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Home  > Article

Let's Do Lunch

By Nancy R. Mitchell, The Etiquette Advocate

A business lunch in the fast-paced environment in which most of us work means a brown bag from home or a walk to the nearest deli. But occasions arise when lunch means much more than the food on your plate, and at those times a larger portion of ritual is required.

These occasions may include: a job interview; a powwow with a client or prospect; a celebration with a supervisor or colleagues; a networking event; or a get-together to thank someone for friendship, guidance, a business lead, or other kindness.

These special occasions present a pleasant break from the daily routine, but can create anxiety at the same time.? We want to be perceived as doing the right thing, but we may have forgotten the ritual that is involved in a more formal business lunch, or we may never have been initiated. Whether inviter or invitee, follow these rules of the road, and you will be comfortable and confident before and after you take your seat at the table.

When You're the Host

It is the duty of a host to take charge of the occasion in order to make guests feel welcome and comfortable.? When you are the host for a gathering, be it lunch for two or two dozen, you must be focused and organized about the arrangements, the agenda and the goal of the gathering.

Extending the invitation

●Whenever possible, place a personal call to invite your guest to dine with you. Don't schedule through third parties.

●Suggest several luncheon dates from which your guest may choose.

●Ask about dietary restrictions or preferences.

●Provide details of when and where you will meet, or call or email your guest again after arrangements have been made.

●Call a restaurant to reserve a table or book online.

●If you entertain often, work with a restaurant where you know you can count on?the food, service and a comfortable environment that is conducive to?conversation.

●When planning an important lunch with a client or other VIP, don't choose a restaurant where you have never dined before. If you cannot avoid doing so,?try to visit the site ahead of time and select an appropriate table and reserve it.

?

Confirm arrangements

●Call or email your guest a day or two before the lunch to re-confirm.

●Call the restaurant to confirm your reservation.

●Exchange cell phone numbers with your guest in case either of you is delayed on ???????? the day of the lunch.

Arriving

●Arrive early, before your guest. Ask to see your table to insure that it is?appropriate and comfortable.

●Wait for your guest in the entry area, if possible.

●If you must go to your table before your guest arrives, don't order a drink or?remove the napkin from your place setting. If you do so, your guest will feel as if?he has kept you waiting.

●Don't place personal belongings on the table (e.g., cell phone, BlackBerry, pager, handbag, portfolio.)

●While you are waiting, leave your cell phone on, in case your guest is trying to reach you. But remember, you don't want to be talking on the phone when your guest arrives or have it ring during lunch. (Note:? It is never appropriate to use a?cell phone in a restaurant.)

?

Greeting and seating your guest

●When your guest arrives, shake hands. If your guest is from another country or ?????????? culture, research the customs of the country.? A handshake may not be appropriate, and an alternate greeting may be required.

●Offer to help with a coat, and check the coat if your guest wishes to do so.

●Permit your guest to precede you into the dining room, following the server, but ????????? take charge of seating arrangement when you arrive at the table (see below.)

●In a business setting, it is not necessary for you to pull out your guest's chair, unless a physical disability requires this assistance.

● If you are already seated at the table when your guest arrives, stand up (man or ???????? woman) and shake hands.

●When deciding where to place your guest at the table, select the most comfortable seat with the best view of the room. If it can be avoided, do not seat?your guest facing a wall, mirror, server's station or kitchen door.

●Whenever possible, seat your guest to your right, not across from you. If you?have two guests, place the higher ranking individual to your right and the other to that individual's right.?

●When entertaining a group, make certain to greet each guest individually and ensure that everyone feels included in introductions and conversation

Getting started

●As soon as you are seated, place your napkin in your lap. Your guest will be watching you for cues on when to proceed, so you must take the lead throughout the meal.

●Do not begin to talk about business or serious issues immediately.? Begin,?instead, with small talk about the guest's interests, current events, or other topics of mutual interest. When hosting international clients or guests, research the customs of their country.? When to begin to discuss business varies greatly from nation to nation, and beginning too soon is offensive and insulting in many cultures.

●If meeting someone for the first time over lunch, don't present your business card at the beginning of the meal (see below.)

Ordering

●Give your guest cues about which foods/beverages and what quantities/courses you will be ordering. No one wants to order three courses when their lunch companion is having a sandwich.

●Proceed with finesse when deciding whether or not to order alcohol.? Your guest may not drink and may not approve of those who do.? If you choose not to drink but have no objection to your guest ordering alcohol, let this be known. Under no circumstances should anyone have more than one drink or one glass of wine at a business lunch.

●Always be polite to the wait staff and other restaurant employees, even if errors ?????? occur or your food is slow to arrive. Your bad manners toward service personnel will reflect badly upon you.? And besides, manners are on duty 24/7, not only? when you think they will work in your favor.

