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Chapter 9 Business etiquette--charming the bottom line.


After reading this chapter you should be able to:

1. Recognize the importance of business etiquette in hospitality.

2. Identify the new male-female etiquette and how to apply the different social courtesies when dealing with guests and co-workers.

3. Master the art of introductions and handshaking.

4. Distinguish and apply the guidelines of proper telephone etiquette, the use of fax machines, voice mail, e-mail and other high-tech devices.

5. Recognize and practice impeccable table manners to ensure confidence when entertaining and dining with guests, clients and co-workers.

Today good manners is good business. Proper etiquette and manners are considered key elements of quality service. A survey of the top Fortune 500 companies found that 80 percent of the presidents, vice-presidents and chief executive officers had impeccable manners and were self-confident in all encounters. However, when middle management was surveyed, that percentage dropped to 40. And among the young, newly hired managers only 12 percent were so skilled. Clearly, there is room for improvement in this area because in today's business environment we are expected to be as self-assured in the social aspects of our business as we are in the technical side.

Managers and those professionals who are climbing the hospitality career ladder face many situations requiring social skills. Business is conducted not only in offices and in boardrooms, but at social gatherings, conventions and at the dinner table. The challenge is that in today's business environment much of the social and business graciousness that worked before is no longer current. Not all social behavior can be transferred exactly to the business setting. Most women want and expect different treatment at the office than they do in social situations. We now communicate through car phones, cellular phones and by fax, voice mail and e-mail. There is confusion about what is the proper and considerate way to treat each other--whether in person or through a machine-and this confusion affects our confidence. Some managers have expressed their concern about how to conduct proper introductions at a meeting--whether to extend their hands to female clients or to wait for them to initiate the handshake--and many other issues that distract them from conducting business.

Confidence comes from knowledge, observation and practice. It comes from knowing what to do, when to do it and doing it with sophistication. Sophistication is not something that you are born with; it is something that you learn and cultivate. Even if you were born with the proverbial silver spoon in your mouth, you may have discovered that you do not necessarily have all the answers. Our work environment is changing so rapidly that we need to be flexible and attentive to the new, appropriate behaviors.

This chapter will provide you with the guidelines of how to behave in those social and business situations that are common to the hospitality professional--whether it is at the office, at a social gathering, at the dinner table, through a telecommunication device or at the boardroom. Learning the new rules of etiquette and manners will let you handle any situation with ease and confidence. Your etiquette and manners will become a key strategy to getting ahead and staying ahead in the business world so you will navigate in the new millenium with confidence and class.

Etiquette and manners are the social or human side of business. Etiquette is a blend of poise, self-confidence, control and style that can empower us to command respect in any situation. When situations offer several behavior options and we don't know the right thing to do, we feel awkward. Letitia Baldrige, author of the Complete Guide to Executive Manners says that "Good manners consist of two thirds logic and common sense and one third of kindness."


The golden rule of relationships has been: "Treat others as you would like to be treated." The new platinum rule of this decade is: "Treat others as they want to be treated." According to Letitia Baldrige, today's well-mannered executives follow a double-standard behavior. They treat women as colleagues and team members during the day, but they treat their wives and female friends at home in a different manner. Women have traded the special deference they've received as females for more equality at work. At home, most women want their doors opened and their chairs pulled back. But at the office women want to be treated with respect and as team members. They want to be admired for their skills, not for their looks. With women in executive positions, a new set of manners evolved based on collegiality. People are supposed to treat each other according to rules of protocol, not gender. In the business arena, it is not necessary for one gender to come to the aid of the other whenever there is a need for assistance.

In her book Business Protocol Jan Yager says that when she conducted a business etiquette survey with a variety of industries and companies throughout the United States, she found that 77 percent wrote that it is considered proper etiquette at their company for a man to open a door for a woman; 57 percent said it was proper etiquette for a woman to open a door for a man. However, the age-old practice of a man standing up when a woman enters his office seems to be on the way out, since a whopping 75 percent wrote that at their company men do not stand up if a woman enters their office. It seems that as women are being treated more equally in the business world, some of the old-fashioned social graces are being omitted from the corporate setting.

Despite these changes, in hospitality many of the social graces are still valid because when interacting with guests many of them may not be a part of the business world; therefore, women guests may expect the same treatment at our properties as they enjoy in social settings.

Having a door opened and a chair pulled out for a woman by a man may still be considered polite in almost all corporate settings. When participants in our etiquette seminars ask about how to deal with these age-old social graces, my suggestion is that when anyone, male or female, initiates a gesture such as opening a door, pulling out a chair, helping with packages or coats, and so forth, it is appropriate to receive and appreciate these courtesies with graciousness.

Rather than simply following certain rules just because we are dealing with a man or a woman, know that there is an emerging trend that recognizes that courtesy does not have anything to do with gender. Ask yourself: Which role am I playing in this situation? When dealing with co-workers and colleagues inside and out of your workplace, hierarchy is a more appropriate criteria to follow when in doubt. For example, junior managers should assist senior managers with doors, seats and so forth. Women in the office should take care not to mistake sincere politeness from a man for some form of harassment or discrimination.

