Ask the Blogger: Meetings during Meals

Our most recent blog series “It’s Interview Time” sparked some questions and stories from readers. Today’s question concerns what to do when interviews take place at a restaurant during a meal. 

Question 1: I was invited to a work lunch today by someone inviting me to be a part of their organization. I arrived first (I was early). The hostess asked me if I wanted to go ahead and sit, but I said I’d wait for the other member of my party. Is that correct? 

Question 2: Also, when we were shown to our table, I was “first” in line, but I wasn’t sure who should select a seat first?

What a relevant question as we’re getting back to our offices and having in-person meetings around tables WITHOUT a computer screen!

Answer 1: Yes, you are correct. As the guest, you wait for your host, the “inviter,” to arrive and direct traffic to the table, so to speak. One easy way to remember the etiquette when meeting at a restaurant is that every decision and “first step” defaults to the host, the one who organized the meeting or the interview and invited you.

Answer 2: The same etiquette applies to being seated at the dining table. Ideally, the host finds the seat at the head of the table, waits for everyone to enter the dining room, and locates an empty chair at the table, and then the host has a seat. Once the host is seated, then everyone else follows the host’s lead and has a seat as well. 

Everyone should immediately place their napkins in their laps, and once the meals have arrived, the host will pick up the appropriate eating utensil, signaling to others it is time to eat. The same holds true when dessert arrives; the host will lift the dessert fork/spoon, indicating it is time to enjoy the final course. The host also signals when it is time to adjourn by forming a “ghost” with the napkin and placing it to the left side of the plate before rising. Everyone else follows the leader by doing the same. 

One final dining etiquette note: The one who invites is the one who pays.


Certified Speaking Professional Mandi Stanley works with business leaders who want to boost their professional image by becoming better speakers and writers through interactive high-content keynotes, breakout sessions, workshops, technical writing seminars, and fun proofreading classes. 

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Photo courtesy of Gratisography