Meal Etiquette Matters In Business

By Eddy Wang
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.


Never pass the bread to the left. Never reach over the guy next to you to get the butter. And, when you’re at a business dinner, don’t announce loudly that you need to go to the bathroom. People don’t want to know the details.

In an era when jeans at the office are common and meetings at Starbucks are practically a rite of passage, it would not seem that details of fine etiquette, such as which fork to use for salad, matter anymore.

But more than 25 people turned out recently at an iconic place of business in Pittsburgh, the 142-year-old Duquesne Club, for a three-hour crash course in the fine art of dining politely, under the glow of chandeliers and the attentive service of well-trained staff.

The Pittsburgh Social Exchange, a networking organization that also hosts golf outings and cocktail parties, brought in Demetria Pappas, the co-founder of etiquette education company Mother, May I, to teach ambitious businessmen and women how to behave at the dinner table while they dug into a three-course meal.

Pappas estimates more than 65 percent of business is conducted over a meal, although perhaps not always as elegant a meal as the roasted stuffed chicken and almond macaroons served for the learning luncheon.

By gently poking fun at real-time faux pas, such as cutting salad all at once as opposed to one bite as a time, Pappas was able to create a convivial atmosphere among the erring participants while also inspiring them to scrutinize their every move, making it well worth the $95 that some paid for the event.

(This reporter was put on the hot seat, when, as the “host” of a table, I forgot to ask the waiters to refill the bread basket.)

For those who couldn’t make the lunch, here are seven of Pappas’ most important tips:

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