When interacting with guests, the social graces are still appropriate and welcomed. It is good manners to extend some of the graciousness that men are expected to offer to female guests such as:

* When ascending an escalator with a woman, a man should allow the woman to precede him.

* When descending an escalator with a woman, a man should precede the woman.

* When accompanying a woman on the street, a man should walk on the outside, close to the curb.

* At a luncheon or dinner function with a woman, a man should offer to seat her by holding her chair.

* When a woman excuses herself from the dinner table for a moment, the man who is seated closest to her should acknowledge her departure or return by standing.

In the business arena today, whether you are dealing with peers or colleagues, treating everyone the same is good business etiquette. Whether you are a man or a woman in business today, it is simple courtesy to:

* Move quickly to open a door for anyone walking nearby who has his or her hands full.

* Pick up what someone else has dropped if they cannot retrieve it as easily.

* Open the door for the rest of your group to pass through, if you get to it first.

* Stand to greet a visitor who enters your office.

* Briefly exit a crowded elevator to let other people off even if it is not your destination floor.

* Assist a colleague struggling to get in and out of their coat.

* Extend your hand for introductions.

* Position a client in the curbside backseat when entering a cab.

* Arrange to pay the bill when you are inviting a male or a female for a business luncheon or dinner meeting.

Being attentive to others regardless of gender makes male-female relationships more pleasant and the work environment more comfortable for everyone.


The most important element of introductions, even if you forget someone's name, is simply to do them. People would rather you ask their name than not be introduced. Failing to introduce someone is the same as not recognizing their presence, and this can cause uncomfortable feelings that could damage a business relationship. When you forget a person's name, it is appropriate to ask for their assistance by saying something like "Please help me to remember your name," rather than neglecting to introduce the person to others. If you need to ask a person's name, make sure you use it again in the conversation as a way to show that you appreciate their help and to assist you in remembering their name in the future. When someone is struggling to recall your name, quickly come to their rescue and tell them.

Some people freeze up because they worry too much about the proper procedure. Again, the most important thing is to just do them. The easiest rule to remember is: Look at and say the name of the most important person first. Depending on the formality of the situation, you will use different expressions. Looking at the most important person and saying their name first shows deference for this person and implies that you are asking permission to give them the gift of a new name with the attached responsibilities. In the business arena, this is the order of the most important person, regardless of gender:

1. Clients

2. Senior executives

3. Junior executives

For a formal introduction, say for example: "Mr. Anderson (your client), may I introduce Ms. Brown (your boss), our director of marketing?" For a less formal introduction, say, for example: "Mr. Anderson (your client), I'd like to introduce Ms. Brown (your boss), our director of marketing."

When using the word introduce, avoid using the words "to you" or "you to;" it may change the order of a person's importance or may get confusing. For example, if you say "Mr. Anderson (your client), I'd like to introduce you to Ms. Brown (your boss), our director of marketing," Ms. Brown becomes the most important person.

Another simple way to do introductions when the situation is less formal is to use The Magic Formula: You will still look at and say the name of the most important person first and then say "I'd like you to meet ..." For example, for a less formal introduction, say "Mr. Anderson (your client), I'd like you to meet Ms. Brown (your boss), our director of marketing." A less informal introduction is: "Mr. Anderson (your client), this is Ms. Brown (your boss), our director of marketing."

When doing introductions, keep them consistent and brief. Offer an equivalent amount of information about each person in turn: first and last names, position, relation to you, relation to the company and any common interest.

When you are at a group business gathering, it is always correct and expected that you walk up to others and introduce yourself. In a dining situation you should introduce yourself to those sitting next to you if you have not been previously introduced. Regardless of gender, in business we should always conduct introductions standing; it is a sign of respect and makes the initiation of a business relationship more equal. In tandem with the introduction is a genuine smile and a handshake which will express your pleasure in meeting the person. In answering an introduction a simple reply such as: "I'm glad to meet you" or "How do you do?" will always be appropriate.


A handshake has a long history of remedying sticky situations. In fact, it was first employed as a way for gentlemen to show each other that they were not armed. Today a handshake is the most accepted possibility of personal touch in business. It is the first step to building a lasting business relationship. Your appearance and your words will be confirmed by the way you shake hands. Others will judge you by your handshake. When hiring managers and sales employees, one of our hotel clients includes the type of handshake of the applicants as one of the criteria in the selection process. A firm handshake conveys confidence, assurance and competence. By the same token, a limp and fish-like handshake may cause others to think that you are weak. A handshake that offers only the front half of the fingers may be interpreted that you do not want to become too involved. Make sure that your grip is firm but not too overpowering; I cannot tell you the times I have had to rescue my small hand from a person with a bone-crusher handshake. Handshaking is not an athletic contest!


Shake hands from the elbow not from the shoulder. Grasp the other person's hand completely with your palm open. Press your web--the skin between your thumb and index finger--into the other person's web. Hold for about three or four seconds, but not so long that a person feels the need to rescue their hand. In most business situations the double-clasped handshake is considered condescending; it should be saved to express condolence for the loss of a loved one. Check your handshake with a colleague who will give you honest feedback. A firm, confident handshake will enhance your professional image.


