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A Gent’s Guide to Business Dinners, Part I
Business dinners are an inevitable part of the professional world. Whether you’re wooing a client, looking to close an important deal, or simply networking, how you handle this social situation can say a lot about you and impact the outcome you’re looking for. Below are a few tips to help make sure these meals go as smoothly as possible.
Research your dining companions
Knowing a little bit about your guests can significantly help. Knowing their background or any hobbies can help ease the conversation and make them feel more comfortable during the dinner. Finding common interests that you can discuss outside of business is a key to gaining trust.
Make a reservation
This may seem obvious, but it’s important to call and make a reservation. This will ensure you have a table ready and your guests will not be left waiting. It’s also important to go with a restaurant you’re comfortable with. A critical business dinner is not the time to try the new, trendy restaurant you know nothing about.
Being prompt will show that you respect your guests’ time. This will also allow you time to view the reserved table before other guests arrive. You’ll want to make sure you are not sitting in an area that is too loud or in a high traffic area (such as right next to the kitchen or restrooms).
Prepay the bill
The moment when the bill arrives can be awkward for everyone, so avoid it all together. If you’re comfortable doing so, give the server your credit card before the meal begins. You can discreetly step away from the table later in the meal to sign the final bill.
Be mindful of what and how much you eat
Although those spareribs sound delicious, steer clear of all foods that are extremely messy to eat. Also, allow your guest to determine the amount of food that will be ordered. For example, don’t order an appetizer if your guest orders only an entrée. The same rules apply for dessert. You should also pay attention to the pace of which your guest is eating. It can be extremely awkward if your guests are still eating and you’re staring at an empty plate because your scarfed down your food.
Limit the amount of alcohol you and your guests consume at dinner
The main purpose of this meal is business, so it might be a good idea to stick with only wine. Enjoy it with your good and plan on having no more than two glasses. However, if your guest does order a whiskey or some other drink, feel free to take their lead and join them. Still plan on the two-drink maximum, though.
Don’t forget your manners
Good manners are a must for a gent and can greatly benefit you during a business dinner. Be sure you are always respectful of the wait staff, always place your napkin in your lap, and wait until everyone at the table has been served before you start eating.
Engage in small talk
A business dinner does not mean you must only talk about business. Don’t be afraid to lighten up the conversation with small talk. Try and discuss topics that are both interesting for your guest and things they can relate to.
Be sure to follow-up
After you have said your goodbyes, take a moment to write down follow-up items. A quick response to any requests from your guest will show that you are invested in the relationship.
Following even a few of these suggested tactics will ensure you avoid unexpected interruptions and enjoy a successful business meal. In the next blog post we will discuss the flow of conversation, introductions, and key moments inside the business meal itself.
About Ben Davis
A serial entrepreneur, Ben Davis is founder of The Gents Place and a leading investor in gentlemen's refinement and confidence.
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