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Why a senator shouldn't eat spaghetti with the president, and 9 other tips

Plate used at a congressional lunch with Mrs. Laura Bush on April 22, 2004 and presidential place card.

President Obama isn't just sitting at conference tables with Republicans in Congress these days, he's sitting down at the dinner table. In fact, this week he dined with a group of senators for a business dinner to discuss the budget.

Now, a business dinner is an opportunity to get to know each other, to talk business in a social setting, to make an impression. But as anyone who's sat down for one of these meals knows, there's all that food on the table. How do you avoid botching lunch? Marketplace’s Adriene Hill met up with Jules Hirst of Etiquette Consulting, Inc. for a one-on-one lesson.

Listen to the story above, and check out some of the tidbits she picked up:

  1. Always follow your host’s lead.  Put your napkin in your lap after they put their napkin in their lap.  Order food in the same price range as the food that they order.
  2. The fold of your napkin should go toward you.
  3. Order a food that is easy to eat.  Ribs are a bad choice.
  4. Eat before you go out to lunch.  You don’t want to scarf your food during the interview or meeting.  You want the focus to be on the conversation, not the food.
  5. If your host orders alcohol, you may order alcohol.  But know yourself well enough to know whether or not it’s a good idea to drink it.   
  6. Wait until your host starts to eat before you start to eat.
  7. If your host asks a question just as you take a bite of food, politely indicate with your fingers that you will talk as soon as you have swallowed. 
  8. Don’t correct someone else’s manners at the table.
  9. If you have called the meeting, you should pay.  Instead of waiting for the bill to come to the table, step away to the restroom, hand your credit card to the waitstaff and ask them to add a 20 percent tip.
  10. Write a thank you note.

About the author

Adriene Hill is the senior multimedia reporter for LearningCurve.

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