With Power Comes Responsibility: Rules For Hosting A Business Meal With Momentum

It breaks my heart when I see great opportunities lost.

Hosting a business meal can present a powerful opportunity, provided the occasion is managed and designed to spotlight its own benefits. When their role is played expertly, a host conveys executive presence, exudes a sense of curiosity and compassion, and provides an entire lunch hour full of valuable business insights for their guests.

A host should realize that he or she has the “home field advantage”. But that alone doesn’t win the ballgame. Responsibility for orchestrating and setting into motion a well-rounded and polished restaurant meeting requires you to command a table of guests gracefully, without coming off as domineering. If you find yourself playing the host role, either frequently or only periodically, I have direction for you in three early phases of the meeting. Mastering these techniques will start you off in the right direction each time, earning you respect as well as motivating your guests.

A Meeting of The Minds

Always arrive early to the venue and, if practical, sit at the table before your guests arrive. This will allow a brief meeting of the minds with your server for decisions about how to pace the meal. If the server knows that you’ll need to be in-and-out within an hour, or that you and your guests would like 10 minutes to speak before menus are presented, it will prove valuable to that pacing. This also serves to curtail routine interruptions by the server, allowing you to convey your ‘opening message’ in a seamless manner.

The Dance Begins

The moment your guests arrive is the official start of the meal, despite the absence of food and beverage. If you’re introducing people, begin with the “why”: “I’ve been looking forward to getting the two of you together because…”. If it’s a prospective client you’re courting, courtesy is the theme: “I’m grateful to have this time to learn about your business needs and challenges”. The words are yours, but the official welcome indicates subconsciously to the guests that you are directing this meal and that the ‘dance’ has begun.

Taking The Lead

Ordering food is a juncture where second-guessing may become a distraction. As the host, it’s your duty to try and prevent that second-guessing. What others should order is not your responsibility; How much to order is a valuable bit of data you should provide for your guests. Put yourself inside their minds: “I might seem gluttonous if I order an appetizer, but then again, I don’t want to stand out as the only person without one”. Once someone’s attention is diverted from conversation by this mental tug of war, it might be difficult for them to reengage. Avert this predicament by offering clues as to how they should order: “I’m going to order a starter”. Another approach is to mention that you’re not getting a starter, but that everyone else should. You may also opt to let your guests take the lead by inquiring about how heavy their appetites are, or suggesting “If you’re hungry, the 3-course prix-fixe is a great way to go. If you’re up for it, I am too.”

With a little practice of these opportunistic techniques, you’ll become a natural host, full of grace and charm, with a knack for keeping everyone focused on the business at hand.

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Start The Year Off Right: Memorize The Business Dining Dirty Dozen

In wrapping up a professionally eventful 2017, I thought I’d take a look at the 12 most important business dining missteps that I’ve covered over the years. This review can be a lesson for all of us, since often, while we find it easy to criticize others for committing business meal faux pas, we might be inadvertently breaking these very rules ourselves.

Commit to avoiding these dirty dozen restaurant no-no’s, and you’ll allow yourself and everyone else at the table to keep focused on the business dealings du jour. In the process, you’ll come off as a seasoned, nuanced professional that everyone will remember in a positive light. Start 2018 out on the right foot. Happy New Year, and let the countdown begin!

12. Forgetting Your Business Cards

What seems like a rookie mistake is actually pretty common. But it’s also the simplest mistake to avoid. Keep a stash of cards in the pockets of all your suits and handbags, and you’re less likely to be the one who shows up without them.

11. Eating With Your Mouth Open

When Mom tried to teach us to chew discretely, she was onto something. If you’re eating a sandwich alone in your car, that’s one thing. But in the presence of others, be conscious and eat like an adult. This one pairs nicely with “Don’t Speak When Your Mouth is Full”.

10. Bringing a Large Coat or Bag Into the Dining Room

Restaurants offer a coat check for a good reason: Many dining areas have limited space, and resting a bulky coat over the back of your chair cuts into that space significantly. While you’re at it, check your larger handbag too, as keeping it on the floor can create a dangerous obstacle for the servers.

