How to Step Up to the (Dinner) Plate

Posted on November 25, 2015
Alice Jackson

USA students prepare for future success by learning business etiquette in a seminar offered once a semester by Career Services. data-lightbox='featured'
USA students prepare for future success by learning business etiquette in a seminar offered once a semester by Career Services.

Following Fall Commencement on Dec. 12, more Jaguars will enter the labor force, but how many of them are really prepared for eating in the business world?

Enter Beverly Hendley, associate director of career services, with her Etiquette Dinner Class. Held once a semester, Hendley guides University of South Alabama students through a multi-course dining experience with china, crystal and linens.

“We cover everything about proper dining etiquette, from attire and utensil choices to eating difficult foods and job interviewing over a meal,” Hendley said. “In today’s world, everyone eats on the go, but knowledge of dining etiquette is a must when your job may depend on it.”

Hendley’s basics:

  1. Always RSVP to an invitation. Restaurants and caterers need to know how many people they’ll have to serve. Don’t bring uninvited guests, even if your former boyfriend’s third cousin twice removed is in town only for one night.
  2. Arrive on time with your cell phone on silent mode or turned off. During dinner, say good-bye to your new Adele “Hello” ringtone.
  3. Prefer a burger over the boss’s recommended chicken a l’orange? Don’t cackle about it. A business dinner means business. Rather than jeopardize your future, you can swing through a drive-thru on the way home.
  4. Know correct attire, meaning the differences between business casual, business and formal. Your frat brothers loved those cutoffs and crazy hats you wore at Jaguar football games, but it’s time to go GQ when you’re paying the bills.
  5. When in doubt, follow your host’s lead. If he’s talking, don’t interrupt with a comment, even if yours is better. While the guy may appear to be a relic from the past, don’t act like a Neanderthal, especially if the ink on your diploma is still wet.
  6. Another thing about talking. Don’t discuss controversial topics such as politics or religion, even if you’re seated next to Pope Francis. Better to stick to safer topics, such as soccer, which Pope Francis adores. (Note: This would not apply if the Pontiff was a football fan. As everyone knows, football is a religion for some.)
  7. Formal dining means cloth napkins, multiple glasses and more plates and eating utensils than SouthPaw has spots. Hendley advises eating from the outside in and teaches how to butter your roll, where to place utensils when you’re finished and which of those glasses to use when.
  8. Finally, become familiar with Emily Post, the epitome of manners whose books on etiquette have been updated for the 21st century. Too cheap to buy the books? There are websites with all her info. After all, your future job may depend on it.

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