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CONTEMPORARY COURTESIES A COLUMN BY KAREN HICKMAN

Etiquette column: Mixing meals and business

Friday, March 28, 2014 - 7:40 am

Q.: Karen, as a businesswoman, I entertain many clients over a meal. When I am the host of male clients, who gets served first? Wait staff people usually serve the women first, but is seems to me that the guest should be served first.

A.: The business world is gender neutral and the social arena is gender based. That means in business there are the same expectations for women as for men. A woman entertaining business clients for a meal allows her guests to be served first, regardless of gender. She also takes care of every aspect of the dining situation, including paying the bill, tipping and directing the wait staff.

Some ways to make any business dining situation go more smoothly:

•Choose a restaurant where you are comfortable and can easily manage all the details, but do be sensitive to your guests' food preferences or restrictions.

•Confirm your appointment the morning of the meeting via email or voice message.

•Offer your cellphone number to your guests so they can contact you if they will be delayed.

•Tell your guests where you will meet — at the table or in the foyer.

•Arrive 10 to 15 minutes ahead of your guests and let the wait staff know you are in charge and that your guests are to be served first.

•Inform the wait staff as to your time frame. If you are on a tight schedule, they need to know that.

•Make sure your guest has the best seat with the best view.

•Make suggestions to your guests as to what is good on the menu so they have some idea of what to order.

•Allow your guests to order first and then order a comparable number of courses.

•Take care of the bill ahead of time and ask that the bill not be brought to the table so there is no question as to who's paying.

Karen Hickman is a local certified etiquette/protocol consultant and owner of Professional Courtesy. To submit questions, email features@news-sentinel.com.