A business dinner usually means that more is at stake than at a business lunch. Sometimes a business dinner is held because schedules of the people involved did not permit a lunch, but because of the importance of the project in question, a meeting had to be slated well beyond business hours. Usually the host is trying to win the favor of the guests. If you are hosting:
1. Arrive earlier than your guests.
2. Choose a high-caliber restaurant you're familiar with, yet is not inconvenient for your guests.
3. As a general rule, pick international cuisine.
4. Seat yourself facing the entrance of the restaurant, so that when your guests arrive you can rise to greet them.
5. Order cocktails. In the jungle that is the corporate world, a stress reliever is almost prescribed. It also puts everyone in a more relaxed mood.
6. Have no more than one cocktail.
7. Know at the onset what you're having (that's why you got there ahead), but give the rest ample time to go over the menu.
8. Order wine from the "hospitable" (i.e. not stingy, yet not over-extravagant) price range of the cellar. If you don't feel confident, delegate it to someone on your team who does. If that's not possible, ask for the advice of the sommelier or maitre d' before the dinner commences. It will be a red that will most likely be appropriate. A decent Bordeaux would rarely be displeasing.
9. Something about the order of business might be mentioned at this point, but do not belabor it.
10. It is mandatory to order a starter, whether soup or salad, before the main course.
11. Never bring up politics or religion.
12. Do not wait until the dinner is over to go over the subject in question—no one has that much time to spend on business. People want to go home.
13. In broad strokes, the main topic must be discussed over the main course.
14. There is no need to go into excessive detail. The golden aim is for an agreement on principle. All the nitty gritty can come later.
15. By dessert and coffee, it should all be just a (tentative) celebratory toast or an agreement to revisit issues and regroup.
16. Even if the meeting was an absolute failure, it should end on a hopeful note, with both parties agreeing to look into disagreements—whether that intent is there or not.
17. As a courtesy, wait for your guests' cars to be driven up the entryway and for them to get in and drive away before going home yourself.
This story first appeared in Metro Him Style Guide 2008