You’ve invited your best client out for an impressive business meeting at your favorite lunch spot. In spite of your best efforts in advance, things start off on the wrong foot. You are seated near the restroom instead of the table you requested by the window. As you reach for the bread basket, you can’t help but notice a strand of blonde hair splayed across the steaming hot rolls. What’s the etiquette of handling an unfortunate food service encounter while staying focused on entertaining your business guest with grace?
Here’s how to turn a potential dining fiasco into a positive and mannerly exchange.
- Discreetly bring the issue to your waiter’s attention. Calmly relay the matter to your server and allow them the opportunity to fix it.Whether you ask for a fresh breadbasket or you wish to switch tables to move away from the freezing…
A good restaurant welcomes the chance to repair the problem because they want you to leave happy. More importantly, their goal is to make it a positive experience where you look forward to coming back.
- Ask to speak to the manager. If your server happens to be your main complaint, apologize to your guest on behalf of the poor service but refrain from making a scene in the restaurant. When the meal is over, walk your client to the door and then circle back to attend to the situation. Most servers are extremely hard workers and deserve our utmost respect, however, as in every industry, there is an occasional employee that needs to be reported. Remember to exercise diplomacy. Your complaint could result in an employee’s termination, so take care to make feedback constructive.
- Concentrate on the positives. Find a few things that you appreciate about the restaurant. The dessert may have been exceptional, your server was attentive and respectful, and the manager apologized for the mix up with the food. Take a deep breath and determine if you are overreacting. Challenge yourself to make the best of the circumstances and exercise appreciation for meeting with your client in an atmosphere other than the office. Refusing to become unnerved may be the only thing that will politely get you through the meal – not to mention salvage your reputation in the process.
- Never skip a tip. Even for poor service, leave 10 percent and speak to the management. The tip is often pooled and punishing one employee for another’s behavior isn’t fair. Not to mention, your guest will notice you have shirked the gratuity which sends a larger message than just being cheap – you are reckless with other people’s livelihood. When making sure to follow proper dining etiquette decorum in spite of the unfortunate setting, you are showing your client you have ethics and a good conscience, taking into consideration another human being.
- Laugh about the experience. While the Chicken Parmesan may have been charred, or your scenic window view was replaced with seats facing the bar, you can lighten the mood up by finding humor in it. Let your client see a composed, confident individual who knows how to handle an awkward moment with sophistication and grace. It takes talent to turn lemons into lemonade.
For more of my Dining Etiquette advice, you may also like The Art of a Mannerly Business Meal on The Huffington Post.