Handshakes, of course, can be initiated by either you or the other person; but, it shows confidence when it comes first from you. Reach out and extend your hand to anyone with whom you are doing business, male or female. Shake hands during introductions, to greet clients, vendors, visitors, to say good-bye, to congratulate, when you run into someone outside your office and when you leave a gathering attended by people from outside the company.


The expression of someone rising to the occasion originally was used to describe how confident people will stand when a situation requires their attention. People who stand show that they can take care of whatever business is at hand. In office situations, when a visitor of either gender enters a room, the people from the company should stand as a welcoming gesture. In business social activities, women do not remain seated when other business people enter a room. Women should rise as readily to their feet as any man to show the visitor respect. When a senior manager enters your office, you should stand as a sign of deference. If a person of a higher rank enters your office several times during a day, you do not have to stand every time; a smile and eye contact is enough to acknowledge their presence.

Always rise to shake hands with others for introductions or for greetings. When you remain seated, the person standing is in a more dominant and powerful position. Before I start a presentation or a seminar, I go around the room to meet as many people as I can. To my surprise, some participants, male and female, remain seated when we shake hands. Standing is the most assertive way to begin and sometimes to conduct a business encounter. When you stand you show respect, you feel energized and you can let others know that a meeting or a conversation is ending.


When attending a meeting in a restaurant or an executive's office, junior managers should wait until senior managers signal to them where to sit. If you are the senior manager or the chairman of the meeting, you should indicate the proper place for the participants to sit. It is very uncomfortable for people to stand in a room and wonder where to sit.

You may recall that King Arthur sat his knights at a round table following wizard Merlin's advice. Merlin suggested that this seating would minimize conflict. This principle is still valid today. If you want to get consensus and agreement at a meeting, a round table will facilitate this process. When you position chairs in a circle, you encourage relatively equal contributions from all group members. Rectangular tables define rank positions. The head of the table is saved for the "power person," the most senior person in rank. At a rectangular table the two short ends will be the most powerful positions. (When the table is too long, though, the most important seat is the end at which the "power person" sits.) The other important positions are those to the right and the left of the power person. When meetings are conducted in a horseshoe or U-shape, the focus of attention would be at the "head of the table." If chairs are placed side by side in theater or classroom style, participants get the message that they are there "to listen not to talk." Savvy executives today who want to empower team members and promote effective teamwork are conducting meetings at round tables, instead of the traditional rectangular, with great success.

When given a choice of seating at a meeting, whether conducted in an office, conference room or dining room, here are some tips:

* Choose a chair over a couch. A chair gives you a more powerful position than the lower couch seating.

* If you must sit in a couch, sit at the edge and avoid the temptation of slouching and losing your confident posture.

* Sit next to a person with whom you want to avoid a direct interchange. Sitting across from that person forces communication since you will need to keep eye contact.

* Sit as close to the leader as protocol permits.

* Women benefit from not crossing their legs. Crossing your legs stops circulation and makes you look uptight. Besides, it is not the most comfortable or business-like position when wearing a skirt that rises above the knee. Instead, cross your legs at the ankles.

* Watch your posture while sitting. Sitting erectly gives you more confidence and control of the conversation than when you are slouching.


Smoking is becoming less and less acceptable in the United States. With the emphasis on public health, many companies are banning smoking completely from their offices and facilities. Smoking is no longer appropriate in business settings. Guests and employees are requesting more smoke-free environments. John Hallowell, a hotel executive, says that in his properties the majority of the guests prefer non-smoking rooms and the number is ever increasing. Some properties have designated smoking areas for employees and for guests. Therefore, if you still want to light a cigarette, use either open or specially designated areas.

In hospitality, however, we interact with clients and guests from other cultures in which smoking is still accepted. Even though meeting planners tell us that foreign visitors are more and more aware of the growing American non-smoking policy, some European and Japanese businesspersons would find it rude to be asked not to smoke. Offering private dining or meeting rooms for your smoking guests is an appropriate way to accommodate their needs.


The telephone is your link to the outside world. Through the telephone we give and receive information, pass instructions to people and establish and strengthen business relationships. Much business is initiated and much is lost over the telephone. Good manners and professionalism over the telephone are as important as in face-to-face contact. In hospitality, many times the first encounter with a client is over the telephone, so your telephone skills give a positive or a negative first impression.

People form impressions about you by the way you speak to them on the telephone. Even though others cannot see your facial expressions or your overall physical appearance, they do form a mental picture of you based on words, tone and voice quality. Also your mood comes through the phone. Some people keep a mirror next to their phone to be sure they smile when answering the phone.

A pleasant phone voice takes practice. You can check your voice by recording yourself and asking a friend for honest feedback. Breathing, pausing and speaking from your stomach, not from your throat, will help you to project a well-modulated and pleasant voice.

Here are some basic tools for your telephone etiquette:

* Remember that when you place a call, you are doing it because this is a convenient time for you. It may or may not be a good time for the person you are calling. Asking the person you are calling: "Is this a convenient time to talk?" is a very appropriate way to begin a phone encounter. If the person says no, ask when would be a convenient time for you to call back. Do not force a call on someone; you will not get the results and you can damage the relationship.

