In Washington, the power lunch and the client dinner are fixtures of our business and political culture. But not everyone knows how to navigate the table while closing the deal: which glass to use, what foods to avoid and who should reach for the check. We get tips from an etiquette expert and the manager of a D.C. power lunch bistro.


  • Michele Pollard Patrick Director, National Protocol
  • David Hale General Manager and Sommelier, Central Michel Richard restaurant


  • 12:23:02

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIWashington is a power lunch town, where movers and shakers close deals at restaurants every day of the week, where navigating the menu and the table can be critical to making that sale or getting that job. Most of us know the basics of restaurant dining: your bread plate is on the left, your water glass is on the right, put your napkin in your lap and close your mouth when you chew. But what about the subtleties of a business meal? If you're the guest, do you reach for the check? Should you make your dietary restrictions known?

  • 12:23:29

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIAnd the biggest question of all: should you order a glass of wine with lunch? Business leaders say they can tell a lot about people by how they handle themselves at the table. So whether you're interviewing for a job or wooing a client, it's good to know what your restaurant manners say about you. Joining me on this Food Wednesday is Michele Patrick, founder and president of National Protocol, a business etiquette consulting firm. Michele Patrick, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:23:55

    MS. MICHELE POLLARD PATRICKThank you for having me.

  • 12:23:56

    NNAMDIAlso with us in studio is David Hale. He is general manager and sommelier with Central Michel Richard, the restaurant in Washington. David Hale, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:24:06

    MR. DAVID HALEGood afternoon, sir.

  • 12:24:07

    NNAMDIAnd you, too, of course, can participate in this Food Wednesday conversation. 800-433-8850 is the phone number. What's the biggest gaff you've seen at a business lunch? 800-433-8850. You can send us a tweet, @kojoshow. Michele Patrick, why is it important to know basic restaurant etiquette and what the trends are today? Are the rules for business meals becoming more rigid or more relaxed?

  • 12:24:34

    PATRICKI would say that they are becoming -- they are relaxed. They need to become more rigid.

  • 12:24:39


  • 12:24:40

    PATRICKAnd I think what people need to realize is that what you do at the table says something about you. And when you dine graciously and -- you're perceived as a professional, and you're perceived as someone who can handle a dining situation. So it's very important then -- even with the way you hold your utensils and how you eat, all of that says something about you. And it's very important then to know what to do.

  • 12:25:07

    NNAMDIIt's funny because a couple of days ago, we had Robin Givhan, who writes about fashion, on this show, and she was saying that so many people now dress simply for their comfort or their convenience. And they seem to forget that there's such a thing as etiquette, that you should dress appropriately for some occasions. You just seem to be saying the same thing.

  • 12:25:25

    PATRICKI am.

  • 12:25:27

    NNAMDIWell, what do we need to consider in choosing a restaurant for a meal with a client or customer?

  • 12:25:32

    PATRICKYou need to select a restaurant that you know well, where you have a relationship. This is not the time to select the restaurant that you just read about in The Washington Post in the food section because you want to be able to control as much as you can so that when you sit down to do business and have your discussion, everything else is controlled and you're not worrying about anything. So select that restaurant carefully.

  • 12:25:56

    PATRICKAnd you also need to make sure that when you call your guest to invite him for dinner that -- or for lunch that you understand who they are and you select that restaurant based on who they are. If they like fine dining, that's when you take them to a fine dining restaurant. If they're much more casual, make it a simple, casual restaurant for them.

  • 12:26:17

    NNAMDISuppress that need to appear hip or trendy.

  • 12:26:20


  • 12:26:21


  • 12:26:22


  • 12:26:23

    NNAMDIDavid, if I have certain ideas about what kind of table I want and how I'd like the business meal to flow, is it OK to call the restaurant ahead of time and discuss it with the management?

  • 12:26:32

    HALEI'd say, not only it's OK, it's imperative to your fulfilling your expectations of what you want out of that experience. It's, you know, the biggest thing that we, I think, as -- and I'm talking about the hospitality in general. And my colleagues and I always talk about is that, oh, we had a guest that was disappointed with their experience, but they didn't tell us what they wanted. And if you could come to us ahead of time, I recommend that very highly. And you have -- OK, I'm having -- this is the deal. I have this lunch.

