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Develop & Maintain Global Business – What to do at the Table

You can develop and maintain global business by practicing your international dining skills. In many countries, business is not even approached until you and your potential clients have shared several meals.

Let’s say you’ve just been invited to a European business dinner. You are the guest of honor and you are representing your brand:

  1. If it is a large reception, prior to the dinner, you will be standing in a receiving line where you will greet each guest with a smile and a handshake. Traditional receiving lines have an official Introducer or Announcer.
  2. Your host will then lead the way to the table if there is no maître d’ to lead you. A maître d’ (also called a maître d’hôtel) is the person who shows you to your table in an upscale restaurant
  3. Your host, or the maitre d’, will direct you to your seat
  4. Enter your chair from the chair’s right, your left.
  5. As the guest of honor, you will be seated to the right of the host so that conversation can easily be made.
  6. Wait until this senior person (your host/hostess) picks up his or her napkin before you place your napkin on your lap or touch anything at all on the table.
  7. Unless your host initiates the conversation, business is not discussed at these dinners.
  8. If you must excuse yourself during the meal, leave your napkin on your chair.
  9. In North America, I’m pretty sure that you know to keep your elbows off of the table. In Europe, placing your wrists on the table is considered very polite behavior.
  10. All food, such as a basket of bread, or a pair of salt and pepper shakers, is passed counterclockwise (to the right).
  11. To determine which glass is your water glass, look down at your place setting and think of a BMW. Bread, meal, water. Your bread plate is the on the left, your dinner plate is in the middle, and your water and other beverages are on your right.
  12. Use your silverware from the outside of the place setting first, working your way in.
  13. If you get confused, watch your host or hostess.
  14. Never use your knife to gesture at the table. This European protocol goes back to the middle ages when pointing a knife was quite threatening.
  15. Sip clear and creamed soups from the side of the spoon. Remember to spoon the soup away from you. Soup that has chunks of meat, noodles, or even chili is sipped from the front of the spoon.
  16. You may tip a soup plate (not a bowl of soup) away from you. The soup plate has a very shallow well, and its rim is exactly like that of a dinner plate. Please do not do this with tremendous enthusiasm or with scrapping noises.
  17. In international business dining, there are no electronics at the table. If, and only if, after the meal, your client specifically requests that you show him/her business information that you have on your cell phone, tablet, or other electronic device, it is permissible.
  18. Your host will, as the dessert course is served, offer a toast to you. Do not drink when this toast is offered; you never drink to yourself. It would be rude.
  19. Practice your sincere return toast to your host so that you are prepared. Stand, thank your host, and keep it very short. When the toast is complete, you will sit down.
  20. Your host signals that the meal is over by placing his or her napkin, loosely folded, just to the left of the dinner plate. You will do the same and then exit your chair from the chair’s right.

You are in a unique position to develop culturally correct strategies that will support your brand’s international business plan.

The information needed to be competitive in the international area is extensive and I hope that this basic dining review has been helpful.

Research your prospective client’s country or, before your visit, have a certified international protocol professional brief you.

Nothing builds teamwork, business, and leadership skills better than having the knowledge to lead the way! Good luck!


Excerpts of blog taken from the book: Hospitality Management – People Skills & Manners on and off the Job. Copyright © 2015 Lyn Pont, Ph.D.


“Pont’s book is a must-read for anyone considering a career in hospitality.”


— Isadore Sharp, chairman and founder, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts


See the book at: www.HospitalityManners.com


Visit Lyn at: www.MannersForBusiness.com


#Etiquette #Dining #Business #International #Hospitality #Manners

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