* When you place a call, listen carefully to the other person's tone of voice--you may even want to close your eyes--and mimic or "mirror" the voice. This will build an immediate rapport. If you call someone who answers with a low voice and you begin the encounter with a high enthusiastic voice, it is very difficult to get the conversation to what Sharon-Drew Morgan in her book Sales on the Line calls the "we space." Once there is that initial trust, go back to your normal voice tone and pitch to continue the conversation.

* Write down the key points you want to discuss. It is a pleasure talking with someone who says: "There are three things I'd like to talk to you about." It gives structure to the conversation and helps both parties stay focused.

* Identify yourself by giving your name, your company, or department if it's an internal call, and the purpose of your call. One of my clients has a sticker on his phone that says "The reason I'm calling is ..."

* If you are an unknown caller and a secretary answers the phone for the person you want to reach, it is appropriate to identify yourself by name, your company and the purpose of your call. It is rude to pose as a personal friend just to get your call through.

* If you need to leave a message with a secretary, leave your name, company, phone number and a convenient time for the person to return your call. This will help avoid telephone tag.

* If you have to put a person on hold, please ask for permission. "May I put you on hold for a few minutes?" If it is taking more than a few minutes, go back to the person and ask if they want to keep holding or if they would prefer that you call back. Remember that the first person you are speaking with has priority. You should tell the second caller that you are on another line and you will call back. When you return to the person on hold always say: "Thank you for holding."

* When conducting a meeting in your office, put your calls on hold through a secretary, through voice mail or ask someone to answer the calls for you. It is rude to chat over the phone with someone else when you are having a meeting with a visitor. One of my hotel clients explained at the beginning of our meeting that he was waiting for a very important international call he would need to take. He even gave me some material to read while he took this call. This was an example of etiquette and class.

* One of the most important things to do with your phone calls is to return them as soon as possible or at least within 24 hours. If the person is not available when you return the call, to avoid telephone tag leave alternative times when you can be reached.

* Answer your phone yourself if possible and answer it before three rings. The general manager of one of our hotel clients answers his own phone. When I asked him about it, he said: "If I'm available to answer calls, better me than someone else. It saves time to both parties." I was impressed!

* When answering the phone include the four key elements of:

1. A greeting

2. Name of company (or department for internal calls)

3. Your name

4. Offer for assistance


External call:

"Good morning!--restaurant, this is Lawrence Parker. How may I help you?"

Internal call:

"Good evening! Catering Department, Sheila speaking. How may I help you?"

* When you answer a phone for a colleague, identify yourself and your colleague's office: "Good afternoon! Jim Martin's office, George Anderson speaking. How may I help you?" Take a complete message including name, company, phone number, purpose of call if necessary and the best time to return the call. Your colleague will appreciate this type of assistance.

* When a caller does not identify him- or herself, it is rude to ask: "Who is this?" Instead you may ask: "To whom am I speaking?" or "Who shall I say is calling?" or "May I say who is calling?"

* When answering a phone for someone, here are some expressions to avoid and some alternatives:
Avoid             Use instead

He/she isn't      He/she's not in his/her office at
here yet.         the moment.

He/she is on      He/she is away from his/her
his/her break.    desk at the moment.

He/she is at      He/she is not available at the
lunch.            moment.

He/she left       He/she is out of the office until
early today.      tomorrow.

He/she is on      He/she will be out of the office
vacation.         for the next two weeks.

He/she is         He/she is not in the office
sick today.       today.

And of course, never say:

"I believe he/she went to the men's/lady's room."

"He/she has a doctor's appointment this afternoon."

"He/she's at the beauty/barber shop."

Avoid sentences that have lost customers:

1. "I can't put your call through unless I can say who's calling."

2. "I don't have anything to do with your problem."

3. "She/he's busy. Would you call back?"

4. "There is nothing I can do about it; it's company policy."

5. "I just came in; could you call back in about 10 to 15 minutes?"

6. "We are ready to close; would you call back in the morning?"

* If you get disconnected during a call, the person who initiated the call is responsible for calling back, unless you are speaking with a client. It is a courtesy for you to call back a client regardless of who initiated the call.

* When you finish a conversation, end graciously; for example, "I'm glad you called" or "Thanks for calling."

* Let the caller hang up first before you ring off.


New technology has created new applications for manners in the workplace. Voice mail and other computer communications require you to be just as courteous as you should be in person, on the telephone and in written communication. Here are some guidelines for high-tech courtesy:


Voice mail has become a common way to answer phone calls when employees cannot take calls personally. When recording your greeting, leave a short message. A message that begins: "I can't come to the phone right now because I'm out of the office" is a waste of a caller's time. Think about it! Obviously you are not available for one reason or another; if you were, you would take the call. A simpler message could be: "Hello! This is Robert Kramer. Please leave me a message so I can call you back. Thank you for calling!" or "Hello! This is Robert Kramer. Your call is important to me, so please leave me your message and I'll call you back. Have a nice day!"

If you are out of your office frequently and you want to leave a personalized message with detailed information, you could begin with something like: "This is Louise Reed. I'm in a meeting on Monday from 9 a.m. to noon...." If you give another number the caller can dial, be sure it's not another mail box. Leave instructions for the person who will take your calls during that time.

