Accept it or not, business dinners can sometimes be a little awkward even for the sharpest person with a keen mind. There will be people watching how you present yourself at the dinner table. Besides, they are stressful at times. Imagine managing your clients, prospective business partner, recruiter, or boss in an unfamiliar and informal environment! Yes, they can create room for various unpredictable challenges. If not dealt properly, these challenges can even lead to relationship-ending business dinners.

There are reasons why people conduct business dinners. It is, perhaps, one of the best strategies to know someone and see how they behave, not only during the meal but also before and after it. It tells a lot about your character, social awareness, and professionalism to your host. It is therefore essential to remember your etiquettes, when comes to business dining.

But don’t worry: In this post, we will discuss 5 tips not only to do your business dining right but also to make a great impression on it.

1) Dress for the Occasion

While there is no one simple answer for ‘what to wear for a business dinner,’ it is advisable to wear clothes that accentuate uniformity and your professionalism. The culture of the company/industry also plays a great role in deciding your attire. For example, for a business dinner at a law or financial firm, it is better to wear something in the formal side of business casual whereas you can opt for a little more relaxed and casual clothes when dining with someone from an advertising firm or a tech start-up.

That said, remember that it is still a business dinner, and so don’t deviate much and stick to business casual. The dinner venue is also important as some restaurant have a strict dress code. Here’s a guide to how to dress for a business dinner.

For men, it is better to dress conservatively in dark solid colors. Muted patterns too go well with such occasions. Combine a light colored shirt with wool or wool blend suit and a silk tie in a coordinating color. Match your socks to your suit color and your shoes with your belt. For shoes, opt for leather oxfords or loafer and finish it off with a tasteful watch. A wedding or class ring is allowed but no more.

Women usually have more options for business dinner attire, ranging from business suits with skirt/pants to cocktail business party dress. You can even wear a pencil dress or pencil skirt, just make sure it is conservative in color, length, and fabric. Keep our skirt’s length at or just above the knee and wear a long or short-sleeved, light-colored blouse with a dark suit jacket. Low necklines and/or skirts with long slits are a no-no for business dinners. When it comes to shoes, go for some leather or fabric closed-toe shoes and match it with a small purse or clutch. In addition, keep your jewelries minimum: A watch/bracelet with a pair of conservative earrings are enough to give you a chic look.

2) Be Careful with Your Order

Take note of what your host is ordering. That’s your first clue for what you should order. You can also ask for his/her recommendation if the place/cuisine is unfamiliar to you. Don’t order anything too messy to eat. Also, remember that it is better to eat something before you leave for the dinner as you don’t want to show up super hungry and focus only on your food and miss out on the conversation. For similar reasons, order something easy and quick to eat. In addition, don’t take a long time to order; order simply and never behave like a fussy eater. Most importantly, don’t order the most expensive item on the menu just because someone else is paying – it’s rude.

Some foods that you can easily order for a business dinner include salads, chicken, or fish (stay away from lobster or anything exotic). Also, avoid foods like burger, spaghetti, or finger foods that have a lot of sauce. They are usually messy to eat.

3) Don’t Use Your Phone

This is a no-brainer. When you are eating out with someone, the focus should always be in the conversation and this is especially applicable for a business dinner. Turn your phone silent and put it away in your bag or pocket as a vibrating phone is often as annoying a ringing one. Try not to take out your phone during the meal and if something urgent comes up, try to keep the call as short as possible.

4) Don’t Order Alcohol First

It is best to avoid ordering alcohol as they can be tricky at a business dinner. A club soda with lemon, an iced tea, or anything non-alcoholic is a better option and keep your alcoholic drinks for some other, more relaxed context.

But if your host encourages you to order a drink, keep it to one. In some countries, offering a drink is a sign of trust and friendship. Therefore, don’t turn your host down but don’t get overboard either. Also, get familiarized with the local etiquette (if you are in a different land) before heading towards the dinner.

Also, remember to pour others’ water before filling up your own glass. It’s a polite gesture.

5) Wait for Your Host

Wait for your host to sit down first and use the time to greet people around you in the table. Similarly, don’t start eating before your host starts just because your food has been served. Wait until everyone at your table has been served, usually, that’s when your host will indicate that you can eat.


There are a lot of things you need to consider when doing business over meals, from the way you hold your utensils to the way you eat your food. But don’t stress out. Just familiarize yourself with the table etiquettes and remember your manners – these are usually enough to help you survive a business dinner. And don’t forget to thank your host by name at the end of the meal. Call it a night by shaking their hand and while you are at it, do maintain good eye contact. If you want, you can thank them again with an email or a handwritten note.

We hope you will find these tips helpful. If you have some more for our readers, don’t forget sharing them.