9. Being Fussy About The Food You’re Served

The business meal is about the business conversation, not the food. Although it’s lovely when your steak is cooked the way you like it, when it isn’t, simply make due instead of sending it back. Unless you feel you’ll be in danger for eating what you’re served, don’t focus on the food.

8. Wearing Fragrance

This really should be Number 1 on the list, but its implications reach beyond business dining. When you’re in a restaurant, others in the room may be dining for sport, and spending hard-earned money to do so. When you’re wearing perfume or cologne, it cancels out the aromas and flavors in their food and wine. Plain and simple: Be kind to others and avoid wearing fragrance in dining establishments.

7. Ignoring The Wait Person

When a server approaches your table, it’s polite to put your conversation on hold and acknowledge them. Ignoring them until you’re good and ready is not only rude and degrading, it will leave a bad impression in front of your business associates.

6. Monopolizing The Conversation

Speaking more than you listen is an easy way to turn someone off, and is unconstructive for building rapport. For the extraverted amongst you: Teach yourself how to engage in a balanced conversation. Besides, you’ll never learn from others if you’re always talking.

5. Drinking Too Much Alcohol

It goes without saying that becoming intoxicated at a business meal will not earn you too much respect. If you’re unsure how to pace your consumption, consider cutting yourself off after one glass of wine. But the best approach is to avoid ordering alcohol altogether.

4. Arriving Late

Arriving at or after the scheduled time for a business lunch is a many-folded mistake. You’ll be seen as irresponsible, you’ll take longer to settle into being present, and you can indirectly cause anguish to others partaking. Make a deal with yourself that 10-minutes early equals on-time.

3. Not Following Up

It would be such a waste for you and everyone else at the meeting to have spent the time and effort gathering if you didn’t commit to follow-up communications afterward. Make it a priority to go through the email protocol to connect with everyone after the lunch or dinner meeting.

2. Gossiping About Confidential Matters

Some teenage habits are hard to break. But when you drag your urge to gossip into the business world, there are real consequences. Be smart by being intuitive and self-disciplined: Never discuss confidential matters at the business meal….you never know who’s listening.

And, the number-one most important business meal faux pas….

1. Mishandling Your Silverware

Bet you didn’t see this one coming. I can’t stress enough how essential it is for exuding class, polish, and a sense of experience to handle your eating utensils like a civilized adult. This includes knowing which utensils to use for which course, and avoiding “playing the cello” while trying to cut your steak.

For further reading on why business meals are such powerful platforms for gaining business advantages and developing your network, link to my article on Forbes.


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Ask And You Shall Receive: Networking As A Two-Way Street

Interviewing seasoned professionals has been a great way for me to gain wisdom and insight into industry trends, company challenges, and corporate culture, and has provided me with a sounding board for new ideas. I value such opportunities, and during discussions I actively reciprocate for these individuals and for other professionals for whom I could be of added value. But when someone asks if they could “pick my brain”, I instantly feel less excited about the prospect of helping them. Their intentions might be harmless, but the imagery in their language reminds me a bit too much of a famously disturbing movie scene starring Anthony Hopkins and Ray Liota.

Even if I hadn’t had the misfortune of viewing and remembering that scene, I would still remain somewhat apprehensive about the request. A subtle negative vein of intent runs through this stale idiom, and it’s related to the one-way benefit that it implies. It shouts, “You give, I get”, exhibiting zero evidence that any interaction with this person will yield an opportunity for discussion. The value that I bring to the table is worth more than that, and so is yours….a notion that young professionals in particular often forget.

When you find yourself on the ask, it lends enormously to your professional credibility if you use a creative and polite approach. Here are some suggestions that, if properly employed, can open a spigot of sought advice from other professionals.

Linguistically Speaking

“I’d be grateful for your perspective.”

