When Things Go Wrong at the Business Meal, Part One: Tabletop Navigation
Business meals are ideal venues to build rapport, develop business and maintain your network. At Goldie’s Table Matters we work to educate business professionals through workshops in Strategic Dining℠, ensuring they maximize the opportunities presented at the restaurant table.
Only when second-guessing is eliminated can attention be paid to the business at hand: building relationships at the table. Of course, understanding everyone’s roles at the table and becoming mindful of environment and situational scenarios are important pieces in the puzzle as well. As a host, connecting these pieces with grace and precision will bring fond results.
However, all precautions heeded, business dining still isn’t a slam dunk. The restaurant business is a human business after all, subject to human error. Add a dash of ethnic, cultural or traditional contrast into the mix and the uncertainty factor inflates. Bottom line: Things WILL go wrong….a predicament that should leave you with the supplemented mission of being responsive as opposed to reactionary in light of the uncontrollable.
This series of blog posts will explore questions of etiquette faux pas, food challenges, and human uncertainty in the business dining setting. It is also an open forum for you to submit your own situations, experiences, and questions.
BMWs For Everyone!
Let’s begin with basic table etiquette, or what I like to call Tabletop Navigation. As you may already know, your bread plate is to the left of your main plate, and your water glass is to the right (think Bread-Main-Water, or BMW). Invariably, others won’t know this trick, and occasionally will assume your bread plate or water glass as their own. The two most common reactions to this unintentional faux pas are vocally correcting the fellow diner (never a good idea, as this can breed embarrassment), or following suit (which in turn leaves someone else with no bread plate). The appropriate solution should instead be a responsive approach. For instance, any plate presented can double as a bread plate. Try using the rim of your salad plate to rest your bread upon. Or, simply skip the bread this time….remember, the business meal is about business first.
A Watered-Down Response
While bread plate infractions have simple solutions, losing your water glass to your neighboring diner will require some polite creativity. Discretely asking the server for a replacement glass of water is not always failsafe. The seasoned diner in you should consider aiming higher by asking for a club soda instead. This smooth move is a considerate gesture in disguise, as it brings NO attention to the fact that you’ve been shortchanged by the offender. Additionally, others at the table who are tuned-into B-M-W etiquette will quietly grant you points for your kindness and savvy.
A Word From YOU
The most fascinating part of navigating through the business meal is troubleshooting unforeseen obstacles on-the-fly. The possibilities are a-plenty, and can even be inadvertently comical. Feel free to respond with examples of your encounters, and your questions about how to handle them. I’ll get the conversation started with a common favorite: What do you do when someone at your table has spinach in their teeth?
Stay tuned for Part II.
Deborah Goldstein is the founder of the Women’s Advancement Compact, a community driven to support the health, well-being & success potential of NYC professionals. Deborah is also the founder of Goldie’s Table Matters, providing education and entertainment to both corporate and private clients nationwide.