Business dinners can be pretty nerve-wracking. In addition to stressing about how to sound clever in the conversation, you worry about basic things such as what to wear or what drink to order.
You’re on your own when it comes to what to wear. However, I’m pretty firm on not going with penny loafers containing actual pennies unless they were issued in the year of your birth. Call me strict.
Here’s the skinny on drinking wisely and appropriately when dining on the job.
Never go with the most expensive beverage, but don’t go with the cheapest either.
The safe bet drink choice is neither a cheap domestic beer nor a preposterously expensive glass of wine or scotch. You aim to impress, but not alienate. Something down to earth but with quiet refinement is best.
Never outspend your boss or the guest.
It’s proper business etiquette not to order more extravagantly than your boss, his or her boss, or the guest of honor. This is a quiet way of communicating your respect for them and for the time and effort they’ve put into getting where they are. Cheers to that.
Know the customs of your company.
I don’t mean your company as in your firm. I mean, know who is in your party and their prevailing culture. If you have business associates or clients who are from Sweden, take the time to Google how to do a proper Swedish toast. If you are drinking with Germans, it’s a great compliment to them to say “Prost!” while clinking glasses.
The most important reason we practice etiquette is to show care and consideration to those around us. By observing the rules of etiquette with your dining companions, you are communicating: “I care that you are having a good time and want to share in your culture with you out of respect and in the spirit of camaraderie.”
Don’t try to be the hero.
Just because you can drink like a sailor just docked for the evening, doesn’t mean you should – unless, of course, your firm is the Navy and you actually are sailors docked for the evening. Don’t try to be the showoff and drink like a fish. Everyone is here to conduct business and enjoy each other’s company.
No one wants to see you sloppy drunk and forgetting everyone’s name and title.
If high jinks ensue, take the high road but not on your high horse.
Drinking games may be common in the country where you’re doing business or among the guests you’re dining with. Drink and be sociable, but don’t drink beyond sobriety. A good rule of thumb is to take the high road and avoid any antics. But don’t take that high road on your high horse and pass judgment or chastise others for having fun.
Mischaela Advani is an etiquette expert and founder of Cygnet & Spade — an etiquette, image, and branding consultancy. As a child, she was fascinated by the work of Emily Post and the proper names of flatware, cutlery, and glassware. She has been taught by etiquette and protocol experts formerly employed by the Household of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth in American, British, and International etiquette. Mischaela resides in New Eastside with her husband and their English Bulldog.