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7 dining rules every manager should follow

By Cheryl Toth

You know this guy. He’s the loudest talker at the table. He waves his fork around when he tells a story or joke. Or occasionally punctuates the air with it to indicate he has shared something very important.

Don’t be this guy.

Whether you are having lunch with your team, dinner with the partners, or you’re attending the annual gala, good table manners demonstrate decorum. They are an opportunity to show yourself as presentable, professional and polite; the kind of person who gets invited to the next lunch, dinner, or gala.

Here are 7 essential table rules every manager should know.

  1. Place your napkin in your lap when you sit down. This is manners 101. If you’ve made it this far in life without knowing that, well, consider yourself taught.
  1. Facilitate conversation, don’t dominate it. A business meal is an opportunity to talk business but get to know people while you break bread together. If you are the only one talking, you’ll never learn anything about anyone else. Ask questions about your fellow diners’ interests and hobbies. Let them talk about their kid’s latest volleyball tournament win. Understanding people’s personal make-up provides a good foundation on which to build long-term business relationships. The more you listen, the more you’ll learn.
  1. Be aware of the bread plate. I have seen this happen on more than one occasion. The bread plate is the little round thing to the LEFT and often just above the fork(s). If it’s just you and one other person at the table, using the wrong plate is not such a big deal. But if you are dining at a large table and you go right when everyone else goes left – um, awkward.
  1. Wait until everyone has been served before you begin to eat. Digging into your meal without waiting is a no-no. Occasionally, some people’s meals will take longer to emerge from the kitchen. If the waiting hungry say, “please go ahead so your food doesn’t get cold,” follow their instruction. But if they don’t, wait.
  1. Say “please” and “thank-you.” Old fashioned politeness is refreshing. Be the one who says, “Would you please pass the salt and pepper?” and “Thank you,” after the wait staff refills your water glass.
  1. Put your mobile device on silent—or better yet, put it away. Avoid assaulting your fellow diners with text chirps or a bleating ringtone. You are sharing a meal with real, live humans. It’s polite to be present. And hey, aren’t you at this table to discuss practice business or build relationships with these people? Talk to them. They are right in front of you.
  1. Don’t stack or push your plates to the edge of the table. Few things say “why yes, I was raised in a barn” more than this uncivilized move. No one wants to look at a tower of filthy dishes while they are still eating. When you are finished with your food, give the waiter the “I’m done” signal: lay your utensils parallel to each other, and toward the center of the plate. It’s then the waiter’s job (not yours) to stack and cart them off to the kitchen.

Cheryl Toth, MBA is a Tucson-based business writer and healthcare professional who blends exceptional communication skills with an ability to educate and inspire. She brings 25 years of practice consulting, technology management, and presentation experience to her projects. Cheryl is a co-host of Sound Practice.

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