 “I admire your accomplishments. Would you be willing to share your wisdom?”

 “I’m actively working to understand your industry’s challenges, and have great respect for your perspective.”

 “I value your viewpoint” or “I’d benefit greatly from your outlook. Would you be willing to invest in a 15-minute phone call?”

These are all examples of sincere, well-received spoken language possibilities useful in appealing for favors or advice from someone in your network.  Notice that not only do they express respect for, and gratitude to the other party, but they intrinsically imply a sentiment of sharing, leaving open-ended the possibility for the person to tap you for your perspective. It’s a learn-learn situation. Master this eloquence, and you will not only receive as often as you give, but you will find yourself at the center of a well-oiled network.

Beyond Words

In addition to knowing what to say and how to say it, it’s wise to have a specific agenda or goal in mind before you engage in the ask. Without this sense of purpose, your request will run the risk of being mistaken as random chat or catching up. Organize your thoughts in advance, don’t beat around the bush, and proceed with confidence in a manner that will make it entirely clear what you are seeking. Fear not that your confidence will be interpreted as presumption or arrogance; with the use of right language, you will earn respect and likely receive what you set out for.

Never Forget To Follow Up

Once your request is granted (because true professionals genuinely want to help), there are two rules of protocol that are necessary for showing your appreciation and maintaining the momentum in your relationship. First and foremost, if the favor was a lead or an introduction, do not blow it off! Formally thank the person by email, indicating your big takeaway or plans for taking next steps (give yourself bonus points for a handwritten card!). I like the touch of sending the person a published article or an idea or even a lead, based on what I’ve learned from them.

The 2nd rule: Keep the person in the loop regarding your progress with the lead by periodically checking in. This will not only serve to demonstrate what they’ve done for you was a good move and worth their efforts, but it is a clever way to keep their awareness of you refreshed.


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How ‘bout Those Mets?: Networking for Women in a “Man’s World”

A woman once admitted to me that she worked “alone”, indicating that she was on her own in a workplace of mainly men, and wasn’t getting ahead. This is a truism, as many corporate women have come to realize, particularly in the hedge fund world. Often, by design or inadvertently, such male-dominated workplace situations are squeezing the female constituency out of the equation, and both parties suffer as a result.

That same woman sheepishly asked me if it would be to her benefit to learn to play golf, since that’s what the guys do together to network. Not a bad idea. However, it’s not the only approach to penetrating the “boy’s club” and networking in settings other than conventional networking events. In fact, with minimal effort asserted in a few specialized areas of interest, you will begin to command respect and gain the confidence to seize the same opportunities afforded to men in the business world. Consider some favorites, which have worked well for me and countless other successful women.

The Gender-Neutral Sport

In New York City, dining out is a sport for many, and it can be an even playing field with respect to gender. Fine-tuning your business dining etiquette is your ticket to playing in the big leagues. Along the way, consider familiarizing yourself with the hottest NYC restaurants, get a feel for modern cuisine, and treat yourself to a course in understanding wine. Being in the know can ultimately bridge the gap between you and the business networking scene.

The Sports Section is Your Friend

It might sound like a dreadful task if you don’t follow professional sports, but you should strongly consider skimming the newspaper sports section before you line the birdcage with it. If you’re up-to-date on the latest local sports news, you have no excuse not to be able to tap into any male-oriented discussion. It’s not like you’ll need to follow the games; just keep an eye on the team standings, and you’ll never be left out of the conversation.

Use Your Poker Face

One way to think like a successful man is to partake in the traditionally male hobby of poker playing. Poker Prima Divas teaches women introductory poker skills, and equates those poker principles to the business world. Joining one of their sessions can be effective in growing your teambuilding, leadership and negotiation skills, and can double as an evening of fun and networking for you and a colleague or client. Check out the Poker Prima Divas website, and get into the game.