Paying the bill

●The host pays for lunch. If you extended the invitation, you are responsible for all of the expenses. The only exception to this rule is when you dine regularly with a close friend or colleague and it is clearly understood that each of you will?pay for the food you order. ?????????????????

●Arrange in advance to pay the bill away from table or make certain that the bill will be presented to you at the end of the meal. It is a good idea to make these arrangements before your guest arrives.

●If your guest volunteers to pay part of the bill, decline the offer graciously.

●If, for some reason, it is decided that the bill will be shared, divide it evenly without calculating who had what item and the cost of each item.

●Tip generously, at least 20% of the bill total (including tax).

Departing

●Never take away left-over food from a business meal.

●Present a business card at the end of the meal if your guest does not have all of ????????? your contact information. You are providing it for the contact information, not to "seal the deal."

●Walk out of the dining room with your guest.

●If your guest has checked a coat, pick up the coat and leave a tip for the ??????? attendant.????????

●Walk out of the restaurant together. Shake hands as you part.

?
When You're the Guest

You will be invited to a business lunch for one or more of the following reasons: as a friendly gesture in order to become better acquainted; to cultivate business or support; to express gratitude to you; or because the host thinks you have something to contribute. It is your responsibility to be a polite and appreciative guest. ?

Receiving and accepting an invitation

●Respond quickly to an invitation.? Don't make your host guess about your intentions.

●Ask for details of the occasion (reason for meeting, the agenda, the guest list, ? suggested attire, start time, exact location) so that you can prepare properly.

●Obtain your host's contact information (office and cell phone numbers.)

Confirming

●Two days before the luncheon, contact your host if you have not received a ??? confirming call or email.

●Re-confirm the date, time and location of your meeting.

●If you have not already done so, exchange cell phones numbers with your host, in case you need to reach each other on the day of the luncheon.

●Determine how long it will take you to get to the restaurant and add at least 20 ?????????? minutes to the estimated travel time in case of delays.?

Before attending

●Do your homework by learning something about your host; his company or ??? organization; other guests who will attend; the occasion or reason for the lunch;?the location of the gathering; and agenda (what do you think your guest hopes to ????????? accomplish?).

●If your host is from another country or culture, research his customs and ???????? courtesies.? You do not want to offend him by ignoring his traditions and beliefs.

●Check the restaurant menu online so that you can focus on your host and not on ???????? the printed page in those important first few minutes of the gathering.

●Take money or a credit card with you in case your host doesn't know the rule that the person who extends the invitation should pay the bill. ??????????

●Choose your attire carefully. You have 5-10 seconds to make a first impression, and you want it to be positive. ?If you are uncertain, dress one level above what you think will be appropriate.

Arriving

●Don't be late.? Plan to arrive about ten minutes early.

●If you arrive before your host, wait in the entry area, if possible. If you are shown to your table, do not order a beverage or take your napkin off the table before your host arrives.

●Leave your cell phone on while waiting for your host, but do not use it while?waiting.? You do not want to be on your phone when your host arrives.

Greeting and seating

●If you are seated when your host arrives, immediately stand to shake hands (men ??????? and women.)? If this happens at the dining table, try not to shake hands across the ??? table, which creates a barrier both physically and psychologically.

●If your host is from another country or culture, research the customs of her country.? A handshake may not be appropriate.

●Greet your host first and other guests after that. Don't monopolize the host's attention when other guests are present.

●Introduce yourself to others, if no one is taking the lead to do so. Always say your first and last name; never use an honorific for yourself (Mr., Ms., Dr., Gen.)

●Stand behind a chair until your host indicates where you should sit.

●In a business setting, a woman should not wait for a man to pull out a chair and ?????????? assist her with seating.

●Do not place personal items on the dining table (e.g., cell phone, BlackBerry, pager, handbag, portfolio.)

●Be certain that electronic devices are turned off before lunch begins.?If you forget to do so and your cell phone rings during lunch, apologize and turn it off immediately without checking to see who is calling.
?

Ordering

●Don't order the cheapest or the most expensive item on the menu.?

●Take cues from your host about how much food to order. Don't order several ??????????? courses if others are having only one.

●Never order alcohol at lunch when interviewing for a job. On other occasions,
proceed with caution. Determine what others in the group are doing before
ordering alcohol. If drinks are served at lunch, never have more than one.

Paying the bill

●Graciously offer to contribute to the bill (and be prepared with cash or credit?card) even when you think that your host will be paying (which, indeed, the host?should do.) Don't continue the discussion after your host declines your offer.

●If, for some reason, it is decided that the bill will be shared, divide it evenly without calculating who had what item and the cost of each item.

Departing

●Leave the dining room with your host and, if possible, leave the restaurant together. Thank your host and shake hands as you part.

●Send a hand-written thank you note to your host within 48 hours while details are fresh in your memory. Email and telephone messages may be acceptable to many, but they put you in the "ordinary" category.

And, a final rule for hosts and guests alike, promise you'll never say "do" lunch.

Bon App?tit!







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