"The way you handle yourself at a meal is a snapshot of how you handle yourself in business," observes Ellen A. Kaye, a well-known leadership image and etiquette consultant . . .
Your place setting, she explains, is the equivalent of your desk. It reflects your level of professionalism, neatness and attention to detail. By the same token, the manner in which you deal with the restaurant staff reflects the manner in which you work with your clients, prospects and colleagues.
I wholeheartedly agree that a junior-level staffer who is executive material should know that it's verboten to chew food with his or her mouth open. But the agency's list of 10 fine-dining rules strikes me as Amy Vanderbilt on speed.
The firm advises would-be execs to wipe their mouths "often" with their napkin. Shouldn't the frequency of napkin use depend on whether there's something to wipe?
And this recommendation seems kind of silly:
"When passing salt and pepper, always pass them together, as if they were a single entity, even if the person asked only for the salt."
Why? The agency offers no answer.
Even if you're the one being interviewed or explaining a business proposal, the placement agency says you should "make a concerted effort to keep up with everyone else, or plan to be 'finished' (with your meal) whenever your clients are done -- regardless of whether you are actually full."
I don't get all the fuss. Unless your host looks down at his or her watch or mentions an upcoming appointment, I don't think it's the end of the world if your host finishes eating four or five minutes before you do.
The agency also declares:
"Taste, then season. Did you realize it is an insult to your host and your chef if you salt your food before tasting it?"
I generally taste before seasoning, but if someone else wants to add salt or pepper to their food before tasting it, so what? Why the hell should it bother me? How is this "an insult" to either person?