Dining is an art. A dance. If you know the steps, you enjoy the process. If not, then you feel like you’re doing the Cotton-Eyed Joe while everyone else in the room is waltzing. (Some of you may be thinking, “Wait! I want to be the Cotton-Eyed Joe guy!” Maybe I should have gone with The Chicken Dance? Macarena? Don’t be difficult!)
We all know how to eat. Some of us are actually quite skilled in that area. What we need to learn is the dance of dining. Why? Because it is nearly impossible to be a part of corporate America without working lunches, client dinners, catered trainings, and office functions. Dining is one of those details that matter.
So what do you need to know? In the Air Force, we used the KISS philosophy. Keep It Simple, Stupid. (Not actual kissing – which was discouraged in uniform and would be an entirely different blog entry.) So here is my take on KISS dining. It doesn’t include a fish fork or sorbet course but it will get you through dinner with the boss.
- Watch what you order! If it’s served with a bib or moist towelettes, it’s not a good choice for a business dinner.
- Wait until everyone’s been served before eating.
- When you sit down, put your napkin on your lap.
- Keep those elbows off the table while you’re eating. It’s okay to rest them on the table between courses or after the meal.
- Utensils are used from the outside – in. So if you have more than one fork, use the one on the outside first.
- Don’t chew with your mouth open or while talking! No need to elaborate on that one, right?
- Bread – break off one bite-sized piece at a time, butter and eat it before breaking off the next piece.
- Bennett Cerf said, “Good manners: The noise you don’t make when you’re eating soup.”
- Don’t critique the food. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
- Never drink alcohol at a corporate event. Just kidding. (Had you worried there didn’t I?) A more realistic rule to follow is to not drink at lunch and only have one drink with dinner. You don’t want to be tomorrow’s story in the break room.
That’s it. Simple. Easy. Even in the most formal of situations, these rules will carry you through. Knowing the KISS dining method allows you to focus on the conversation. Speaking of conversation, a conversation is like a dance …