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Rules of the game Featured

5:48am EDT January 22, 2002

Today's rules of etiquette focus more on how well the function goes than on which fork you're using.

"The most talked about etiquette is which silverware to use, but most people will never know if you use the wrong fork," says Todd Thompson, service manager at Pier W restaurant in Lakewood. "Things have really mellowed out in terms of classic dining. It's more difficult to even find that kind of table service anymore. More and more places won't put out all the silverware, but instead replace it as needed."

More important is the overall impression your client gets from your function.

"When you're hosting a dinner for a client, the more important the meeting is, the more important it is to develop a relationship with wherever it is you are having dinner," says Thompson. "Most of what goes wrong is because of a lack of communication with the restaurant. People have expectations that don't get carried out."

When making a reservation, make sure the restaurant understands it's a business dinner so the staff can put you at an appropriate table.

"I've seen it countless times where someone doesn't communicate that fact and the table they really wanted isn't ready, so they have to wait 10 to 15 minutes while it's fixed -- and the dinner has already started on a bad note," says Thompson.

Take charge of your party if you have more than one person. Lead the others when being taken to your table and direct people to where they should sit, giving the most important person the seat with the best view.

"You don't need eight people milling about the table trying to figure out where to sit," says Thompson. "It gives the impression you don't know what you're doing."

Another way to keep things running smoothly is to arrange in advance for the bill to be paid. Either provide the restaurant with your credit card information before hand, or make impromptu arrangements during a trip to the restroom.

"Make sure the waiter takes care of it, and make sure the gratuity is put on it as well," says Thompson. "When a bill is subtly handed to you to sign, it makes you look classy and on top of your game."

It also eliminates any arguments over who will pay for dinner.

Developing a relationship with a restaurant can pay off big in making a good impression with your client.

"You can't overestimate the effect of the restaurant knowing who you are and recognizing you by sight," says Thompson. "When someone greets you by name, it really makes a difference."

Join Pier W and SBN at Business Entertaining Etiquette on Feb. 19 and March 19, 2002, at Pier W to learn the rules of the game.

Business Entertaining Etiquette 101