Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Etiquette of Seating Arrangements for Business Dining

One tip: If there will be an odd number of guests, request a round table, so that no one sits next to an empty seat. 

In the world of business, much energy goes into getting it right at the boardroom negotiating table. But even the smartest of business execs, sometimes forget to play it smart and savvy at another equally important table: The dining table. And this is not just about knowing which fork to use, or silencing your mobile phone and leaving it off of the table.
Where you place your guests, especially those visiting international guests, conveys an instant, unspoken message about the level of esteem you hold them in. It also is a way for them to gauge your own understanding of seating protocol.
Always consider the seating chart as of the most important aspects of any form of business dining and entertaining "Getting it right" means that everyone feels respected and you look like a pro. It is a clear win-win.  Get it wrong, and it is an epic fail.
If multiple languages are to be spoken, include appropriately placed interpreters at the table. 

Below are a few of the finer points of business seating strategies:

■ Always choose a restaurant or venue that you are familiar with, and hopefully one that knows you as a customer. Book the table, or room, well in advance to secure the best.  Make certain your tables don't face a mirror, are nowhere near the kitchen, or the restrooms, for that matter. The fewer distractions, the better.
■ If you have an odd number of guests in your party, request a large, round table. That way, no one is left sitting next to an empty seat. 
■ When creating a seating chart, the position of honor is always to the right of the Host. If you have more than one honored guest then the second highest-ranking guest sits to your left. When there is a third honored guest they sit to the right of your first honored guest. Gender never plays a role in determining a seat of honor. Rank determines someone's level of importance. 
■ If multiple languages are to be spoken, include appropriately placed interpreters at the table. 
■ For larger groups you will find it helpful to use place cards.  Share your seating plan with the maitre'd, and let the waiter know early on of any particular requests, so that there will be no surprises. Let them know that you will be directing seating when your group arrives. 
■ As the host, or hostess, you should always arrive early to make certain that nothing has been overlooked. 
Share your seating plan with the maitre'd, and let the waiter know early on of any particular requests.
 ■ Greet your guests at the entrance. If you and a guest arrive at the same time, walk in together, pause and allow the maitre d' to lead you to your table. The guest follows the maitre d' while you follow the guest. 
■ Once you are at your table/s, indicate to your guests where they should sit. 
■ If you must go to the table to await your guests, do not open your napkin, and do not order a drink. You don't want your guests to feel as if they are late, but do want to look as if you have just arrived. 
■ When your guests arrive, stand to greet them. Remain standing until they are all seated. 
■ Placing your napkin in your lap will signal to the wait staff that you are ready to order, or be served, so leave your napkin on the table until all your guests have been seated. If there are any business issues you'd need to address prior to the meal, leave your napkin on the table until those matters have been discussed and the discussions are concluded. 
Remember, that not every point mentioned will apply to every entertaining setting or event. However, using this as a basic guideline, and controlling the atmosphere around you, as much as the situation will allow, demonstrates respect and an understanding of business etiquette and seating etiquette strategies on your part.