By Sharon Glickman, Contributor to US Daily Review.
How many times have you been invited out to dinner by your boss or an important client? Some business people spend a night or two each and every week dining out with business associates. There’s a reason that you have an expense account – there’s no better way to build or strengthen a bond with a prospect or client than to break bread with them. Dining out is an important tool in your business development arsenal, but despite its importance, it never fails to amaze me that there are still some folks who don’t know what to eat at a business dinner. So in the interest of improving your presence image so that you are a more successful you this year, here are the basics of what NOT to eat and drink at a business dinner.
- No shellfish ever – unless you’re eating at a seafood restaurant with the express purposes of having shellfish. This includes snails (remember the scene in Pretty Woman?), mussels, lobster (you will look silly in a bib!), shrimp with the shell, and clams. But, fish in general is a good choice for a business dinner. Think salmon or flounder with a light colored sauce or even better, no sauce at all. Fish is easy to eat and unlikely to be messy.
- No ribs, fried chicken, or pork chops. Again, unless your client chooses the most famous BBQ place in the city because he wants to get down and dirty with a rack of ribs, stay away from any food that you may feel compelled to pick up with your fingers to eat. There’s no delicate way to gnaw at a bone during dinner so don’t order anything with a bone in it. If you must order a lamb chop then cut off as much meat as you can with a knife and fork and eat it while leaving the bone untouched on your plate. Furthermore, if it’s greasy it will stain and probably splatter so get greasy foods off your list as well.
- No spaghetti, linguini, or fettuccini – like greasy food, these types of pasta with sauce can easily spray and splatter, and not just on you but also your dining companions. I know that many of you will boast about your skill with a fork and spoon. I don’t really care if you have those skills (or think that you do but really never mastered the art of spaghetti twirling) because I still don’t recommend eating any food with a sauce while you’re dining out on business.
- No spinach, broccoli, strawberries or cherry tomatoes. A hard and fast rule is that if it’s a food that has seeds, or is so soft that you know it will stick to your teeth (and in between them) then keep it out of your mouth. The same is true for corn if you know you must floss after you eat it. (And it should go without saying that you should never eat corn on the cob at a business dinner but if it does land on your plate use your knife to cut the kernels off the cob and then eat the loose corn with a fork.)
- No alcohol or stop at one drink. I know this will sound counter-intuitive to many of you because drinking at business dinners is the fodder of many urban legends. For some business people, getting drunk is the main point of a long, extravagant business meal especially when trying to close a big deal. Basically, it’s never a good idea to lose control at any business event let alone dinner with your boss or client. Yes, you can enjoy a glass of wine with dinner. One Glass of Wine during the entire meal is what I want you to take from these tips. Yes, your boss may egg you on to drink more or to try the next bottle of wine because it’s a rare vintage, etc. Don’t succumb to the peer pressure. Yes, you can take a few sips of the wine in the glass the waiter sets before you but don’t drain it. Appreciate those few sips then stick to your water glass only. And never ever take your cocktail from the restaurant’s bar to the dinner table. Leave that martini – with only a sip or two taken by you – behind when you go to dinner regardless of what the others are doing. If your cocktail does end up on the dinner table, stay away from it and don’t drink it. I know you may be nervous dining out on business but you don’t need false courage from a bottle.
I have many other dining out on business tips that I will share with you in future columns. As a presence image coach, I work hard to make sure you look good when you present yourself to the world. You can reach me anytime at www.sharonglickman.com if you want to be your best you right now!