Office equipment such as answering machines and speaker phones create opportunities to violate confidentiality and privacy. One of our seminar participants shared an embarrassing experience: "A salesperson called the company vice president's office with information related to the business and asked if this was a good time for the vice president to talk. The caller didn't know that the vice president was on the speaker phone in the middle of a meeting." If you need to use your speaker phone to free your hands for other tasks, ask the other person's permission. Say something like: "May I use the speaker phone so I can go through these papers while we discuss it?"

It's not professional to leave an intimate message on voice mail. You never know who's listening. Limit the use of voice mail to business. When leaving a message on voice mail, make notes of the key points of your message before calling. If you are not prepared when the machine answers, hang up, get ready and call back. Speak clearly and more slowly than if you were talking face-to-face. When leaving a phone number, say the number twice. If you want the call returned, give a time when you are most reachable.


Many cellular phones are being used incorrectly. Whenever you make or receive a call from a car phone, identify yourself first, using both your name and your company's name and explain that you are using a car phone. There are a few occasions in which it is appropriate to call from a car phone: when you are late for an appointment, you need directions, you got lost or you must give someone urgent information. Be brief and make an appointment to call again from your office when you can devote all your attention to the phone call. It is impolite to initiate or to conduct a sales call from a car phone.

The number one business blunder with cellular phones is using them in inappropriate places such as on the golf course or at the movies or a restaurant; in fact, never take or receive a call at a table in a restaurant, unless it's an emergency.

Many professionals in hospitality wear pagers. If you do not want to be paged, don't wear your pager. In a public place or during an important meeting, turn off the beeper sound so the pager only vibrates if someone needs to page you. Then, excuse yourself and make the necessary phone call.


Using the fax machine also requires some common sense and courtesy: Fax only information that must be transmitted to the other party faster than regular mail. Offer the other person a choice to send the information by mail or fax. Do not assume that everyone prefers faxed information. It is recommended that you send the hard copy after you send the fax for communications with clients and vendors. Remember that the fax is not a personal way to communicate with someone since it's possible that many people will read your message. Personal faxing can hurt your image and the image of your company; therefore, do not send jokes, cartoons, opinions of people, programs or confidential information. Also avoid sending a 30-page brochure or program via fax. Thirty pages is time-consuming and costly.

Sending a thank you, congratulations or condolence note by fax is inappropriate. Only a handwritten note is appropriate in these situations. If your handwriting is not very clear, you may type it. Use a heavy-weight stationery with your name or the name of your company on it. A handwritten note says that you care about this business relationship and you have taken the time and effort to make this communication special. In these times of "high-tech/low touch," these personal efforts mean a great deal to people. When we go through our piles of correspondence, we can identify the handwritten notes, and we know they are something special. Taking the time and effort to write personal notes will do wonders for your clients, your colleagues and for your career. Remember to send a thank you note within 24 to 48 hours after the event.

How you look and sound over a technical device or in writing is as important as how you look and sound in person.


"The world was my oyster, but I used the wrong fork," said Irish writer Oscar Wilde more than 100 years ago. Today, using the wrong fork can be hazardous to your career. When we interviewed top executives in the hospitality industry for this book, they said that it is critical that their employees have as much social polish at the dinner table as they do in the meeting room. Poor table manners, they said, is an embarrassment to the company and damages the company's image. Entertaining clients is an essential part of the hospitality business. When they have to choose between candidates for a position, many of them conduct interviews during meals to observe if the candidate's table manners match their resume qualifications.


Mastering impeccable table manners gives you the confidence to concentrate on your guests, clients or colleagues. You want to focus on the conversation instead of worrying about which fork to use. Understanding the flow of the different courses in a meal and handling them with ease and good manners is as important as other technical skills. Think of a dining experience as a symphony orchestra in which each piece of silverware has a function and, along with the food and people, contributes to a smooth experience that enhances a business relationship.


The silver and flatware laid out in this drawing is one of the most common place settings for a four-course, semi-formal meal. Note that the napkin could be placed to the left or in the center of the dinner plate.

The simple way to determine which utensil to use is to work from the outside in. For example, on the left side of the plate, you move inward from the salad fork to the entree fork. A very small fork such as for seafood could be on the far right or left. There will never be more than three utensils on each side of the plate. This is why the dessert fork and spoon are usually placed above the dinner plate. Don't touch them until dessert is served. Then, you will move them to the side of the dessert plate, keeping them as they were initially placed: the fork to the left and the spoon to the right. If the dessert only requires a fork, the spoon is used for coffee.

Often at a function we wonder whose salad, roll plate or wine glass belongs to whom. My colleague Mary Jane Barnes says an easy way to remember which ones are yours is to always look for: "Liquids on your right, solids on your left." This way, you can take the glasses located on the right side of your plate and the salad and bread plates located on your left. If the person seated to your left doesn't realize that they just placed their roll on your bread and butter plate, thank the person for the roll and begin to eat it.


