When you have lunch with the woman who wrote the book on business etiquette, you try to be very polite. Yet it's easy to fall short.
Business lunch manners, says Judith Bowman, protocol consultant and author of Don't Take the Last Donut: New Rules of Business Etiquette, require arranging payment with the restaurant in advance, ordering course for course along with your guest, and sitting at the table with your hands always visible.
Bowman will not make you feel uncomfortable when you err. That would be impolite. But she will issue "gentle corrections."
The serrated side of your knife should always face inward. You should not put your knife down while you are placing food in your mouth with your fork, if you are eating Continental style as opposed to American style. (Bowman can explain the difference.) As host, you should control the meal's pace by gently guiding your guest. For instance, suggest ordering before plunging deep into business talk.
Bowman, who started her career in her early 20s as a Hyatt Regency concierge, today trains executives, sales teams, and administrative staff. The goal, she says, is always to make your guests feel at ease and to advance your relationship with them.
At Capriccio in Providence, R.I., Bowman ordered lobster bisque and a crabmeat, jumbo shrimp, and endive salad, matching courses with her guest, naturally. Later, when the server asked if Bowman was finished with her half-full soup bowl, she said she was, because her guest was done. Explains Bowman: "We're not here to eat."
This story appears in the May 28, 2007 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.