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Business Lunch Etiquette

Restaurant Social Skills to Impress Your Business Associates

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Many business professionals hold meetings during lunch or dinner with clients, investors, or other business professionals. What if your meeting seems to be hindered by bad restaurant service? Should you complain? The answer is yes, always, but with diplomacy.

Proper restaurant social skills in a business setting are a little different from when you are out dining with your family. For example, it is okay to ask for a discount on bad service when you are with your family, but not when you are with a business associate.

If you are meeting someone at a restaurant arrive at least five minutes early. Be sure to greet them with a friendly business handshake.

Ordering Etiquette

Never order for your business associate. If they ask for help ordering or seem uncomfortably indecisive you can recommend something you may have previously tried or ask the waiter to help with a suggestion.

When the waiter arrives at the table defer to your associate and let them order first.

Tipping

In a business setting, tipping is not optional. Consider tipping mandatory when it comes to business entertaining expenses. Even if service is substandard still leave at least some tip.

When entertaining a business client it is important to tip an amount appropriate to the level and type of service. Tipping too much without merit is an insincere gesture that is not likely to impress your client. Over tipping is an emotional decision to a business transaction. In a private setting that is fine; in a business setting all your meal transactions should reflect business.

Tip Jars

Tip jars are nothing more than counter-top pandering. The haul is usually divided among co-workers who do not rely on tips (like wait staff do) for income and even shared with employees who did not provide you with any direct counter service.

You should not feel obligated to chunk your change into a tip jar but if you are with a client and want to add to a tip jar for the sake of appearances, add a dollar bill, not your spare change.

Resolving Problems with Bad Service

If it is necessary to complain about the meal or service, remember that how you complain could make or break your business deal. Making a scene in public over cold spaghetti might get you a free meal next time, but it is not going to seal your business deal.

Instead of viewing bad service at a restaurant as a problem seize it as an opportunity to impress your business associate with your ability to remain calm, take charge, and handle a situation with finesse. Do not let bad service reflect poorly on you but ignoring the problem.

Who Pays the Bill for a Business Lunch or Dinner?

If you invite someone to lunch or dinner to discuss business you should always expect to pay. In an associate invites you to discuss giving you their business or investing in yours, you should at least offer to pay the bill. If the associates says they will pay, you should offer to at least pay your half and just leave it at that. Never fight over a bill if someone else offers to pay; you can counter once, and then after that simply thank the person paying for the generosity and offer to pick up the tab the next time.

Always bring a credit card to pay for the meal, or, if you are paying in cash, bring twice the amount of cash that you expect the lunch to cost.

Business Lunch and Dinner Tip: Treat restaurants as an extension of your office and the restaurant staff with the same respect and courtesy you would give to your own employees.

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