7 Ways to Hone Your Business Hospitality Skills

In some way, we all entertain for business at different times in our lives. It may be as simple as inviting a coworker into your home for a cup of coffee and a snack, inviting a visiting colleague to share a sandwich and soda in your office, dining with your boss at a nearby café, or treating a client to a cool beverage at the nineteenth hole after a round of golf.

Regardless of the venue, all entertaining involves some form of hospitality. Here are a few tips to help make your next business meal a success.

  1. Handle all the arrangements. When you're the host, select the restaurant and choose one within your price range. It's best not to try a brand new restaurant on an important client or customer. Choose a venue with which you are familiar with the food and the level of service.

  • Be on time. You show respect for your client's time, as well as your own, when you are punctual. Better yet, arrive ten minutes early to choose an ideal table and to greet your guest when he walks through the door. If you are running late, be courteous and call your guest and give him plenty of notice.
  • Choose the right location. Select a restaurant that is easily accessible for both parties. It's best not to pick the latest "hot spot" that's going to be crowded and noisy. Your restaurant choice should be conducive to a comfortable level of conversation. Also, avoid cuisines that are not considered standard fare unless you know your client is a fan. It never hurts to ask your guest if he has any food preferences or dietary restrictions.
  • Be proactive with the check. According to business etiquette guidelines, when you invite someone to join you for lunch, you are expected to pay. However, to avoid any argument over the bill, provide your credit card to the waiter when you first arrive. (Another reason for getting there early). This way, the check will not be brought to the table and you can tell your guest his lunch has already been taken care of.
  • Be prepared to make small talk. Current events, food and travel are all good topics, but avoid anything potentially controversial. Try to wait until you finish the main course before talking shop or wait until you get back to the office.
  • Avoid "messy" foods. Choose something that is easy to eat and won't spill or drip on your lap. Avoid over-sized sandwiches, barbeque ribs, corn on the cob or pasta with a red sauce.
  • Turn your cell phone off. It's rude to take or make phone calls when you are having lunch with an important client. Keep your smartphone out of sight and turn it off. If you are expecting an urgent call, let your guest know ahead of time.
  • Finally, a lot of people opt for mid-morning or mid-afternoon coffee meetings instead of lunch. These meetings take place in informal settings and typically don't require as much time out of your day. Plus, meeting for coffee is a lot easier on your budget than a multi-course lunch or dinner.

    For more business etiquette tips, visit Jacqueline Whitmore's website, blog or Facebook page.