When you are the host or hostess, you should extend the "power seat" to your client. Seat yourself with your back facing the door or the main part of the room. Sit with your chair several inches from the table edge. Sit erect and avoid sliding down in the chair. If you are with several people at the dinner table, be sensitive of the space and do not crowd your neighbors. When not eating, you may rest your forearm or your hands and wrists on the table, but do not use the table to rest either or both of your elbows (your mother was right!). In corporate business etiquette, keeping your hands above the table is important because in some cultures it is not appropriate to have both hands on your lap. This may mean that you have something to hide.


It is helpful to remember that everything of importance is to the right. For example, the guest of honor sits to the right of the host and food is passed on the right. Also pass the salt, pepper, butter and sauces to the right.

Each person should be served before everyone begins eating. If the meal is hosted by someone, wait for that person to take the first bite before beginning to eat. This rule began a long time ago, before refrigeration was available. When the host and hostess took the first bite it meant that the meal was safe.

Salting food before tasting implies that you make rash decisions before checking the facts! Besides, it is an offense to the chef and implies that the food was not properly seasoned. Henry Ford and J.C. Penney built their management staff on this premise. Can you imagine how many candidates they must have taken to lunch?


If the purpose of your meeting is business, it is not appropriate to leap into the topic as soon as you are seated. Take your time and allow your guest to relax. Begin with small talk. It is important to establish or to reinforce rapport with your guest.

Do not bring up business before the entree is consumed. Be sensitive to when your guest is ready to talk business. Most people prefer to wait and talk business only over dessert and coffee. Others may want to plunge right in; therefore, begin discussing business when the client appears ready. A pleasant conversation and meal will often do more for your business relations than a nuts-and-bolts discussion. Be especially sensitive when entertaining clients from other cultures. Americans in general tend to rush over meals. For most cultures, dining is a ritual that flows slowly and pleasantly. Do not be surprised if your client does not even discuss any business over a meal. Your guest will give you signals, so be alert.

At a business meal, don't place your briefcase, handbag or stack of files on the table. Put them on the floor out of the way of your server and other traffic. When it is time to discuss business, wait until the table has been cleared of only coffee and tea and then put a few papers at a time on the table.

At a cocktail party or trade show function, circulating among as many people as possible can be a business builder. Do not treat this function as a mini-dinner; use this opportunity to meet and network with new people or to strengthen relationships with your existing clients. At a cocktail event, hold your drink in your left hand so you free your right for shaking hands. When joining a group, get into the conversation by asking questions. Try to make the other person talk more than you do; questioning is a good way to do this.


After you are seated, wait to see if the waiter will unfold your napkin for you. If he does not, unfold it and place it on your lap. If you need to leave the table during a meal, place the napkin on your chair, not on the table. A napkin on the chair tells the waiter that you will come back. When you finish your meal, place your napkin loosely folded on the right side of the table. This indicates that you are ready to leave.


Select your bread and put it on your bread plate. Break a small piece off of the roll and leave the remainder on the plate until you are ready to eat another piece. Butter the small piece on the plate and eat it. Do not butter the whole roll or cut it in two like sandwich bread. And, of course, it is poor manners to bite half of your roll. Food critics say that you can spot a good restaurant by the quality of the bread. You can also measure a person's table manners by the way they eat their bread.


Today's society is very health conscious. In business it has become almost a norm not to drink alcoholic beverages at a luncheon meeting. Those people who refuse an alcoholic beverage, even if everyone else orders one, are no longer considered teetotalers. Whether you are a guest or a host, remember that drinking mars decision-making abilities. When your guest orders a non-alcoholic beverage, the proper etiquette is for you to order something similar; ordering wine or hard liquor is inappropriate. If you only want a club soda or iced tea, let your guest know that while you may not care for a drink, it's perfectly all right with you if he or she does. If you sense that it would be proper to accompany your guest, one glass of wine is the most you are supposed to drink at a luncheon meeting.

At private functions where wine is served, if you decide not to drink any alcohol, you may want to let the wait person pour your wine and then not drink it or just take one or two sips. This is the most effective way to avoid having the efficient staff continue to offer wine. Do not put your hand on top of your glass to signal that you do not want any wine, do not turn your glass upside-down and avoid saying that you do not drink. (These actions will only bring attention to your non-drinking status and cause additional work for the wait staff; it is almost impossible for a server attending many guests to remember that you do not desire wine.)

While entertaining clients at other functions other than luncheon meetings, such as cocktail parties, barbecues, dinners and banquets where savoring excellent wines and other alcoholic beverages is an essential part of the entertaining in hospitality, discretion is your best policy. You must know your limits. Select the type and amount of alcoholic beverage that is healthy for you. You want to be sure that your system can handle the alcohol you choose without losing your demeanor or your control. Regardless of the setting, you are always representing your company. Keeping your professionalism at the dinner table and at the bar is as important as it is in the meeting room.


As mentioned before, it is an established medical fact that smoking is a health hazard. Smoking is less tolerated in public places in the United States. However, there are still some of your customers, colleagues or providers who may still want to smoke at the table. With restaurants now having designated sections for smoking, it makes it easy for you as a host to know your client's preference.

