3.13.2008

Let's do lunch

For those of us who work at home, the occasional business lunch can be an opportunity to network with new contacts and develop strong, long-term business relationships. It's also an opportunity to fall flat on our faces into our oyster bisque.

At-home workers get out of practice when it comes to dining with others. We often spend the day in our pajamas, noshing on whatever's handy, washing it down with copious amounts of coffee. When you work all by yourself, no one's there to disapprove as you graze all day. If you want to eat Ding-Dongs for breakfast, so be it. Olives out of the jar make a dandy lunch you can eat right at the computer. And who needs a napkin when you're wearing absorbent flannel pajamas?

But when a boss or business contact summons us to a lunch out, we must mind our manners. Remember, a business lunch isn't about food. It's about making an impression. No matter how light and lively the conversation, it can be ruined if you have spinach wedged between your teeth and ketchup on your shirtfront.

Here, then, are some rules to follow when attending a business lunch:

--A bathrobe is not proper business attire. Dining out means you're required to wear actual clothes. This can be a problem for the at-home worker, especially if a steady diet of Ding-Dongs means none of your pants fit anymore.

--Dark, solid colors work best because they don't show spills or sweat. Beyond that, you want spills and drips to blend in with whatever you're wearing. For instance, if you're wearing a white shirt, it's better to order a white pasta sauce than a red one. If you're a real pig at the table, you might want to stick with wild patterns, such as Hawaiian shirts. These aren't particularly business-like, but they'll hide a multitude of sins. And remember: Neckties are for dipping.

--Bibs are out, unless you're eating lobster. Keep your napkin spread across your lap and trust gravity to take care of the rest.

--Avoid messy foods such as soup, spaghetti, sloppy joes, tacos, chili dogs, spare ribs, buffalo wings, cheeseburgers, mashed potatoes with gravy, eggs benedict. A good rule of thumb: If it looks good, you can't have it, it's too messy. Try ordering plain lettuce. Careful not to get it wedged between your teeth.

--Follow your host's lead when it comes to ordering. If your host orders something light and inexpensive, better not to order the rack of lamb yourself. When you're paying, order something in the right price range so your guest can follow your example. Again, plain lettuce works.

--Order the same number of courses as your host. That way, you won't still be scarfing dessert while he's looking at his watch.

--Skip the booze, even if your host consumes the traditional three martinis. Somebody's got to drive him back to his office.

--Don't flirt with the waitress. It's unseemly, even if she started it.

--Don’t ask a lot of questions of the waiter. This makes you appear picky and weird. If you don't recognize a particular sauce or entrĂ©e listed on the menu, then order something else. There's always lettuce.

--Don't ridicule the waiter when he offers "fresh ground pepper with that." Sure, there's pepper right there on the table, but the waiter has to ask. It's his job.

--Don't talk with your mouth full. Yes, you're excited about your ideas and you want to squeeze every topic you can into this business lunch. But clients are turned off by the sight of chewed food. Trust us.

--Toothpicks are to be used in private places, such as in your car. Ditto for dental floss.

--When the meal is over, stand up from the table and brush the crumbs from your lap. Confidently shake hands and give your lunch partner a big smile. That way, he can see for himself that you have gravy on your sleeve and lettuce between your teeth.

--Don't loiter. Drive straight home, picking your teeth along the way. Change into your pajamas, all the while congratulating yourself on another successful business lunch.

To celebrate, break out the Ding-Dongs.

2 comments:

STEVE BREWER said...

If you sing "break out the Ding-Dongs" to the tune of "Roll Out the Barrel," it'll be stuck in your head all day.

Erin said...

Cruel. Very Cruel.