Effective business lunch etiquette is not solely defined by knowing which fork to use. Once you've mastered basic business dining etiquette, now you need to focus on the underlying power play that may be taking place.
Whether you are eating with a colleague, potential client or potential employer, here are the subtle (and not so subtle) guidelines you must know.
1. If you have been invited by a company and there are a number of colleagues present, shake hands with the most senior ranked member first if you know who that is. However, if you've been invited by a specific individual within a company, then you should shake the inviters' hand first and then the rest of the people in the order in which you are introduced to them.
2. If you invite your client or peer to lunch extend the power seat to him/her; take the seat with your back to the room if necessary. There is nothing professional about arriving late, so plan on getting to the restaurant 10 to 15 minutes prior to your scheduled lunch. Depending on where you go, you can either wait for your party at the door or ask to be seated and have your guest(s) brought to the table when they arrive.
3. When the host/hostess/waiter escorts you to the table, allow your client or peer to walk directly behind them, you take up the rear.
4. If you asked to make a menu recommendation, realize that your client or peer will take it as a signal of the acceptable price range to stay within.
5. Offer the bread, salad dressing, etc., to your client or peer before taking it for yourself.
6. When the server asks for the order, you should say: I would like my guest(s) to order first. This is a good way to let the server know that you should be given the check. Otherwise, when you arrive, you can tell the matre d' or host to hand you the check at the end of the meal so there is no confusion. You can also excuse yourself from the table as the meal closes and give your credit card to the waiter on your way to the restroom.
7. Tip adequately and treat the server as a good employee. Your respect for that person will make an impression with your client or peer.
8. When inviting a client to lunch, select a quality restaurant, not a noisy, crowded inexpensive place. The restaurant you choose is an extension of you, your company or how you perceive your career level.
Be sure to order carefully! In Power Lunching: How You Can Profit from More Effective Business Lunch Strategy, authors E. Melvin Pinsel and Ligita Dienhart ask power-lunchers to remember you are what you order." In other words, there are power foods and wimpy foods. The executive who wants to seal the deal should stick to power foods like London broil, baked potatoes and crisp vegetables. Avoid wimpy foods like quiche, salad and chicken.
One more tip: The ultimate power play is to order exactly the same thing as your highest ranking guest.