eye on the clock and schedule a follow up if you need more time together.

What’s your must-remember tip for business dining?  Share your secrets in the comments below.