My friend Cliff plays a guitar for a living. He’s the dean of Music Tech College in St. Paul and I consider him to be one of the finest all-around guitar players walking the earth today. He travels quite a bit to play for different people and groups (some famous and some, not so much) and he recently told me a funny story. He was playing for a “high dollar” corporate gig aboard a lavish cruise ship that served dinner in the old “traditional English” style, and he and his wife had the good fortune of being invited to dine and partake of a truly 5 star meal. Mindful of the schedule, Cliff ate quickly so he wouldn’t miss the stage call. When he called the waiter over to remove his plate, the bewildered waiter gave him a surprised look and said, “But sir, I don’t believe your wife has finished HER meal quite yet.” Oops! What would you say in Cliff’s place? I think most of us would have absent mindedly said, “Yea? So? What’s your point?
With Cliff’s story in mind, I reasoned that there were probably legions of travelers dispatched to points around the globe with instructions to impress a client, and that these travelers meticulously choose their flights, their wardrobes, their hotels, their client, etc, but the one thing they routinely bumble is the etiquette that the very establishment they’ve chosen to impress their client demands. This week, I’ll offer some upper-class restaurant tips for the traveling middle-class. Today, we’ll get seated.
When you arrive at the restaurant, think about your cell phone before you even leave the car. Will you need it inside? I mean, will you really, REALLY need it inside? Will you need to have a conversation with someone other than your client while you’re seated in the restaurant? Think about how you felt the last time you and your wife were in a restaurant and someone at another table let a loud and obnoxious ring-tone interrupt your conversation (Hip-Hop ring tones are the “best” for that). Also whether people believe it or not, they are always louder when they’re on the phone than when they’re just having a conversation with someone at their table.
Texting and web-surfing during a meal is a big “no, no” as well. Unless you’re a bored 12-year old, there’s just no need for that in a restaurant during a meal. My advice is, unless you’re a doctor and lives actually depend on you; leave the phone in the car. Certainly leave it on “silent mode” if you must take it with you.
If the restaurant you’ve chosen takes reservations, and you’ve reserved an appropriate table, then good for you. If you didn’t have time to make them, then hopefully you’ve chosen a fairly quiet place with an excellent bar area so you can sit quietly and enjoy a beverage or two for an hour or so, in comfort. I remember dining with some co-workers once who’d picked a restaurant because they’d heard “good things.” Unfortunately, the “good things” they’d heard were from a mother of three… We sat, with our customer, in a very loud bar that overlooked a restaurant that employed clowns on stilts that walked around the room to entertain children with balloon animals. Not a good impression…
Here’s a final note for today. As soon as you’re seated, slide your napkin from underneath the silverware and place it immediately in your lap. If you’re over the age of three, then don’t even think about tucking it into your shirt as a “bib.” Leave your silverware in front of you, as it was before you slid out the napkin. If you’re the host, you might ask if anyone would like some wine. It’s good to know whether you’ll need to order a carafe or bottle, or if everyone has their own tastes in mind when the waiter first approaches the table… I’ll have more tips on wine, food, service, and more on Wednesday and Friday of this week!
EXTRA: If you have questions for Ken regarding business travel, hotels, airplanes, etc, please call 1-877-49-EXPERT. Your questions will be recorded and Ken will answer the best ones in his Ask the Expert podcast show.