  • 12:27:00

    HALEThese are my -- the people I'm hosting. This is the nature of it. You know, whether it's, we'd like minimal interruption, or we'd like people to, you know, the guy is a big wine guy. We'd like the wine director, the sommelier to come over and sort of make a little bit of a -- more of a show of that. You know, that -- anything that you want, we can do. I mean, we're in the hospitality business. But you just have to be specific in communicating what you want. I think that and relaxation are the two biggest things I've seen.

  • 12:27:24

    NNAMDICall ahead of time and let them know what it is exactly that you want. You can call here right now if you have any questions or comments about what the do's and don'ts of the business lunch should be. 800-433-8850. You can go to our website,, and join the conversation there with a question or comment. Michele Patrick, the question of who should pick up the check usually comes at the end of the meal. But you've said it's actually something to take care of even before you sit down to eat. How?

  • 12:27:52

    PATRICKThat's correct. The person who extends the invitation is the person who pays. And I'd like to just emphasize here, Kojo, that if you're going to invite a guest to lunch, make it clear from the beginning that they are your guests, and say something like, Kojo, I'd love to have you join me for lunch. I'd like you to be my guest for lunch of Friday the 23rd. So that's very clear to them that you are taking care of the check. Then you want to make sure that you touch base with the captain in the restaurant and arrive early.

  • 12:28:23

    PATRICKMeet the captain. Hand him your credit card. Greet your guests. Go to the table. Enjoy your meal. When the meal is over, take your guest to the door and go back and settle the bill with the captain at that point. Then it never comes to the table, and we've avoided awkward moment of, should I pay or not pay?

  • 12:28:42

    NNAMDIDon't put your guest in the uncomfortable position of wondering whether or not he or she should be the one paying. If there are foods that one does not eat, should you tell your host in advance?

  • 12:28:53

    PATRICKAbsolutely. At the time that you have been extended the invitation, it'll be the time to say, I'd love to join you for lunch. You probably would like to know I can't eat red meat. Your host wants to know that because he doesn't want to take you to a steakhouse then. This is being courteous to him and also making it comfortable for everybody in the end.

  • 12:29:11

    NNAMDIIf it's a job interview, then you're interested in pleasing the host who happens to be the person to whom you're applying for a job. Is it still good to do that?

  • 12:29:21

    PATRICKAbsolutely. They would want to know it as well.

  • 12:29:24

    NNAMDIWhen someone's trying to decide what to order, David, what questions are appropriate to ask the server about the menu? Does asking questions make a person look unsophisticated about food?

  • 12:29:34

    HALENo, I don't think so, as long as you ask it in a way that, you know, you -- is proper or -- not in a proper, but just a relaxed, easy question. You know, how is that prepared? That's the easy thing to say. And the server, you know -- and then the other thing, too, is, like, a lot of times, you know, our restaurant's very -- stays true to this. And Michele is very big on sort of, like, very, you know, the menu description on the actual menu that you're looking at is a little sparse.

  • 12:29:58

    HALESo you know what you want, and then he wants that so that we can, as a staff, like, fill in with a relationship and give details and anecdotal things to tell you more about that dish. So I think it's actually part of the experience. And you know, that's where it also -- I think Michele and I were talking about this before we came in. I said that's where the host can get involved. If you've been there, you can make suggestions. You can kind of tailor your guests, like, towards what they're looking for and what it is.

  • 12:30:21

    HALEAnd I think that that's -- you know, I've seen several of my regulars. They do that all the time. They host people weekly, some of them. And they sit down, and they say, you know, you might want to look at this. It's delicious. This is a nice dish. And it also makes you, as the host, you know, seem authoritative and, you know, relaxed and confident. And if you're the guest, then I think asking questions doesn't make you look silly. It just makes you look like you want to be informed about what you're eating and...

  • 12:30:43

    NNAMDIAnd I get the impression when I go to restaurants that servers enjoy telling you about the details of the food. What they apparently don't enjoy that much is a blunt question like, is this any good?

  • 12:30:54

    HALEThat's exactly what I told your producer before we met. You know, it's like -- it's -- because that's -- I get that with wine a lot. You know, how is this? Is it good? I'm like, well, no, it's terrible. And I put on the list because, you know, I just wanted to torture you with it.

  • 12:31:09

    NNAMDIBecause I wanted to offend you, yes.

