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McWilliams School of Biomedical Informatics

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Business Dining Etiquette

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015

Here is a quick business dining quiz: While having a business lunch, should you place your beverage on the left side or right side of your entrée plate?

SBMI Etiquette Dinner

If you answered right side, you are correct. All beverages, including coffee, water or tea belong on the right side of your plate. If you answered left side, then keep reading as we have several important tips for business dining etiquette for you.

Business dining can be difficult to navigate but it is rather important. Statistics indicate that one third of business is conducted over a meal [1]. Whether you are dining with potential clients, being interviewed during a meal or attending a “power lunch” to strategize with the executive team, you want to make a good impression by having pristine business dining etiquette.

These smart dining tips will help you be a success, keeping the focus on the discussion at hand rather than creating a distraction over manners.

  • If you driving yourself, arrive early and wait for the rest of your party at the front of the restaurant. This may mean using valet parking services, so bring cash with you just in case.
  • Before being seated at the table, silence your phone so you are not distracted by a text message or phone call. Do not place your phone on the table. If you need to be available for any potentially urgent calls, put your phone on vibrate and excuse yourself to the restroom if need be.
  • Refrain from drinking an alcoholic beverage, even if your host suggests that you are welcome to order one. Wine pairing for a business dinner is one thing, but remember that alcohol can impair your faculties. You shouldn’t be the only person at the table having alcohol but if you feel comfortable having a drink at your host’s invitation, limit yourself to just one alcoholic beverage.
  • Order an entrée that complements what the other guests are eating but do not order something that is difficult to eat or overly messy, e.g. BBQ ribs. Opt for a reasonably priced menu item that you know you will enjoy, particularly if someone else is paying for the meal.
  • If your food arrives first, wait until everyone at the table has been served before eating. Take your time while eating your meal as well.
  • Remember to add to the event and be an active participant during the meal. Listen intently and contribute to the conversation thoughtfully. If there is a lull in the discussion, take that time to engage with the guests to your left and to your right.
  • When the check arrives, do not comment on the price of the meal if you are paying and leave an appropriate tip of at least 20 percent. If you are not paying for the meal, consider sending the host a thank you card the next day.

These are just a few important tips you should consider when you are preparing for a business meal. We invite currently enrolled SBMI students to attend a dining etiquette event on the evening of Feb. 9th to learn more about business dining etiquette techniques. If you are a SBMI student who is enrolled in courses this semester and you would like to attend, please complete the mandatory, online registration. This dinner is the perfect opportunity for students to learn important guidelines for business dining and to put those into practice.


  • Interview Etiquette: Dine Out Without Grossing Out. Retrieved February 2, 2015 from

written by Chelsea Overstreet