Client Communications

Here are five tips for making a lunch with a client a true success

By Fiona Collie |

For a business lunch to be successful, you need to focus on the client and not what fork you should be using.

"When your manners are impeccable, then you can forget about them," says Joanne Blake, owner of Style for Success Inc. in Edmonton,  "and concentrate on the presentation or getting to know one another."

Make these five tips routine to focus on the client — and not your manners — at your next business lunch:

1. Use the correct place setting
When you first sit down at the table, it's important to know which bread plate and glass to reach for.

Many people aren't familiar with a basic table setting, says Blake, and large round tables can be particularly confusing. The bread plate is always to the left and the water glass on the right.

"If someone inadvertently takes your bread plate," she says, "don't make a big deal of it."

2. Hold your cutlery properly
Be mindful of how you hold your utensils when eating lunch. Forks should be held lightly, says Blake, and not gripped like a bat. Blake recommends practicing either the American or continental styles of eating.

The American style consists of holding the fork in your left hand and the knife in your right, she says, and cutting two or three pieces of meat at one time. Then place your knife down and switch the fork to the right hand to scoop up your food. If using this style be careful not to be too noisy when placing your knife down.

In contrast, the continental style of holding cutlery involves keeping the fork in your left hand and the knife in your right at all times, she says. Cut your meat one piece at a time and eat as you go.

"Cut small pieces [of food]," she says, "because invariably, it's when you have food in your mouth that someone asks you a question and that can be a little awkward."

3. Keep your napkin handy
Use the napkin properly to look collected and polished at your next business lunch.

Place the napkin on your lap as soon as you are seated, says Blake. If you need to leave the table during the meal, the napkin goes on your chair.

4. Don't clutch a wine glass
Holding a wine glass properly can show off your good manners and keep your drink cool.

Hold a wine glass by the stem so as to not warm up the wine, says Blake. Grasp every glass by the stem, if it has one, to make it a habit.

5. Know the signals
Use your utensils and napkin to quietly signal to servers to remove your plate.

When you've finished your meal, says Blake, loosely fold your napkin and place it on the left-hand side of the plate. Never scrunch up the napkin and throw it on your plate.

Another way to signal you've finished eating, she says, is to place your knife and fork together in the five o'clock position on your plate.