Why Should Dining Etiquette Matter in the Workplace?

Posted by Tommye Johnson on October 11, 2012

Just the other day I was sitting in a restaurant. It was a nice restaurant, but certainly not the type you walk into thinking, “I wonder what types of etiquette hurdles I will encounter today?”

I should have been prepared.

After working our way through a couple of delicious courses, my dining partner and I were preparing to wrap up our meal when a little bowl of warm water with a wedge of lime in it appeared. My dining partner looked at it utterly perplexed, while our waiter looked at us with a good-natured grin and asked, “Do you know what that’s for?” I quickly racked my stores of etiquette knowledge, summoning the strength of Emily Post, Letitia Baldrige and, most importantly, the etiquette training I had experienced through my work at Mitchell.

I quickly recognized that this must be a finger bowl – a small dish of water for the diner, meant to rinse the fingers during a meal. It’s a highly ceremonial piece, and was a first-time experience for both my partner and me.

“It’s for my fingers,” I excitedly replied to our waiter. It wasn’t an entirely articulate response, but nonetheless a small win for me.

Most of us do not live in the world of formal dining on a daily basis, but this does not mean that moments will never come when you are presented with a situation you would give anything to know how to handle. It might be while dining with an employer or potential employer, while attending a networking function, or even while meeting your new significant other’s family.

Knowing how to navigate the table takes the pressure off of you, so that instead of trying to focus on which fork you should be using, you can focus on making a good impression, or making good conversation.

There is a large demand on individuals to understand correct behavior at the table. It is incredibly worthwhile to invest in preparing your employees for just these unexpected moments so they can present themselves, and your company, in its very best and capable light.

Don’t fear the finger bowl – it is an unexpectedly delightful experience, if you know what to do with it.

Have you encountered a situation during a meal with clients or co-workers that left you stumped? Let us know in the comments below, or tweet us your responses using the hashtag #mcgblog.