You just got a promotion, and one of your main functions will be to wine and dine the clients.
Yikes! Have you ever been the host of a business lunch?
Do you know the correct protocol?
Do you know how to look smooth and cool, like you have been schmoozing clients for years?
If this is all a bit mystifying for you, read on. Here are a few ways to successfully mix food and business. There is a reason why the word "business" comes before the type of meal you are going to have. Do not forget you are there to conduct business first, it is not all about the food.
1) Impress your client or customer, and prearrange the meal payment with the restaurant manager or maitre d'. This way no bill comes to the table, and there will be no awkward moments as to who picks up check. You can get a copy of bill sent to you (bring a self addressed stamped envelope for quicker service) or return later. This is a very polished move.
2) Offer the better seat with a view to your guest when you arrive at the table. Always let your guests walk in front of you when heading to the table. Remember, they are your guests at all times. Let your server know that you are the host at the lunch or dinner. This way they will look to you for guidance.
3) Order friendly foods. If you know the cracked crab is going to take at least an hour to plow through, then maybe opt for something easier to handle. To avoid embarrassment, order food you can pronounce and make sure you know what it is too! If you order the Fois Gras, just because it is the specialty of the house, and when you see a slab of pink duck's liver on a plate, you may be in for an unpleasant surprise.
4) Do not bring too much business with you. No one wants to see lots of papers, folders and laptops at a meal. These belong at the office. Keep paraphernalia to minimum when dining. Getting down to brass tacks usually starts before or after the meal, not so much during unless your guest initiates, and time is a factor.
5) Watch your vocal tone and what you are saying, especially if you are in a your industry's watering hole." Loose lips sink ships". There may be eyes and ears all over the room listening in to your important conversation or pitch. Who wants the competition to get the account?
6) Start building a good solid business relationship with your client or customer over the meal. A certain amount of small talk is expected. Revealing your marital problems or last night's conquest is not what I have in mind. Avoid if possible the "old hot button topics" of religion, politics and sex.
7) Mirror your client when it comes to ordering your meal. If your client orders a 3-course lunch then so should you. This way you will avoid sitting there with no food when their course arrives. So next time, you are hosting a client, remember these important tools of the trade to keep you looking refined. Many an important deal has been made over breaking bread, along with a career taking a nosedive without the proper business dining skills.