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How can I show proper business dinner etiquette?

The purpose of dinner etiquette is to demonstrate that you have manners and social skills. The behaviors you show at dinner can provide insight of your personality and level of professionalism. Having a business meeting over dinner can be a great networking opportunity to develop relationships with the company. Here are some tips with additional information from Training Connection’s “Business Dining Etiquette”


  • Do your research! Know who you’re dining with and come prepared with possible questions regarding the company. 
  • Plan to depart for the dinner with enough time to travel. If you are too early to the event, go to a coffee shop or window shop in a store. 
  • Greet your host and wait for further instruction to be seated. 


  • Solids on the left, liquids on the right.  
  • Plates are always placed on the left, while glasses are on the upper right. 
  • Forks are on the left, knives and spoons on the right side of the plate.  
  • In general, forks are placed to the left of the plate except for the oyster fork, which is placed on the right. 
  • Work your way inwards with the utensils. 
  • The rule for utensils is to work inward toward your plate as the meal progresses. Place settings are organized so that with each new meal course presented, the guest can use the outermost utensil(s). For example, the salad fork would be the leftmost, before the dinner fork, as the salad comes before the main course. 
  • Follow the “rules of three’s”. 
  • If you’re hosting the dinner, don’t clutter the table with too many implements. Set at most three of anything (e.g. three glasses, three forks, etc.). If more than three would be used, then the additional implement would come as a new meal is presented.  


  • When everyone is seated, gently unfold your napkin and place it on your lap. If the napkin is large, fold the napkin in half first. 
  • Your napkin remains on your lap throughout the entire meal. If you need to use your napkin to clean something on your lips, just dab it lightly. 
  • If you leave the table during a dinner, place your napkin on your chair to signal to the server that you will be returning.  
  • When you are finished dining, place your napkin on your napkin neatly on the table to the left side of the plate. 
  • If you drop your napkin on the floor, discreetly ask the waiter or host(ess) for another one. 


  • Don’t talk business during the meal proper, unless the senior members want to do so. Otherwise, business matters should be addressed either before the meal or after it. 
  • Take a cue from the host(ess), or the most senior in the table, where to seat yourself. 
  • Take your cue from the host(ess), or the most senior in the table, when to begin eating. 
  • Keep your elbows off the table while eating. 
  • Don’t talk with your mouth full. Chew quietly and don’t slurp your liquids. 
  • Don’t apply make-up or comb your hair while eating. 
  • Don’t pick your teeth at the table. 
  • If you need something that is not within your reach, politely ask the person next to you to pass it to you. Food is typically passed from the left to right. 
  • Try to pace yourself so that you can finish at the same time as everyone else. When you have finished eating, place your knife and fork together, with the fork facing upwards on your plate. 


  • If applicable, send your resume to any professionals who asked for it.
  • Get the company email to stay in contact.
  • Email the host(ess) to thank them for the invitation to the dinner. If applicable, include your resume and cover letter to inquiry about any possible opportunities. 
  • Do research on upcoming events with the company to attend and show your interest. 


  • If you have dietary limitations: If you cannot eat a certain type of food or have some special needs, tell your host(ess) several days before the dinner party. This can help avoid awkward situations like not being able to eat what was served because of a health issue or religious conviction. 
  • Having something in your mouth that doesn’t agree with you: Ask the server for a paper napkin and discreetly spit the food out. Crumple the napkin and place it under the sides of your plate. Keep the food you had spit out away from the other’s view. 
  • You accidentally spilt food or drinks on a guest: Don’t panic. First sincerely apologize. Use the cloth napkin and water to gently wipe the spill. You may also guide the guest to the bathroom. 
  • A guest commits a faux pas: If you notice a colleague or a subordinate is using the wrong utensil, the best way to let them know is by using the right one yourself. Don’t correct them, it would cause embarrassment. 
  • You’ve noticed a bug in your food: Discreetly send it out to the server. You don’t have to tell everyone as it might ruin their appetite. 

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