Bypass the Gender Stereotypes Altogether

Don’t lose sight of the fact that not everything men enjoy doing is exclusively “male” in nature. Poke around and discover the other hobbies or interests of the men you work with, and then get creative. Visiting museums, attending the opera, walking in Central Park, and touring Manhattan are all popular, gender-neutral activities suitable for group participation or one-on-one meetings.


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Seizing The Spotlight: 6 Tips for Speaking on a Panel

If you had told me five years ago that one day I would be asked to speak about business on a panel, I would’ve assumed you had the wrong Deborah. Today, I find myself not only doing so periodically, but in some lucky circumstances, have had the honor of moderating such panels. Along this short journey, I’ve already picked up enough pointers to author an advice column about the ins and outs of the panel appearance format.

If you aspire to be a discussion panelist, or already find yourself winging it in the panel arena, it helps to understand that there are many layers to the art of effectiveness when you’re in the spotlight. This article will take you through the six essential aspects of maximizing your panel opportunities. If you perfect these techniques for boosting your confidence and polishing your demeanor, you can also prepare to be asked back to speak again and again.

State Your Name

Strangely, it’s not unheard of for even an experienced panelist to forget to begin by stating their name, occupation and their relevance to the discussion. I don’t have to explain why it’s fundamental to the effectiveness of your contribution for the audience to know who you are and what company you represent. What I do have to stress it how important it is to remind yourself to tell them, first and foremost.

Ease On In

This one’s for the introvert in us all: It’s completely normal for you to be nervous as the panel discussion commences. My advice is to just accept this as human nature, and do your best not to let on about it. A good approach is to be mindful of your posture and breathing before you speak the first time around. Exhale deeply before you introduce yourself. If you can pull off a smooth opening, just watch how relaxed you suddenly become.

Mind Your Speech

As we’ve discussed before in our articles about “unspeakable speech”, it’s to your benefit to be conscious of your speech patterns and vocal delivery. When presenting to a group or audience, your message is in danger of being taken less seriously if awkwardly intoned. Make every effort to avoid uptalk, vocal fry, monotone speech, and swallowing your words.

Grow Into Your Space

As the discussion unfolds, take note of how long or short the other panelists’ answers are, and make sure you take your allotted time to speak your own answers. You’ve been asked onto the panel because it has been established that you have something important to add; Stay politely within bounds, but don’t be a pushover or shortchange yourself.

photo 1 (17)Dress Strategically

Remember: Many modern panel discussions take place from behind a table, rather than at a dais. This is your cue to dress comfortably, as you’ll be sitting down for a while. Ladies: Consider wearing slacks rather than a skirt, so you can focus on the discussion instead of being conscious of keeping your legs crossed.

One Last Simple Detail

As with all business gatherings, meetings and networking events, always have business cards on hand for after a panel discussion. When people approach you, it’s a nifty way of keeping the conversation going after everyone departs. Your card has the power to prompt folks to visit your website, read your blog, acquire your book, and hopefully engage in future dealings with you.


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The Show-Up: Conveying Your Business Values in One Swift Move

As we run around frantically from meeting to meeting, bobbing and weaving through our business day on the street, our minds can sometimes work against us. The more coordinates we jam into our schedules, the more time our brains spend trapped in the past and the future, treating the present as an afterthought.

When I deliver workshops, seminars or addresses about Strategic DiningSM, I always stress how important it is to take a moment, breathe, and come to the present before walking into a business meal. This clearing of the mind should include reviewing your personal goals of the meeting while predicting what the other diners’ agendas might entail. Such an exercise is essential for influencing the direction of the approaching business conversation.

An Additional Consideration

For those of you who are ready to take their business presence to the next level, I’m pleased to announce a supplementary point to consider before you walk into that meal, meeting, or networking event. Perhaps even more important than all other aspects is being mindful of how you want to “show up”. We all show up differently depending on the scenario. But by making the way we show up deliberate, instead of swayed by mood or circumstance, we visibly deliver a premeditated message. For instance, did you have a rough start to your day that threw you off-focus? Or, did you just receive a message that your plans will be altered later that afternoon? Learning to re-channel such past/future stressors so you can be fully in the moment when you show up can make or break your impact at the meeting.

