8 business lunch etiquette tips

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(MoneyWatch) Whether you're new to the working world, or have recently been promoted and are looking to keep the momentum going, a proper understanding of business etiquette can hasten your ascension up your company's roster. One of the important skills rising stars (or those that want to bear that title) should master is the ability to act appropriately -- and be at ease -- at a business lunch. The term doesn't just refer to a formal affair that may include multiple martinis (depending on how you look at it, those are unfortunately or fortunately rare today). A business lunch may refer to any lunch you have with a client, your boss or a co-worker in a professional, not social, context. To navigate them gracefully, here are 8 etiquette tips to remember:

Keep it close to home

If you're inviting a client out, find a restaurant with easy access to their office, suggests Diane Gottsman, founder of The Protocol School of Texas. "Don't make them travel across town to meet you."

Check in to confirm details

The last thing you want to do is stand them up inadvertently. "Confirm the lunch a day or two in advance to be sure there was no miscommunication regarding time, date or location," suggests Thomas P. Farley, a manners expert whose company offers etiquette workshops to corporations and universities. 

Don't dig into business immediately

Waiting until after you've ordered lunch will prevent you from getting interrupted in mid-thought. "Until then, make small talk -- and, if you've eaten in this restaurant before -- menu-item recommendations," suggests Farley.

Pass on the lobster

Before you order something, think about how you will look eating it, says Jacqueline Whitmore, founder of The Protocol School of Palm Beach.  "Avoid foods that are complicated to eat, like spaghetti with a red sauce, barbeque ribs, oversized sandwiches, or lobster in the shell."

Know which water is yours

"Hint: It's on the right," says Farley. The same goes for the bread. Yours is to your left, and it's the only one you should take.

Put your cell phone away

Yes, your Blackberry may be for business, and this is a business lunch, but it shouldn't be a third wheel. "Don't place your cell phone on the table and then glance down at it every time it pings or vibrates. Silence your device and keep it out of sight until you leave the restaurant," says Whitmore.

Avoid gesturing with your utensils

You may very well be involved in an animated discussion -- that's certainly not a bad thing. But don't get carried away and start stabbing at the air -- or worse, in your dining partner's direction -- with a fork or knife, says Gottsman.

Always pay with plastic

If you're footing the bill, do it with a credit card, not cash. "You will have a record for your expense account and it looks more professional," says Gottsman.

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