A business lunch or dinner can be a great way to network with potential clients, but it can also be a tricky endeavor if the host is inexperienced with proper business dining etiquette. While many of the rules and customs of business dining etiquette are the same as general rules of etiquette and manners, some additional practices can help the host make a great impression and give the participants a positive and comfortable experience.
First and foremost, the host must be sure to meet his guests at the door and show them where they should sit. This small but important step will set the guests at ease and make them feel welcome. It is important to remember that the host's primary responsibility is to make his or her guests feel welcome, and he must be certain to introduce the guests to each other. The host must also consider proper business dining etiquette when ordering food. If the host orders alcohol, the guests will feel comfortable doing so as well. If the host orders an appetizer, the guests will take a cue from him and feel comfortable ordering an appetizer as well. The host will set the example for the table, and he will set the tone for the business meeting end of it as well. The host must be sure to be polite and confident; he must take the lead on getting the meal underway.
Proper business dining etiquette will follow normal etiquette rules as well. For example, all guests, including the host, should place their napkins on their laps at the start of the meal. The napkins should remain there until it is time to leave the table. If the host must leave the table for any reason, he should place the napkin to the left of his plate until he returns to the table. The guests will generally wait for the host to begin eating before they begin themselves, so the host should be sure not to keep them waiting. The host should chew with is mouth closed and should not speak with food in his mouth.
When it comes time to pay the bill, proper business dining etiquette dictates that the host should take care of the bill discreetly. He should not make a spectacle of paying the bill; drawing attention to the payment will make the guests feel self-conscious. After the meal has been wrapped up and all business taken care of, the host must be sure to see his guests to the door and leave them with a handshake.