  • 12:31:10

    HALEYes, exactly. So no, I mean, assume that we're doing everything we can to make sure you have the most delicious food and most delicious beverages as possible. So, yeah, asking a more specific question, how is it made, is -- I think comes off much more sophisticated and you're just looking for knowledge and you're just trying to make way your decisions. And, yes, if the server's hospitality driven, they're going to want to have a passion for explaining that to you.

  • 12:31:31

    NNAMDIYou'll get a lot more information that way. Michele?

  • 12:31:33

    PATRICKI'd like to add something to what David had to say before. Here's a tip for the host who might have a budget: When you come to the table and you're talking to your guests, make suggestions within your price limit. If you know that you have a limit, pick out two or three items on the menu that fall within there, that price range. If however, you have no limit, then you might say something like, everything's good on this menu. I particularly like the steak stuffed with blue cheese. And the lobster is always fresh. What I've just said is the sky is the limit.

  • 12:32:07

    NNAMDIAnd if you happen to be the guest of the lunch, you don't simply look for the highest-priced item on the menu. Correct?

  • 12:32:15

    PATRICKYou're absolutely right, Kojo. When you take the highest-priced menu -- item on the menu, it appears as if you're taking advantage of the situation. And you wouldn't want to order the least expensive either 'cause it shows a lack of confidence. This is good information for people who are interviewing over a meal. Pick something in the middle.

  • 12:32:34

    NNAMDIHow about going for things like the spaghetti or the ribs if you happen to be the guest and you're being interviewed?

  • 12:32:41

    PATRICKThere are some definite no-nos for interviews, and you just mentioned two of them. In fact, when people are going for an interview, I usually suggest that they eat before they actually go to that lunch. Remember, you've been invited for the information you're going to impart, not really for your appetite. You want to order something to be gracious, but you don't want to be focused on that meal. So pick something simple like a fillet -- a chicken fillet or piece of fish that's been filleted, something easy to eat.

  • 12:33:09

    NNAMDIAs a friend of mine always said, you have to eat before you eat. Here is...

  • 12:33:15

    HALEThat's right. Exactly.

  • 12:33:15

    PATRICKThat's correct.

  • 12:33:16

    NNAMDIHere is Diana in Montgomery County, Md. Diana, you're on the air. Go ahead please.

  • 12:33:22

    DIANAHi. Thank you. I have a question regarding sort of U.S. versus other countries' traditions. I grew up as a Foreign Service kid in a number of former French colonies, and we also spent a few years in Southern France right between Cannes and Monaco. I saw a lot of dignitaries in those places eating fresh steamed asparagus with their fingers. They would pick up the entire spear of asparagus and nibble it down until they got to the part that they might not want or if they were really well-prepared, of course, that's why it's being cut off.

  • 12:34:00

    DIANABut when I've done that in the states, I find, you know, that funny little look coming my way as everybody else cut theirs into bite-size piece and forks them in.

  • 12:34:10

    NNAMDIWhat advice do you give in that situation, Michele Patrick?

  • 12:34:13

    PATRICKYou are absolutely right. This is cultural. In all of Europe, people pick up their asparagus with their fingers. We, however, do not do that. We cut it with a fork into bite-size pieces and eat it with our fork. My suggestion is to your listeners, if they know they're going to be traveling in another country to read up on it before you go so that you know what the nuances of that culture are especially if you're a business person.

  • 12:34:39

    DIANAIt's better the other way.

  • 12:34:41

    NNAMDISay that well, here's what you might be able to do here, David, because it's my understanding that sometimes ordering something that's messy and meant to be shared can be a good ice breaker.

  • 12:34:51

    HALEI think it can be in certain situations. If you want, you know, again, now, my biggest theme was just relaxation. You know, you're in a tense situation, you're trying to do business with people, or they are trying to do business with you, they are trying to interview you. Sometimes, I think ordering, you know, a lot of fun things that, you know, like for instance, if you're going to do like something, you know, that can be shared like charcuterie or whatnot, like, that's a, you know, if you're bringing your -- a table or a plate of cured meats to the table and it's encouraging everyone to sort of -- it breaks the ice.

  • 12:35:18

    HALEIt has conversation. The server gets to describe the charcuterie to you. You get to pass it around, you get this talk about it. It's a little bit of way of engaging your guests, you know, and that's -- and it's also a fun thing. I think the, you know, one thing that a lot of restaurants do is if the restaurant has a certain way of, you know, wanting to suggest that the guest eat this, I've been told this many times I'm in a restaurant, and you get a plate in front of you and they say, oh, chef prefers that you eat this with your hands.

