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Candidate Help & Advice

Rookie Dining Mistakes for the New Professional in Business

Business Dinner photo from ShutterstockThe past few weeks I have geared my articles towards helping the new professional acclimate from the campus to the business world. It’s amazing how a $200,000 education often neglects the business basics that really make a difference. Unless you have your GPA tattooed on your forehead and a t-shirt with all your knowledge,  your “brand” is more frequently broadcast by your appearance, interactions and demeanor. Last week I talked about some rookie fashion mistakes I see new professionals make that make them look like, just that, rookies. Today I wanted to explore some etiquette while dining in the professional world.  Some of my guidance may seem a bit subjective but none the less, what many seasoned, top notch  professionals will take note of:

Just Valet it!

If you are dining out in a city environment, where parking may be an issue, don’t spend 20 minutes circling the block looking for a free spot.  Pay the valet (or tip the valet) and stop worrying about where you are going to park. First, this will save yourself the time, stress and aggravation of finding a parking spot. Don’t try to show off your parallel parking skills or the secret alley that no-one in the city knows about… just valet it and save yourself the energy.  Secondly, if your colleague, boss or client is in the car with you, they might be hoping you will just valet it and make this as easy as possible.

Don’t Ask About Prices

First sign of an amateur is when they ask the price of anything. Whether it is embarrassingly asking a bar-tender how much a drink is while they order a pre-dinner cocktail or asking the waiter what the market price is on the Alaskan King Crab, asking for the price is a sign that you don’t belong at the establishment. Even worse is making a comment about the prices when the check comes!

Order a Drink not a Beer

This might be more on the subjective side, but if you are at a nice dinner for business, order a cocktail or glass of wine instead of a beer. This is obviously different if you are going out after work strictly for a drink or two, or if you are at a brew-pub for dinner.  But at a nice restaurant, when your fellow diners are ordering alcoholic beverages, start with something other than the hops.  This is more like a “veteran” mistake than a rookie one and again can be more of my subjective points (and if you choose to drink).

What You Order

I was at a leadership dinner with six colleagues at a pretty nice restaurant last year. Everyone was ordering steaks, veal chops or creative pasta dishes… everyone except one guy.  He asked for the cheeseburger.  It didn’t  fit in with the tone of the dinner. Another thing to consider is the specialty of the restaurant. If you are at the city’s best seafood establishment, maybe you opt for something that swims versus something that walks. Lastly, if you are going to be taking notes or need to make some type of presentation on your ipad, be careful what you order… in this case you probably don’t want to order the BBQ ribs.


You need to tip appropriately.  I have heard horror stories of even some of the most wealthiest and famous people who fail to appropriately tip. I think this is unprofessional, unethical and says a lot about who you are.  Tip 20% on your tabs unless the service was really that bad, where you should tip 15%.  This is your waiter’s or waitress’ livelihood.  Tip your valets and your coat checkers. Not only is it the right thing to do, but the people you are dining with are watching you. If you can’t follow basic etiquette when people are waiting on you, why would these people want to join your team or have you watch over their accounts?

Ending the meal

You don’t have to spend the entire dinner discussing business. It can be a great time to learn about the outside interests of the people you are dining with and build a better relationship. When you are done with your entrée, simply put your silverware across your plate on a diagonal, with the ends slightly off the plate at about the 4 or 5 clock position. This is the signal to the wait staff that you are done. While the dessert comes or you wait for the check, make sure you lock down next steps to keep momentum going in the relationship or business cycle. Lastly, if you did not pick up the check, send a thank you card in the mail the following day if it’s a rather new relationship.

For more information/questions/or program building reach out at [email protected]

Author Bio

Eddy Ricci, Jr., is the Author of The Growth Game:  A Millennial’s Guide to Professional Development and Founder of The Growth Game, LLC a professional development company.   He has been labeled as “the emerging expert in developing Gen Y sales professionals” by the chairman of Publicis Kaplan Thaler and is also noted as “understanding what motivates Gen Y sales teams. He is on my radar and should be on yours” by international speaker and NY Times bestselling author, Erik Qualman. Eddy serves as the director of a unique training and development collaborative platform that services financial planning firms in the northeast where he has arguably worked with more Gen Y financial professionals than anyone in the country over the past four years. ;  @thegrowthgame (recently created twitter).  

“After You Frame Your Diploma, You Must Read Ricci’s The Growth Game!”-  Ben Newman, international speaker,  Professional Sports and Executive speaker, and best selling author