At private affairs, if smoke really affects your health, it is appropriate to ask to be seated at a table where people do not smoke. In situations where this is not possible (and when you are not the host or hostess), if a smoker at your table lights up, try to voice your objection in a gentle way, depersonalizing your request. For example: "I'm sorry, but I'm allergic to smoke. Would you mind smoking on the terrace?" Or, "I'm sorry, I'm allergic to smoke; would you mind terribly waiting to smoke until later?" This places the blame on a medical problem, not on the smoker's habit. If the smoker is the host or hostess, a client or the guest of honor, it is recommended just to let them smoke without such comments or restrictions. This is especially important when entertaining foreign clients for whom smoking is still acceptable.

In any case, smoking should never be done while there is food on the table. Do not light up at the table until after everyone has finished dessert. And, of course, if you smoke, be careful to exhale away from people's faces; it might require shifting your position in your seat to be able to control the stream.

In today's business world, it is an asset to be a non-smoker, not not only for your health, but for the ability to interact with others easily without the burden of an additional issue that may cause discomfort to those with whom we work, entertain and serve.


If you are hosting the meal, recommend a few dishes to your guest. Your recommendation clues the guest to the price range that you are planning for the meal. If you are dining at your company's restaurant, this is a golden opportunity for you to display the excellent cuisine that your chefs offer; recommend a few of the specialties to your guest. When choosing your own meal, stay away from slippery pastas, bony fish and fowl and cheese-topped soups. Be careful with food that is difficult to eat, such as olives, peas, artichokes. Cherry tomatoes are another example of foods to avoid; they tend to squirt on your guest's clothes. (Regard them as decoration only; one of my chef friends says he only serves them when he's having a bad day!) Choose simple foods such as chicken and fish fillet. Do not order anything that will distract you from the conversation or that puts you in an awkward position.

To let your guest know that it is all right to order an appetizer or dessert, you may want to make some recommendations or order one for yourself. When the food is served buffet style, show the buffet to your guest explaining the options available, and then let your guest proceed to the line first. When you take your own food, take only as much as you will eat. Avoid piling large amounts of food on your plate; you can always go back for seconds.


Soup or bouillon served in a handled cup or even small bowl (oriental fashion) may be drunk instead of being spooned. If there are dumplings or shredded mushrooms, vegetables or other garnish floating on top, they should be eaten first with the spoon before the liquid part of the soup is drunk. When eating thick soup, it is appropriate to eat the solid portion, such as vegetables, from the end of the spoon. Otherwise, all soups are eaten by sipping from the side of the spoon. Spoon your soup away from you toward the center of the bowl. The spoon should rest where it is least likely to fall. When resting the soup spoon, place it either in the bowl or on the plate upon which the soup sits. Tip the bowl away from you when spooning the last bit of soup. And need we add, never "slurp" your soup!



There are two basic styles of holding flatware while dining: The American style is called "zig-zag." The fork is held in the left hand, tines down; the knife in the right hand as shown in the drawing. You use the fork to hold the food while cutting a bite-size piece with the knife. It is never appropriate to cut more than one bite-size piece at a time. After cutting one piece of food, lay the knife across the top of the plate with the serrated edge toward you, transferring the fork to your opposite hand and finally inserting the piece of food in your mouth. The entire process is repeated as your need to cut food continues. When not cutting, the knife remains resting across the upper right quarter of the plate with the blade toward the center while eating proceeds using the fork alone. When you are resting, your knife stays at the one o'clock position with blade turned inward and your fork at the four o'clock position with tines up.

To indicate that you have finished eating, the utensils are placed together on the plate with the fork tines up and the knife turned inward in the lower, right-hand portion of the plate between the clock positions of four and six. This assures that they will not slide off as the plate is being removed. The "I'm finished position" signals to the wait staff that they can remove your plate and utensils. The position of the knife tells the server whether you are still eating or you are finished with your meal-one o'clock signals that you are still eating and four to six o'clock signals that you are finished.


The Continental style of dining differs from the American style in the following way: Begin with the knife in the right hand and the fork in the left with tines down as shown. To cut bite-size pieces of food, hold the food with the fork and cut with the knife. Then spear the food with the fork, which is still in your left hand--and put it in your mouth. As you continue eating, use the knife as a backstop to assist in spearing the food with the fork. Remember that in the Continental style, using a fork by itself is rarely correct. Once the knife and fork are used together during a single course, they must be used together throughout the entire course. Occasionally, some courses do not require the use of a knife. In those instances your place setting will not have one. The fork is used as in the American style--placed in the right hand with the tines pointed up. When resting between bites, the knife and fork are crossed on the plate with the fork over the knife with the prongs pointed down in an inverted V. The well-informed wait staff will never remove your plate with the knife and fork crossed because they know that you are not finished with your meal.

When you have completed your main course, the utensils are placed together on the plate with the fork tines down and the knife turned inward anywhere between the clock positions of four and six. This position of your silverware indicates that you have finished eating. The "I'm finished" position in the Continental style is similar to the one used in the American style; the difference is that in the Continental style, the fork is placed with tines down and in the American style, the fork is placed with tines up. Both send a clear signal to the wait staff that they can remove your plate and silverware.