  • 12:35:43

    HALEAnd so, that's -- the restaurant is actually doing you a favor by giving you license to kind of have fun, and then everybody, you know, sort of -- 'cause otherwise, you know, you're sort of in that don't order chicken wings on the first date kind of thing.

  • 12:35:54

    NNAMDIWell, we got an email from Sid, who says "When I first moved to D.C. from North Carolina, I attended a business dinner with my internship cohort and was teased for eating ribs with my fingers just as I've always done in the South. Is it unacceptable to eat typical finger foods with your hands in a professional setting?" Does it depend on what part of the country you happen to be in, Michele?

  • 12:36:16

    PATRICKI think it depends on the type of restaurant that you're in and as well what kind of impression you want to make. I usually suggest if you're on a business lunch and this is served to you and you have not had the choice of choosing something that has bones in it or doesn't' have bones in it that you use a knife and fork and get as much meat off the bone as you can. And if you're not sure of what to do, watch others also at the table and see how they approach it.

  • 12:36:41

    NNAMDIMichele Patrick is founder and president of National Protocol, a business etiquette consulting firm. She joins us in studio with David Hale, who is general manager and sommelier of Central Michel Richard restaurant in Washington. We're taking your calls at 800-433-8850. What do you pay most attention to when you take a client to lunch? 800-433-8850. Here is Behan (sp?) in Bethesda, Md. Behan, you're on the air. Go ahead please.

  • 12:37:10

    BEHANHi. Thank you. Listen, I think Michele's exactly right, you can really tell a lot about a person by the way they eat. And so like my mother did to me, I drilled into my children that they have really good table manners because then whether they're eating at the White House or if they're eating at McDonald's, they can eat with comfort and know that they're not making an idiot of themselves.

  • 12:37:30


  • 12:37:31

    PATRICKCongratulations, Behan. You are creating wonderful children who are going to grow up into very acceptable adults. It's a lost art, I'm sad to say, in this country. But those of you parents who do it, you are giving your children a competitive edge, and they will always be comfortable no matter what table they eat at.

  • 12:37:50

    NNAMDIBehan, thank you very much for your call. Michele, could you, as clearly Behan has done with her own children, describe the road map of the table? How do you know which utensils and which glass are yours?

  • 12:38:02

    PATRICKVery simply. We -- actually, when we look at the place setting, our plates in the center and we have forks on the left, knives on the right -- knives and spoons on the right. And we work with the outermost utensil in towards our plate. So if soup are the first course, we'd pick up the soups when that's the outermost soup utensil -- I mean, I'm sorry, spoon, and use that. Then we would work in to the salad course, perhaps, and we would pickup the salad fork which will be the outermost fork on your left. And then we will move in to the fork and the knife which will be our entree fork and knife.

  • 12:38:36

    NNAMDIDavid, how well do people know and understand the layout of the table and what mistakes do you generally see people make?

  • 12:38:42

    HALEI was thinking -- I was laughing when you said at the beginning, oh, and then, you know, the bread plate's on the left, the wine glass on the right, everybody knows that. I was like, no, everybody doesn't know that. Like...

  • 12:38:49

    NNAMDIBut it didn't have my mother.

  • 12:38:51

    HALEThe biggest thing absolutely, the biggest thing is, to me, is the bread plate being on the left and don't forget that when -- if you decide to enjoy the delicious bread, don't move that plate into the center 'cause pretty soon some guy who has four plates in his hand is going to try to put your entree down and he can't pick your bread plate up and move it back for you.

  • 12:39:08

    HALEAnd then the other thing is just beverage on the right. I know a lot of us, myself included, are left-handed. So we tend to naturally -- someone pours our wineglass over our right shoulder to the right and then we take it and we move it over this way, it's a really -- it's a thing that you have to fight a little bit 'cause it can or easily gets...

  • 12:39:23

    NNAMDIIt cuts off the person next to you.

  • 12:39:25

    HALEIt gets confusing. Yeah, exactly. So...

  • 12:39:27


  • 12:39:27

    NNAMDIYes, Michele.

  • 12:39:28

    PATRICKMay I share another tip with your listeners?

  • 12:39:29


  • 12:39:31

    PATRICKIf you remember this statement, bring your BMW to dine -- to the dinner. The BMW is the vehicle to fine dining. It stands for B which is your bread plate on the left, M for your meal in the center and W for the water on the right.

