Dining with your boss or an important host can be a great experience for you, but preparing for a business dinner can be stressful. It can be especially stressful if you are a new to a job, and you do not know your boss very well. Here are some tips to help make a business dinner go smoothly and to make a good impression:
Dress appropriately. When in doubt about the attire, wear business attire. A suit, tie, skirt suit, and formal shoes are appropriate for all dinner occasions. For women, make sure your skirt is not too tight and not wearing too much jewelry. For men, be sure your business socks match your suit, and try not to use too much aftershave; the smell can be overpowering in combination with the smells of the food. And for men and women, keep your hair neat and professional.
Review proper dining etiquette. This includes etiquette for arrival, tipping, proper placement for utensils, and more. If you are unsure of which water or bread is yours, remember the acronym BMW: bread on the left, meal in the middle, water on the right. Also, when you are finished with a meal, place your napkin to the left, not on top, of the plate.
Do not mistake the dinner invitation for a social outing. Unless your boss or whoever invited you to dinner specifically says it is for social or networking reasons, never assume so. Always assume the occasion is professional and prepare for a professional outing.
Do not order alcohol. If your boss or host indicates you may order alcohol or offers you the wine list, don’t order alcohol. Alcohol, no matter what your tolerance, lowers your inhibitions, and can cause you to bring up conversations that would be better left unsaid. If you need an excuse not to drink, simply say you would rather not drink at this time.
To go along with conversations better left unsaid, avoid potential conscientious topics. This includes politics, religion, information about co-workers, and personal problems. These topics can make people uncomfortable, highly variable, and the topic can give off a bad impression.
Avoid cell phone use and grooming at the table. In the era of beauty and technology, both of these habits can be difficult to break. Don’t even use your phone to check the time; wear a watch if timing is a concern. Always excuse yourself from the table before answering a call or fixing your hair, and, if possible, try to make it quick to not keep your host or boss waiting too long.
Express your gratitude. Let your boss or host know that you enjoyed dining with him or her by sending a thank you card or note within 24 to 48 hours after. It is good to mention the restaurant’s atmosphere or the food, and something about a topic that was brought up to show you were listening.
Overall, treat the dinner with the utmost professionalism and etiquette, while still being yourself and interactive conversationally. Being invited to dine with your boss or important host can open the door to a better work relationship with that person as long as you make a great impression.