When the main course is finished, bring the utensils that are placed on top of the dinner plate to the sides of the plate: the fork to the left and the spoon to the right. Dessert that includes solids and creamy or liquid food may be eaten with the fork in the left hand, prongs down, and the spoon in the right. Eat with the spoon. The fork can serve as a pusher. If it is cake or pie, you may use only the fork. For ice cream or pudding, use only the spoon. Leave the other utensil in place on the table. To indicate that you are finished with your dessert, place both utensils together at either side on your plate.

Many professionals today are switching to the Continental style of dining because it is more accepted internationally and easier to employ. It will be necessary to practice the method in your own home until you become comfortable enough to use it in public.

Whether you are using the American or the Continental style of dining, here are some do's and don'ts of table manners:

* Do not hold utensils in your hand if you are not using them.

* Never gesture with utensils in your hand.

* Always put your utensils in the resting position between bites; don't let them be all over your plate.

* Don't talk with your mouth full. Take small bites so you can talk easily at any time after you swallow small portions of food.

* Do not blow your nose or sneeze at the table. If a sneezing attack occurs, turn away from your companion and do not use your napkin. Take a restroom break if you must.

* Do not remove inedible foods or bones to a napkin. Instead, discreetly bring a fork or a spoon to your lips--use your other hand as a "cover tent"--and deposit the item onto it and lower it to your plate.

* If food requires a knife, spoon or fork, you must not eat it or touch it with your fingers.

* It is impolite to inspect and freshen makeup at the dinner table. Personal tasks like powdering your nose and brushing your hair should take place in the restroom. Some etiquette consultants, to my amusement, suggest that you may reapply lipstick at the dinner table. In this case, the "no gender" rule applies: How would it look if a man took out his small shaver and shaved after the meal was finished? Any grooming activities should be conducted in the restroom or in the privacy of your office.

* Try not to finish every last morsel of food on your plate, and try to keep pace with others with whom you are dining. Remember that the focus of business dining is on the get-together, not on the eating.


In hospitality many of the dining meetings are conducted at the property's restaurants. This makes it easier to deal with the issue of who pays the bill. Regardless of gender, whoever initiates the meeting or whoever is in a senior capacity should pick up the tab. Some men still feel uncomfortable when a woman pays for a meal. To avoid this awkward situation if you are a woman, give your credit card in advance to the maitre'd; he or she will have the check and card returned to you on a plate. If all your plans go awry and the bill is presented to your male companion, ask him to pass it on to you. Don't say: "It's mine" or "I'm paying for it." If he objects, tell him: "Our company is delighted to take you out." By letting him know that this is the company's treat, you should curtail his reluctance.

Any business meeting that involves food--whether it is a breakfast, lunch, cocktail party or dinner--demands impeccable table manners. Remember that you are there for business first, not to eat. Stick to familiar foods and eat slowly. Not only is that polite, it also indicates that you are confident, reserved and in control of yourself and your food. If you are not sure of what to do with any utensil or food, observe and follow the leaders. The pleasure and the goal of business dining is to ease and facilitate working relationships. Let your perfect table manners reinforce your professional image of excellence.


1. Your boss, Ms. Brown, enters the room where you are meeting with Mr. Anderson, an important client. You stand and say: "Ms. Brown, I want to introduce Mr. Anderson our client from Chicago." Is your introduction correct?

Yes -- No --

2. A man has been introduced to a woman at a business meeting. He reaches out to shake her hand saying:

"Hello." Is he correct?

Yes -- No --

3. A visitor enters the room. What should you do?

a. Remain seated if you are a woman.

b. Stand and remain standing until the visitor is seated.

c. Stand if you are a man since only men need to stand.

4. When riding in an elevator with a woman, a man should always allow the woman to exit first.

Yes -- No --

5. During a business meal, you need to leave the table for a few minutes. What do you do with your napkin?

a. Leave it on the table neatly folded.

b. Place it on the right side of your plate loosely folded.

c. Leave it on your chair.

d. Take it with you.

6. During a luncheon meeting, what is the appropriate amount to drink?

a. Up to a half bottle of your favorite wine.

b. One glass of wine if your client is drinking an alcoholic beverage.

c. None; non-alcoholic beverages are always appropriate.

7. When eating bread, you will show your impeccable table manners if you:

a. Cut the bread in half and butter each side before biting from one half.

b. Butter one side of the whole bread before taking a bite.

c. Cut one small piece at a time and butter it on the plate before eating it.

8. You are a woman and have just finished a business luncheon. While seated, you pull a small mirror from your purse and reapply your lipstick for a fresher look. Is this correct?

Yes -- No --

9. You had a luncheon meeting with a potential client at their corporate office. Two days later, you fax a typed thank you note to the client. Is this correct?

Yes -- No --

10. You are conducting a meeting with a client and some of your staff members. The recommended seating arrangement to facilitate consensus is:

a. A U-shaped seating

b. A round table

c. A rectangular table

d. A classroom setup with the head table in front
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Author:Michael, Angie
Publication:Best Impressions in Hospitality
Article Type:Professional standards
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2000
Previous Article:Chapter 8 Hospitality: what you say and what you do.
Next Article:Chapter 10 The art of selecting uniforms.

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