My colleague, Shannon and I were guests at a recent business lunch and Jim, the host, suggested the prime rib was excellent. What was the correct dining etiquette for this situation?
Shannon, who is on a diet, ordered a lighter chicken dish but I thought it might be rude to ignore the host’s suggestion. So even though I secretly would have liked the chicken, I ordered the prime rib. Who was right, Shannon or myself?
– Debby Feelincheated in Ohio
Too bad, Shannon was right. You could have ordered the chicken too and you would not have been rude.
Jim, your host, was right to make a menu suggestion. But the proper table manners rule is that you don’t have to follow the host’s recommendation.
A good host should always make a menu recommendation for two reasons. The first reason is fairly obvious; they’re letting you know what’s a good choice, which is handy if guests are not familiar with the restaurant.
The second reason is subtler. The host is giving you a clue as to the price range you could confidently order.
It would be a faux pas to order something much more expensive than the suggestion, say the lobster at ‘market price’ (code for mucho expensive and also a bad choice for business dining – never order anything that requires a bib).
Another subtle tip: So while you do not have to order what the host recommends, if you’re dining one-on-one, especially with a new business contact, you will build more subconscious rapport by following their menu suggestion.