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Business Dining Tips: How to Wine and Dine Your Way to the Deal 

  • By Judith Bowman
  • |
  • December 5, 2017

Advisors and business professionals at all levels have long-held the notion that wooing prospective new hires and closing a deal over lunch is extremely effective. However, I am thrilled to tell you there is now evidence to support this belief, according to Lakshmi Balachandra, a Harvard fellow.

Inside the Dining Research

Ms. Balachandra’s work subjected participants to simulating deal-making both with and without breaking bread.  Results concluded that venue, service, ambiance and cuisine all impressively contributed to deals yielding millions of dollars more in value than deals made sans the dining experience.

From the biological perspective, brain activity increased as glucose levels that boost brain activity were released, serotonin (aka the “happy hormone”) was emitted and unconscious levels of social behavior were more robust.

From the emotional/psychological and very human perspective, interpersonal relationships were positively enriched as a direct result of this seemingly innocuous mundane business ritual.

Embracing the Results

While dining out and dining-related stimuli might make us more agreeable, business dinners can be high pressure which is why you want everything from directions to dessert to be intact.

Please know unequivocally:  there is more to astute business dining than merely selecting the right restaurant.  The judicious professional is aware that while venue, menu and service are important, being confident (as a guest or host) is critical and preparation is key as knowledge of traditional dining skills is fundamental to business success.  The little things orchestrated pre, during and post business meals are not small at all and do not “just happen.”

I’ve always asserted that deals get done and relationships are strengthened (or shattered) as a result of something we may or may not have done right at lunch.  When you take the time, go to the trouble, make the effort to learn, prepare for, practice, master and execute the little things at any out-of-office repast, this is noticed and judged, and signals you give like attention in (other) business matters.

Here are 13 Top Dining Tips for Success

Arrive in advance to accomplish the following:

  • Learn (name of) waitstaff and become familiar with restaurant; you never want to be placed in the position of having to answer any question – including location of the restroom with “I don’t know.”
  • Pre-select table and pre-arrange seating with waitstaff. Remember, you honor the most important person by positioning them to the host’s right. Alternatively, hosts may thoughtfully offer best view/most comfortable seat to guest.
  • Review order of ordering e.g.  person of honor orders first; women at the table order next; then gentlemen order; host always orders last.
  • Do a “time check” as soon as you are seated.  Share this information with waitstaff to respect their schedule.
  • Suggest you order immediately to get ordering ‘out of the way’ and optimize time together.
  • Do not order the least or most expensive item/s on the menu.
  • Pace yourself; do not be the first or last to finish eating.
  • Order course for course with your dining partner to avoid the awkward situation of watching them eat.Note:  it is not necessary to order an alcoholic beverage if they do and you do not care for one, for whatever reason.  That said, order anything other than plain tap water.
  • Provide your credit card to waitstaff in advance.  Specify that under no circumstances should check be presented at the table with instructions to add 20% (more for better, less, etc.) – after the repast, excuse yourself (no need to say where you are going,) sign and be seated. Le cheque is eliminated and … Voila!  No awkwardness.
  • Rule:  never discuss business at the table unless this has been mutually agreed upon in advance as the purpose of the repast.  Business discussions – if at all, should be conducted at the beginning of dessert or, unless client initiates.
  • Walk guests outside and perhaps even to their car if possible, and thank them for joining you.
  • Make/take personal notes (privately) and use this information in subsequent communication including thanks you notes, to advance relationships.
  • Remember ‘thank you’ notes. Send an email note of thanks (to an e-culture individual) then follow-up with the timeless, traditional hand-written note on your quality, personalized stationery (use blue ink) … to serve as another reminder of you and reinforce your “brand.”

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Author Bio

Judith Bowman founded Protocol Consultants International in 1993 and has prospered to become an established Business Protocol expert, educator, corporate speaker, and renowned authority in the field of Professional Presence, Dining Savvy, International Protocol Awareness, and personal and professional development. Ms. Bowman also provides Protocol Certification. She is a graduate of Boston College and has pursued studies in Effective Business Communication at Harvard University. Ms. Bowman speaks to critical interpersonal communication skills and shares specific nuances advantageous to exemplary conduct in today’s fast-paced and highly competitive global work environment. She showcases everyday business situations and shows professionals how to leverage these as opportunities to demonstrate respect while earning respect - while showing you know “the difference” while making a difference to stand apart and outclass the competition! Ms. Bowman has authored two business protocol books: “Don’t Take the Last Donut…” (Career Press) presently sold in 16 countries, translated in 14 languages, and her new book, “How to Stand Apart @ Work …” She has authored a weekly Everyday Etiquette column syndicated throughout New England for ten years by the Pulitzer Prize winning Eagle Tribune Publishing Company. Internationally, she authored a Business Protocol column for the prestigious Noblesse Magazine, China. She presently writes a weekly Business Protocol column for Boston Herald newspapers and has a coordinating weekly radio segment, “A Protocol Moment” on Herald Radio. She also writes a monthly Fabulous Woman series which features truly fabulous women who have shattered the glass ceiling and has been featured in Leader to Leader, March, 2015. Bowman has produced a series of support products which include: Executive Etiquette/First Impressions DVD, DINING 101 DVD and Protocol Training DVD – from her on-line How to Stand Apart series.