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Biz meal primer: It's not about the food

By Chris Reidy
Globe staff

Never order lobster. And if you must have a restaurant cheeseburger, be sure to cut it in half before taking dainty bites.

Those are among the guiding principles for the proper consumption of business meals - or so says Judith Bowman, a local author who is promoting her new book, "Don't Take the Last Donut: New Rules of Business Etiquette."

Bowman doesn't just pen self-help books; she also offers charm-school crash courses for etiquette-challenged executives at her Rhode Island-based consulting business, Protocol Consultants International.

Always keep in mind that the primary objective of a business meal is to begin building a personal business relationship, she said. "Eating is secondary."

For that reason, lobster is out. Why? Because it's nearly impossible to look suave and impressive while bibbed up and wielding mallets and crunching tools. Have the spinach salad instead.

If you're actually hungry, chow down privately beforehand, preferably on "brain food" that will get the business IQ humming.

At a business meal, never eat or look at your plate while the other person is talking, she said, and if your big cheese dining partner orders a seven-course meal, be sure to match him (or her) course for course, even when not hungry.

In such circumstances, disregard what your mother told you, Bowman said, "and play with your food."

When ordering for yourself, keep it simple and avoid sloppy, high-maintenance fare, like lobster or ribs, that can distract an eater's attention from the business at hand, she said.

In a press release pegged to the release of her book, Bowman said in a statement: "The dining table is a great stage from which to share your personal side and demonstrate the respect you hold for your client or prospect. It is a moment when you can display your proper attention to etiquette, protocol, manners, and a myriad of details that can set you apart and distinguish you from the competition."

So don't even think about ordering that third Budweiser.
Tel: 508-888-7800   E-mail: Judith Bowman

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