You Can Pull It Off

What do you want people to say after meeting you or working with you? What are your most cherished values, and how do you convey them? You can also think long-term. What would you want people to say at your retirement party? A solid way to start is by thinking of three adjectives you would desire people to use when describing you. Think about yourself, meditate on your standards and principles, make your list, and then show up with confidence!

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Let’s Do Brew: Troubleshooting The Strategic Coffee Meeting

Sometimes, “Let’s Do Lunch” isn’t entirely the right “Do”. Honestly, not every small business meeting needs to involve the expense of a 3-course prix fixe, two glasses of Sancerre and a 20% tip, not to mention the 60 to 90-minute commitment.

My own solution to this is “Let’s Do Coffee”, which turns out to be the setting for 3 to 6 of my most effective one-on-one business meetings each week. The coffee shop option is full of practicality on all levels, but like fine dining, also comes with potential pitfalls ready to trap those of us who lack experience or intuition. For anyone who fancies the caffeinated conference format, take the following bits of advice from someone who leads the charge.

Tick, Tock.

The first thing to keep in mind about coffee meetings is that the timing is not as defined as it would be with lunch meetings. For instance, I’ve had half-hour coffees that, in actuality, were 15 minutes too long; On the flip side, there have been two-hour coffees where we’ve just scratched the surface of our business at hand. Good practice is to get a feel for how much time the other person has, and set a cell phone alarm for a “hard stop” about ten minutes before a departure is required. This will preserve the flow of any deep conversation, while promising that scheduled commitments are met.

The Walking Coffee

To state the obvious, you can’t make a reservation at a coffee spot. If the line is long and the tables are full, it could carve an enormous chunk out of your meeting time. This is why arriving early for a coffee is even more important than for a lunch meeting. An additional technique I use for keeping on schedule is scouting out a public space near our date location that we can walk to once we’ve purchased our coffee to go. Now that the weather is mild, walking coffees will prove far more practical. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to get a little sunshine and exercise in the process. Here’s my secret cultured coffee hideout, if you happen to be meeting between 9 and 10:30am.

The Ambiguous Hour

Often, the coffee meeting time that works for both of you will fall close enough to either side of lunchtime as to suggest a small meal is in order. The androgyny of an 11am or 1pm coffee will certainly prompt you to choose your spot differently. My advice is to be mindful of the other party’s food preferences or lifestyle when making your choice. I know it’s hard to believe, but not everyone likes Starbucks! Just some brief online research the day before will help you zero in on an appropriate venue in any neighborhood.


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Applying The 80/20 Rule to Remote Network Management, Part 1: The 20%

Today’s approach to satellite employment clearly has its advocates and advantages. A New York Times article indicated last year that 43 percent of employed Americans said they spent at least some time working remotely, according to a survey of more than 15,000 adults. The ability to work from home, or from anywhere for that matter, can be a gift when it comes to flexibility and productivity. What liberation! However, remote work sure does make managing your network a tough challenge. But tough does not mean impossible! Just like with face-to-face networking, remote networking requires a ranking system, and we need to be thoughtful about it. The truth is, there is a set of parameters that, when adhered to, can add practicality back into network management for the satellite-bound, and for the rest of us as well.

Defining 80/20, and Getting Started.

As you surely realize on some level, not all network contacts are created equally. You’ll need to determine the key contacts you want to be in touch with frequently, which can be accomplished through the Pareto Principle. I first discovered this concept in the wine business, where it was introduced to me by a dear colleague as the 80/20 Rule. In practice, it dictates that you spend 80% of your time and energy on 20% of your accounts. When the same strategy is applied to network management by my clients, it is met with resounding success.

