Steps for being a good guest at a business meal

Whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner, being invited to a business meal is your opportunity to strengthen relationships and perhaps close a deal. Whether you’re a CEO or sales manager out with a new prospect, or recently hired and out on your first business dinner, how you handle yourself before, during, and after a business meal will affect just how successful you will be.

While there are lots of manners associated with dining, here are seven key pieces of advice that will help ensure your success:

RSVP. While invitations to a one-on-one or small dinner are generally responded to at the ask, any time you receive an invitation when you’re not talking to the host directly, it is incumbent on you to respond right away. If you don’t know if you can attend, respond anyway and let your host know when you will have an answer.


Be on time. If I had just one piece of etiquette advice I could give, it would be to arrive on time. Being on time means you don’t have to apologize for being late. If you’re late, the first words out of your mouth are, “I’m sorry.” Having to apologize is not the way to get the meal off to a good start.

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Participate. This is an opportunity for you to shine, especially if you are at a meal with your boss and a client. Take part in the general conversation without dominating it and be sure to talk with people seated on either side of you. Leave your boss and host with the impression that you are someone they want to invite to the next event.

When ordering from a menu, think about three guidelines. Order a dish that is easy to eat. moderately priced, and familiar to you.

Follow the “One Drink Rule.” It’s the only way to be sure you won’t say or do anything that you’ll have to apologize for the next day.

Don’t chew with your mouth open or talk with your mouth full of food. It’s just plain gross, and could be the reason you aren’t invited to the next business meal.


Thank your hosts twice. First, express your thanks as you say goodbye at the end of the event and a second time when you send a thank-you note the next day.

E-mail questions about business etiquette to