  • 12:39:46

    NNAMDIThe BMW approach to dining. On to the telephones again. Here is Jim in Annapolis, Md. Jim, your turn.

  • 12:39:55

    PATRICKThe BMW is a vehicle to fine...

  • 12:39:57

    NNAMDIJim, if you turn down your radio and just talk on the phone, we should be fine. Can you hear me now? No, I think Jim is still listening on the radio because we hear what we have already discussed. Here's Connie in Reston, Va. Hi, Connie. You're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:40:13

    CONNIEThank you. Yes. I just wanted to -- it probably seems a little arrogant of me to take on an expert, but I take exception to the asparagus rule. It's -- first of all, I've never been to Europe or actually anywhere in the United States. And I've always been told that it's acceptable to eat asparagus with your fingers. And unless Ms. Manners has changed her mind, she says that's how you eat it, too.

  • 12:40:37

    NNAMDIMs. Manners wrote that you can eat or you should or can eat asparagus with your fingers?

  • 12:40:44


  • 12:40:45

    NNAMDIHow did we get stuck on asparagus? But here's Michele. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:40:49

    PATRICKI would love to know what etiquette book that is in. I would like to read that. From my own knowledge, asparagus in Europe is usually prepared firmer than it is here in the United States, which is why it's picked up with fingers, and ours here are prepared in a softer way, so the fork works best. And that's generally the rule of thumb.

  • 12:41:11

    NNAMDIWhat's the proper way to eat a roll or a piece of bread or anything that needs to be cut in pieces?

  • 12:41:16

    PATRICKOK. Well, we never pick up the roll and just bite it, and we don't slice it in half and make a butter sandwich out of it either. The best...

  • 12:41:23

    HALEThose are delicious.

  • 12:41:23

    PATRICKThe best -- they are good, aren't they, David?

  • 12:41:25

    NNAMDIButter sandwich is.

  • 12:41:27

    PATRICKThey're on your menu, aren't they?

  • 12:41:28

    HALEAbsolutely. Featured prominently, yes.

  • 12:41:32

    PATRICKSo the correct way to do it is to break off a small bite-sized piece, butter that piece, and then put it into your mouth. So it's break, butter, eat.

  • 12:41:40

    NNAMDIConnie, thank you very much for your call and adding to the conversation. Let's try once again to see if Jim in Annapolis is now listening to us on the phone. Jim, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:41:51

    JIMI'm here. Thank you for the show.

  • 12:41:52

    NNAMDIYou're welcome.

  • 12:41:54

    JIMHere's my question. I do business lunches a lot and sometimes dinners. I've been doing this for about 30 years. I wear Brooks Brothers suits, $100 ties, but my point is I don't like to risk my tie during a meal. And so I tuck it into my shirt and -- so that it's not exposed to spilling soup on it or salad dressing. And I wonder if that is really a bad thing to do or whether someone will say, well, you know, he's just being -- could this person...

  • 12:42:39

    NNAMDIWell, you're compromising your sartorial splendor, but go ahead. Let me have the experts address that question. What do you say, Michele?

  • 12:42:45

    PATRICKWell, Jim, I certainly can understand that. And sometimes when you do get stains on your tie, they're difficult to get out. However, having said that, it's really a no-no at the table. What I would suggest that you do is practice at home eating without -- wearing a tie, without dropping food on your tie, or order something in the restaurant that's easier to eat where you don't have to worry about that. Remember, we are judged at the table, and tucking your tie in says something about the fact that maybe you're not well versed at the table.

  • 12:43:23

    HALEOr just that you're -- I mean, if you're a messy eater, don't give it away right away with that call.

  • 12:43:26

    PATRICKYeah. Good point, David.

  • 12:43:28

    HALEClearly, I'm going to put my tie away because I'm going to -- about to make a mess of myself. You know, let the -- let your guests be the judge of, you know, hopefully -- you know, I understand completely your, you know -- it's -- I empathize, but at the same time, I'm agreeing with Michele, yeah.

  • 12:43:37

    PATRICKActually, there's a Fortune 500 CEO who says when he looks across the table and sees somebody doing something like holding their fork wrong or tucking the napkin in their shirt -- it's such a simple skill -- he can't imagine why anyone, negotiating a rise to the top, would skip learning it. It actually made him wonder, what else did you skip along the way?

