Use the fork on the outside first and work your way in with your utensils. Use the bread plate to your left. Do not ask for more food. And definitely don’t pick up your phone.
Perhaps that does not sound like your typical college business class, but at Caldwell University, students learned about table manners at the annual Spring Etiquette Dinner, Feb.27. For the second year in a row, the popular event had a waiting list.
Associate Dean of the School of Business and Computer Science, Virginia Rich, J.D., and Executive Chef and Director of Dining for Gourmet Dining, Tom Duggan educated the students about professional etiquette featuring a delicious five-course dinner, prepared by Gourmet Dining, the university’s food service provider.
Learning the protocols, “makes life easy,” Professor Rich told the students. “Once you know what to do, you know what to do.” There are two concepts to keep in mind all through the dinner, said Rich–“hygiene, and respect for the people who invited you.”
The dinner is a valuable learning experience from a career development perspective, said Geraldine Perret, director of Caldwell’s Office of Career Planning and Development, the office that sponsors the event. “Students may find themselves at a meal with their internship supervisor, as part of an interview, or at a professional conference.”
Senior Roshana Hassan agrees. “I’m an accounting major so it’s not uncommon to be in a situation, where you’re taking a client out for dinner. Knowing proper dining etiquette will help me present myself and my firm very well for our clients.”
Among the rules, Duggan told the students that their water glasses are always to their right. “I’ve been at plenty of weddings where someone takes the wrong glass and then everyone has to take the wrong drink.” And of course, there is the ever-beckoning cell phone which must be off-limits at a business meeting or interview that takes place over a meal. “The worst thing to do is to pay any attention to the phone,” said Duggan.
For Sonia Godoy Tejada ’20, a business administration major, with a double minor in marketing, the main takeaway was “that there won’t be much eating going on. You’ll be chit-chatting and answering so many questions during an interview or company dinner, that you won’t really be sitting there and enjoying the food.” Eating is not the main reason that you are there. She appreciated learning pointers like the importance of breaking bread into small pieces, spreading a little bit of butter as one goes along and that “you don’t cut all your food right away–you cut your food as you eat. And [you] never ask for a to-go box.”
Other faculty members joined the students at the tables to help them navigate the formalities of a business dinner and to provide a networking opportunity.