business etiquette carol parker walsh

Beginners Guide to Mastering Business Dining Etiquette

By Carol

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Image matters. Your appearance communicates a message to others whether you know it or not. However, even the most confidently dressed individual can undue a positive first impression with poor table manners. And if you think people aren’t watching how you handle yourself at the dinner table, I have a bridge to sell you!

In today’s virtual workplace, business is frequently conducted out of the office. Meetings, interviews,and introductions happen over lunch or dinner on a daily basis because it’s the perfect way to really get to know someone. Your conduct at the table communicates your social acumen, whether or not you’re a team player, if you’re thoughtful and respectful, or if you can follow rules. So whether you’re networking over lunch, dining with a potential employer, or conducting business at a fancy restaurant, you’ve got to know the rules of engagement when it comes to business dining etiquette.

Corporations lose millions of dollars each year because of impropriety or lack of professionalism regarding table manners. Yes image matters, but your behavior and non-verbal skills can also make or break a deal. 

Today on KATU’s AM Northwest I gave a few quick tips on proper table etiquette and you watch can watch more of that segment below. But there’s a lot more to mastering business dining etiquette than what I was able to share in my segment. Have no fear. Following is a great beginner’s guide to ensure you make a great impression and how to make others feel respected and comfortable.


1.Arrive on time.

2. Dress appropriately – Your invitation and the nature of the occasion will be your guide.

3. Don’t show up hungry – Business  dining is more about the conversation and relationship then filling up on food. Have a quick snack before hand so you’re not famish when you arrive.

4. Silence your cell phone – The dining table is no place to answer calls or respond to text messages. It’s rude and disrespectful to the rest of the people at the table. If you absolutely must take a call excuse yourself from the table and handle the call as quick as possible.

5. Follow business hierarchy – When entering a restaurant allow the boss, guest of honor, or client to enter/be seated before you and you follow behind. 

6. Wait for the host – Don’t sit at the table until the host has joined the table and sat down.

7. Pull out your chair with both hands – You don’t know the size or weight of the chair so use both hands to be safe and enter the chair from the right side.

8. Place your napkin on your lap – Wait for the host to put his/her napkin in their lap first, and then you may do the same. Discretely slide the napkin off the table onto your lap, and THEN open it halfway. There’s no need to open fully. When you complete your meal, your napkin remains in your lap until everyone is ready to leave.


9. Once everyone is seated, served, and the host begins to eat, then we can begin to dine.

10. In the European style of dining, the hands should remain in view at all times. While resting or finished, you lean the section of the hand between the end of the pinky and the wrist on the table.

11. In the American style of dining, except for when cutting food, the left hand remains in the lap. If you are left handed the right hand remains in the lap in resting and finished position.

12. Pass to the right – If you bread, gravy, butter, or other condiments are next to you, start the process of passing things around the table. First offer to the person on your left and then pass the items to your right.

13. Treat salt and pepper as a team – When someone asks for salt or pepper individually, always be sure to pass them both together.

14. Familiarize yourself with table settings – The flatware will tell you what will be served and order of service. Forks and your break plate will be on your left. Knives, spoons, and stemware will be on your right. The ONLY fork you’ll find on the right will be the seafood/oyster fork. Dessert flatware can be found above the plate.

business etiquette carol parker walsh


15. Soup – The soup spoon is held like a pencil in the right or left hand. Use the soup spoon to scoop the soup along the edge of the soup plate. Then brush the bottom of the spoon along the top edge of the soup plate away from yourself to move any drops that may fall. The spoon is brought up to the mouth and not the mouth down to the plate It is correct to lean in, but not down. DO NOT put your chin in the bowl. Take the soup from the side of the soup spoon. DO NOT blow on or slurp your soup.

16. Bread – When you receive a piece of bread don’t butter the whole bread at once. Also don’t bite off a piece of bread. The break should be picked up with the right hand and a bite size piece torn off with the left hand. Then place the larger piece back onto the bread plate. With a bite size piece of break in the left hand, the right hand picks up the butter knife and butters the small piece. Between pieces, place the knife with the blade facing you, across the top of the bread plate in the horizontal or diagonal positions. Switch the bread to the right hand and eat it.

17. Eat at the pace of the table – If you tend to be a fast eater or a slow eater then pay attention to the pace of the table and try to follow it.

18. Watch what your host orders – Don’t order items more expensive then your host or more courses than your host.

19. Don’t order challenging foods – If it’s going to be complicated to eat or you’re unsure about whether you should use your fingers or a fork, then stick to easily manageable foods.

20. Minimize lipstick – This will prevent those bold lipstick stains on your glasses or even your flatware.

Dining Style

21. European Dining –  Hold the fork in your left hand with the tines down and the index finger placed down the back of the fork and the knife in your right hand with your index finger placed down the back of the knife. Eat with the left hand, tine down while still holding your knife in your right hand. Don’t eat with your mouth open or wave your knife or fork around as you’re talking. 

22. American Dining – Hold the fork in your left hand with the tines down and the index finger placed down the back of the fork and the knife in your right hand with your index finger placed down the back of the knife. You can cut up to three pieces of the food items on your plate at one time, NO MORE. Place your knife along the top of your plate in the horizontal position, switch the fork from your left to your right hand holding the folk like a pencil. Eat with your right hand with tines up. 


23. Napkin – If leaving the table temporarily place your napkin in your chair. At the conclusion of your meal place your napkin to the left of your plate.

24. Flatware – In European dining cross your knife and fork (tines down) on your plate when leaving the table temporarily.  In American dining place the knife at the top of the plate in the horizontal position and the fork (tines up) at the 10:20 position. When you’ve concluded your meal place the knife and fork side by side at the 10:20 position.

25. Chopsticks – If you’re using chopsticks rest them on the holder provided. If there’s no holder rest them side by side across your plate. NEVER use your chopsticks to stab or poke food or rest them by sticking them straight up in your food.

26. Leave a bit of food on the plate – It’s considered polite to leave a little food on your plate when you’re done. In some cultures it’s considered rude to each every bit of food because it suggests your host did not provide you with enough food.

27. Thank your host

AM Northwest Segment

Watch my segment on AM Northwest to get a better idea of what I’ve shared above.

Need more help? What a private lesson? Need to train your staff? Contact me and let’s talk about how we can up your business dining etiquette so you can make a great impression at your next business lunch or dinner.

Contact me HERE.

Live, laugh, and confidently shine!

Carol 😉


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About The Carol

I'm a 50 years young curvy fashionista enjoying my "second life." I'm a wife, mom of 3 and 1 goldendoodle. I'm a recovering attorney, accidental professor, successful jewelry stylist, and ...