  • 12:44:02

    NNAMDIWe're going to take a short break. Jim, thank you very much for your call. Clean up your eating. But if you do wear nice ties, you want to show those ties when you sit down.

  • 12:44:12


  • 12:44:13

    NNAMDIPeople walking in the restaurant probably will love to admire them. I said we're going to take a short break. If you have comments or questions, you can call us at 800-433-8850. If the numbers are busy, shoot us an email to Is it appropriate to have a glass of wine during a business lunch? What about at a dinner with clients? What do you think? You can send us a tweet, @kojoshow. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

  • 12:46:22

    NNAMDIWe're discussing the do's and don'ts of the business lunch on this Food Wednesday conversation with David Hale, general manager and sommelier of Central Michel Richard restaurant in Washington, and Michele Patrick, founder and president of National Protocol, a business etiquette consulting firm. I guess one of the reasons we're having this conversation is encompassed in an email we got from Jennifer, who says, "I'm so glad you all are talking about this today.

  • 12:46:47

    NNAMDI"I'm a new professional, and I've already been to a few business lunches. And I find them mortifying and just end up eating a flavorless salad because I have no idea what to do. I'm taking notes," says Jennifer. Good for you, Jennifer. David, your restaurant is a popular spot for D.C. power lunches. How are servers trained to read the signals from the diners?

  • 12:47:09

    HALEI think they do -- you know, they're trained to just read each guest individually, first of all, and then just to be a little bit more -- you know, they're not just -- we're not just order-takers. We're looking for subtle hints of -- you know, if that -- like, for instance, we talked about the check. If the check hasn't been predetermined and it's time for that check, you know, I mean, usually it doesn't take you waving your pretend signature in the air for us. They just give us an eye, you know?

  • 12:47:34

    HALEAlso just looking into subtleties, like are the guests enjoying what they're eating? You know, is there an issue at the table with that? Has the conversation gone stagnant? Is that a good time to step in and try to revitalize it by taking an order and providing another, you know, round of dialogue with telling about a dish, like -- or is it the other way? You know, is the conversation starting to heat up?

  • 12:47:55

    HALEIs there a business still being negotiated that's about to, you know, you think about to close? Do we need to step back and give them that space to do that? And I think those are the things that are most important.

  • 12:48:05

    NNAMDIIs it ever acceptable to berate a server for making a mistake?

  • 12:48:11

    HALEI -- do you want -- I mean, I think, no. And I -- when it was -- when I was talking about joining you here today, I was mentioning it to a few of my regulars. And they both -- a few of them told me that it's, like, the worst thing for them when they go out with others, is when people are not courteous to staff members or berating staff members. It shows kind of a weakness and a lack of authority that, you know, you don't all of a sudden -- and also now you have a mean streak.

  • 12:48:37

    HALEYou've opened yourself up to a number of negative traits that you don't want to be portrayed at. And that's why I just said to people, relax like things are going to happen. You know, no matter how well you've planned this, your guests might arrive very late or only one of them might arrive very late. So you're waiting to order. The restaurant might have the reservation. The table might be occupied for a few minutes until you get to be seated.

  • 12:48:58

    HALEYou know, proportionally respond -- it's not a temper tantrum situation -- and take it in stride. And then you're -- if you're interviewing or if you're hosting, then your guests will know that you can deal with adversity, you're calm, and responds to situations that don't quite go exactly the way they're planned, you're -- that you're, you know, a professional, and you're relaxed and confident that things will sort themselves out.

  • 12:49:19

    NNAMDIPlus it can make your company at the table uncomfortable, can it not, Michele?

  • 12:49:23

    PATRICKIt can. And I usually suggest that we remember to say please and thank you to our servers simply because they're working hard to make this a nice lunch for you. And I think people always respond positively when they're appreciated. I think that if something is happening at the table that you're unhappy with, the way to handle it -- and, David, correct me if I'm wrong with this -- is just quietly tell your server that you have a concern...

  • 12:49:47


  • 12:49:48 that everyone else at the table is not consumed by that.

  • 12:49:50

    HALEAbsolutely. And or -- and please, that as a manager, it's -- this is something -- you know, and I hear people talking about this all the time. Don't wait until you get home and you're still angry, and then you fire me off that email about how terrible everything was. I'm happy to receive it, and I'm happy to respond and correct it at that point. But what I'd really love to do is correct it at the time, on point. Like, that's where I come in.