When getting started, keep in mind that your time is finite, and networking is NOT your main professional task. Prepare a list of your key contacts and VIP’s: Your 20%. Then develop a second list of folks you want to check-in with quarterly or semi-annually. Aim for a ratio that tags 20% of your active network as key contacts, and 80% as 2nd and 3rd-tier contacts. You noticed correctly— divide the 80% into two groups: 2nd-tier contacts should be people you have some sort of relationship with, while 3rd-tier contacts are people whom you’ve met and don’t really know, including thought leaders in your area of expertise that you haven’t yet met. Then, get ready to apply some strategies that have worked for DRIVEN’s clients.

The Rules of Engagement

To effectively stay connected with and on the minds of your 20-percenters, it’s wise to give them more than just a two-dimensional version of you. Here are the four rules to apply to these contacts:

  1. Actively schedule 30-minute phone calls to catch up. Have a coffee meeting over the phone, or more intimately, a Skype session. Keep a running agenda or continual commentary with these folks about what you’ve touched upon, so you can make your time spent more meaningful and aimed in the right direction. Remember to inquire about topics that matter to them, and ask for status updates about topics you’ve covered in the past.
  2. Find reasons to reach out via email. Legitimate business reasons are the most authentic. For instance, sign up for their distribution list and forward them any newsletter that has details of interest to you with a comment about what’s going on in their firm. You could also set up a Google Alert so when something comes through that warrants a congratulation or an inquiry, you can forward the article with your thoughts. On the more manufactured but fun side of outreach, consider birthdays, half-birthdays, and the anniversary of your first meeting or phone call.
  3. Leverage snail mail. Send your contact a book you think they’ll enjoy, a printout of an article, or something torn from a good old-fashioned magazine with a brief handwritten comment. Just think of their glee when they open their mailbox and find something addressed to them that’s not a bill!
  4. When you ARE in proximity. Go ahead and meet for coffee or a bite. You can even arrange a lunch to introduce contacts to each other.

The #1 rule of remote networking is to commit to it! It’s even more important for you to block out time, schedule-in your networking outreach, and ignore your brain when it says “do it later”. As a follow-up to these rules, my next article will explore managing the 80-percenters.

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Table Mates: The Dos and Don’ts of Interacting With Your Waiter

A successful business meal can be equated to a delicate dance being performed exquisitely. The three dancers are the meal host, the guests(s), and the server(s). The dance is their seasoned, polite and attentive interactions that allow the meal to run seamlessly, with just the right amount of focus allocated to business conversation vs dining. Cutting into this dance without knowing the steps will inevitably spoil its rhythm, defeating the purpose of the gathering. My advice to you as a former restaurateur is to practice your steps, and when necessary, allow the server to take the lead.

“Would You Like Some Karma With Your Espresso?”

The restaurant server has a specific job to do, which reaches far beyond acting as our “servant”. In the days before Top Chef and Steve Dublanica’s Waiter Rant, I worked as a restaurant server as well as an owner, where I witnessed high-powered business people and celebs galore not always grasping this concept. The resulting “wait staff karma” was never pretty, lending cautionary insight to the story. Plain and simple: Mistreating a restaurant server is more likely to end badly for the guest than for the server. Here’s a related true story:

When Cooper worked for a major investment bank, one of his money managers invited a huge pending client for dinner to celebrate the seemingly done deal. The next morning, the “client” called Cooper directly and said he couldn’t in good conscience invest his money with him. Cooper was shocked! When he asked why, the gentleman said it was due to how rudely the money manager treated the wait staff at the dinner meeting. The money manager was sacked.

And Another….

A frustrated wait staffer had been dealing with a belligerent, abusive business meal host, who attempted to “entertain” his guests at the server’s expense. In a strange twist of fate, when settling up after the meal, all three of the man’s credit cards were declined. Can you imagine the embarrassment in front of the big shots he was trying to impress? Only over a glass of wine later that evening did the server confess to me that, in an extreme but not inconceivable move, she’d never even attempted to process the credit cards!

