Dos and Dont's for Business Meals

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Big lunch with the boss next week? Looking to secure a deal with a client over dinner? Mary Crane, iMag's etiquette guru, is mentoring YOU this month on proper etiquette for business meals.

Q: Let's say a group of four plans to meet for lunch. Three arrive together. One arrives five minutes late. Should the three wait to be seated until everyone has arrived?

A: Sometimes you have no choice in this matter. Increasingly, I encounter restaurants that will not seat a party until everyone is present — yet one more sign that some restaurants have forgotten that they are in the hospitality business.

Whenever the restaurant will permit a partial party to be seated, seat people as quickly as possible. Assume that the one person who has been delayed would want others to be as comfortable as possible.

Q: At a business lunch, when is it appropriate to launch into a business discussion?

A: Hold off on discussing business until after the table has placed its food order. Prior to that time, connect socially.

Q: Wait staff has arrived. I happen to be the most junior person at the table. Wait staff looks at me first and asks if I would like a cocktail or a glass of wine. What do I do?

A: Err on the side of caution. Order soda, water or ice tea. If everyone else eventually orders a glass of wine, you may always change your beverage choice.

Q: At a business meal, are there any general rules to remember in terms of navigating the menu?

A: Try to remember these three rules of thumb:

1. Never order the least or the most expensive item on the menu.

2. Don't be too adventuresome. A business lunch is not the best time to discover new foods that may or may not agree with you.

3. If it's difficult to eat a particular food in a nice and neat manner, skip it.

Q: I'm the host or hostess at a business lunch. What's an appropriate tip? Is it ever appropriate not to tip?

A: For good service, tip wait staff 15 percent. For service that was superlative, increase the tip to 20 or 25 percent.

As to not tipping, in a very few rare cases, when I have received what I consider to be exceptionally poor service, I have not left a tip. Whenever I have withheld a tip, I try to find the wait staff or manager and explain my actions.

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**The above content is given to us and solely owned by Mary Crane of Mary Crane & Associates LLC.

A graduate of George Washington Law School, Mary Crane lobbied in Washington, D.C. for nearly 10 years before pursuing her life-long interests in food and wine. Crane enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America and, upon graduation, worked at the White House as an assistant chef. During this time, Crane discovered the important relationships between food, wine and business. Her desire to share this unique knowledge yielded Mary Crane & Associates. Today, Crane travels North America delivering high-impact, high-energy programs to Fortune 500 companies and more than 50% of the AmLaw100. She supports new employees by explaining how to quickly assimilate in today's fast-paced work environment. Crane also helps managers understand how to best recruit, motivate, and retain today's newest workers. • Visit her Web site