  • 12:50:12

    HALESo if there's a real issue that you feel needs a management presence, ask to speak to a manager. The manager should come over and you can deal with it away from the table or at the table quietly or however you want to deal with it. But, you know, let us do our job. So that's a big thing, too. Don't be, you know, squeamish about involving them if you really feel like you need it.

  • 12:50:28

    NNAMDIBefore we get back to the telephones, talk about ordering alcohol at a business meal. It is OK to drink at lunch?

  • 12:50:36

    PATRICKNot a lunch time. We all have to go back to work, so we recommend that you not have an alcoholic beverage at lunch. And if you have a guest, offer a beverage to a guest, not a drink, because during lunch time, we need to make sure we get -- can go back to work and we have our faculties about us. Dinnertime is different.

  • 12:50:56

    NNAMDIThe official burial of the three-martini lunch, which was a long time ago.

  • 12:51:02

    NNAMDIWell, here is Angela in Upper Marlboro, Md., who has an interesting twist on that question. Angela, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:51:09

    ANGELAYes. Good afternoon to everybody. You know, a lot of people may not do the big corporate interview kind of situation, but because it's Christmas and holiday season is coming up, there are lot of corporate parties. Well, all of the department heads are coming. And I do not drink, whether it's at lunch time or the evening time, because I find that, you know, 'cause sometimes certain people in social situations, even at work, are a little bit loose, and this is minus the alcohol.

  • 12:51:41

    ANGELAI don't -- so I -- because, you know, there's two things to this. You know, if you don't go, you can be -- appear as anti-social, and that's also bad in the business world. People want to know that you're social amongst your peer groups. But, however, I don't want to have -- even if I have, like, a light wine, I don't want to be next to the person who's just lost of out their brain and happen to be standing next to them when my boss walks by them.

  • 12:52:05

    ANGELAThey don't know if I'm lost out of my brain either because I now have a drink in my hand. So I make it up, you know, like, hey, I'm having club soda. Like, I make it apparent that I am absolutely not drinking. So I'm just wondering what your feelings are about this abstaining altogether yet appearing to be social and lively with your coworkers without being like, oh, she is too good to be around the rest of us. So if you could comment on that.

  • 12:52:30

    NNAMDII had a silly friend who solved that problem by never drinking but acting more drunk than everybody else at the event.

  • 12:52:35

    NNAMDIBut that's another story. Here is Michele.

  • 12:52:38

    PATRICKWell, Angela, I think your point is well-taken. And what I usually suggest in -- I don't think you need to tell people you're drinking club soda. I think you can make good choices by not being surrounded by people who might be acting loose at a dinner. You do want to be there at that holiday party because, you know, that there will be chief executives there.

  • 12:52:58

    PATRICKAnd, by the way, people need to realize that this is just not -- the only objective is not to feed the people who've been working in the company for the holiday. It's an opportunity for upper management to see how people comport themselves in a social situation. So I think you're doing fine, Angela. Go to the party, be a participator, drink your club soda and feel comfortable.

  • 12:53:20

    HALERight. And you -- Angela, you said -- I mean, you sound like a very fun person. It's -- if you're going to be social, just be social. You don't necessarily need alcohol to do that. Just use your personality and make it work if that's what works for you, you know, I mean...

  • 12:53:32

    NNAMDIAngela, thank you very much for your call. David, you are a sommelier in addition to being the general manager. What's the best way to order wine during a business meal?

  • 12:53:41

    HALEI think that, you know, you'd -- obviously, you could feel free to ask for me if you don't have a good idea of what you want already. Most soms love -- I mean, that's -- just like you had a question you asked about the servers. We love to do our job. We love to talk about our wine list. And so you bring us over to the table, and then you tell us what it is that you're looking for. And, you know, of course, I think that, you know, it can start with, you know, what type of wine you want.

  • 12:54:05

    HALEYou want still, sparkling? Are you looking for red or white? And then just some general characteristics, you know, this is one thing I talk to diners about a lot is just knowing some basic vocabulary about wine. I mean, we talk about it, you know, in terms of kind of structural elements like alcohol and body and acidity and things like that. And if you can start to drink wine and think of it in those terms, this is a really -- like, making a very short conversation out of this.

  • 12:54:28

    HALEBut you're just -- then you can have a basic idea of like, OK, you know, last -- and then also referencing things. Last time I was here, I had a very delicious Sauvignon Blanc from the border region of France. And now I know, OK. I know that he wants either something that way again or something like that. And I can, you know, that's allowing me to sort of -- like the translator with the little bug in my ear, I'm like, OK, now, I know what you're saying.