Show Me You Care

When a little bit of mindfulness and a whole lot of integrity are parts of the formula, our interactions with wait staffs can have magical outcomes, likened to synchronized teamwork. Let me equip you with my business dining checklist…a code of etiquette, if you will, that will ensure your business meals will run like well-oiled machines, and your business dealings will have fruitful results:

-Be alert and pause your conversation each time the server approaches your table. It shouldn’t take the clearing of a throat to round up the party’s attention. A good trick to get others in your party to comply is to begin to turn yourself toward the server as he or she approaches.

-Make true eye contact with the server from the start. This will establish a connection and increase the chances you’ll be able to catch an eye later….like when you’ll need a new napkin.

-Instead of having the server repeat their list, listen the first time to the salad dressing, bread, and starch choices. Just think about how careless you would come across in front of others, having not paid attention.

-If you’ve moved your bread plate in front of you, move it out of the way (back to the left) as food arrives. Often both of the server’s hands are full when approaching the table, and your attention to this detail will lend more to the rhythm of their service than you might realize.

-Don’t reach for a dish that the waiter is attempting to serve unless the waiter signals for your help. You know the drill….it will likely be too hot to touch and lead to a small disaster.

-Don’t stack your used plates.

-Don’t raise your glass up for wine to be poured.

-Don’t shove an empty bottle upside down into the ice bucket….this is the ultimate rookie move (See my rundown on wine service for all the juicy details).

Fellow servers: what can you add to the list to help diners help you?

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When Things Go Wrong at the Business Meal, Part Three: Mistaken Orders

At this point, it may have become my most resonant motto: When dining out for business, the occasion is not about the meal….it’s about the business. However, it’s pretty hard to ignore the “meal” part of the equation. This is after all an occasion for ingesting food, which, depending on the individual, can range from being a health/allergy concern, to a personal sacrament, to a chance to acquire some protein during a rigidly-scheduled work day. With this in mind, let’s finally delve into the familiar sphere of food service slip-ups and their most realistic solutions from the business diner’s perspective.

When Food is Not The Focus For You

For those of us business diners who are not picky eaters or cursed by food allergies, a good general rule when the wrong dish arrives for you at the table, and it’s established that no one else ordered it, is to simply let it go. Case in point: You order a roasted half chicken, salmon arrives at your place setting, and you don’t dislike salmon. The appropriate reaction: Enjoy your salmon. This will save time, eliminate fuss, and keep the focus on the business at hand.

The Work-Around

Another common food service blunder is when the correct dish arrives, but is not cooked to order. This, too, requires little or no fuss on your part, and need not even be made public. Silently work around the mistake, and keep the conversation on track. Did you order a steak cooked medium-rare, only to find the meat medium-well? You know the drill: The rarest part is in the middle, so start eating there. Did your meat arrive too rare? Work from the outside in. Is your pasta over-cooked? Just be thankful your sweetbreads were not under-cooked, and dig in.

When Food is a Real Concern For You

For the rest of us (myself included), sometimes receiving the wrong dish is just not a tolerable scenario. Consider that salmon situation. Perhaps seafood often makes you ill, or like me, you are turned off by fattier fish. How do you correct the mistake without disrupting the rhythm of the business meeting or the meal? The best solution here is to send back your salmon, but not necessarily for what you originally ordered. Ask instead for an item that’s quick to prepare (soup is a perfect contender), as this will allow you to be served more quickly and finish your meal in sync with the rest of your party.

Put The Odds in Your Favor

Although steak, pork chops, rack of lamb, lobster, and linguine with clam sauce all sound delightful, they are far from practical at business meals. Think realistically: If the dish has a high probability of being wrongly prepared, or requires a bib and wet napkins to consume, it might be a good idea to steer clear. More practical options include chopped salads, chowder, risotto, gnocchi, rigatoni, penne, scallops, and any other hands-free, single utensil dish that sounds tasty. Simple problems often have simple solutions.

Have you any recommendations for troubleshooting food-service slip-ups? Reply with your ideas. Click here to read Part 2 of When Things Go Wrong.

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