  • 12:54:52

    NNAMDIAnd, Michele, do the rules of childhood apply at a business lunch, no elbows on the table, clean your plate?

  • 12:54:58

    PATRICKAbsolutely. Not necessarily clean your plate, but it's perfectly OK to clean your plate. People ask that all the time.

  • 12:55:05

    NNAMDIThat's cultural, isn't it?

  • 12:55:06

    PATRICKYeah. If you're dining in China, you will not clean your plate. And that's because the Chinese host never wants his guest to go away hungry. So...

  • 12:55:13

    NNAMDISo if you clean your plate, they'll keep refilling it?

  • 12:55:16

    PATRICKThat's exactly right.

  • 12:55:17

    NNAMDIOn to the telephones again. Here is Pamela in Alexandria, Va. Pamela, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:55:23

    PAMELAHi, Kojo. I have one comment and then my question. The comment is, what happened to tie pins or tie clips in helping to keep them out of the meal? And then my question is, what do you do if you're vegetarian or vegan? This -- there are lot of restaurants who really don't provide a whole lot to chose from.

  • 12:55:43

    NNAMDIAnd tie clips are making a comeback, it would appear.

  • 12:55:45

    PATRICKThey are.

  • 12:55:46

    HALEYeah, they are. I mean, the -- I think those are totally legitimate. As far as the vegetarian vegan thing, I think it's definitely -- as it goes to other things, it's best the call ahead and make that preference known because most restaurants and friends of mine that I work with, and certainly my restaurant as well, like, you know, we are happy to accommodate those things. But we might need to have a little bit of advance notice to make that happen.

  • 12:56:09

    HALEMy menu, for instance, is a French-American bistro, so, you know, there's a lot, you know, there's some butter and some cream floating around in the restaurant. So, you know, you want to make sure that if you want to -- if you need to be accommodated and you don't want to have, like, a couple of boring options available, chefs love to cook things special. I mean, it's part of what they love to do. So if you like to do that, please just make it known ahead of time, and they'll take care of it.

  • 12:56:31

    NNAMDIPamela, thank you very much for your call. We got a tweet from someone who said, "The host must also watch the guests. Remember the Queen drank out of her finger bowl to make Churchill relaxed when he made that mistake." And we go on to Georgina in Washington, D.C. Georgina, you're on the air. We only have about a minute left, but go ahead, please.

  • 12:56:49

    GEORGINAHi, Kojo. A completely crazy story from London where the etiquette is similar to here, I was interviewing administrative assistants for a job in a grant-making organization. And I'm completely serious that one candidate arrived. She didn't want tea or coffee. She asked for a hot water. And we brought her the hot water, and she proceeded to get out a Cup-a-Soup. Do you know what I mean by a Cup-a-Soup?

  • 12:57:14


  • 12:57:15

    GEORGINAShe opened it up, and then she tipped it into the cup. And she was going, oh, I'm so hungry. And then she says, please, could I just have a spoon? And we were trying to interview this woman, and she was spilling this Cup-a-Soup all over the table.

  • 12:57:27

    GEORGINAAnd the powder was going everywhere. It was just extraordinary. (word?) enough, she didn't get the job.

  • 12:57:32

    NNAMDIThat's very strange, and you didn't...

  • 12:57:33

    HALEThat's why I can't imagine why?

  • 12:57:34


  • 12:57:34 didn't jump to offer her that job, Georgina. Thank you very much for sharing that story with us. But I'm afraid we're just about out of time. David Hale is general manager and sommelier with Central Michel Richard restaurant in Washington. David Hale, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:57:49

    HALEThank you.

  • 12:57:50

    NNAMDIMichele Patrick is founder and president of National Protocol. It's a business etiquette consulting firm. Michele Patrick, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:57:57

    PATRICKAnd thank you for having me.

  • 12:57:58

    NNAMDIAnd thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

Related Links

Topics + Tags


comments powered by Disqus
Most Recent Shows

The Politics Hour — March 16, 2018

Friday, Mar 16 2018Maryland Senator Ben Cardin joins us to talk about the youth movement against gun violence, Russian sanctions, and more. D.C. Councilmember Mary Cheh shares her thoughts on relief for high water bills and news that D.C. Public Schools is taking over an all girls charter school.