MOUNT PLEASANT — Here’s a dilemma: You arrive at a restaurant on time for a business dinner meeting, but your guest is not there yet. Should you be seated? When? Should you order? When?
There are detailed answers for questions such as those, said Rizvana Zameeruddin, associate professor of accounting at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside.
On Friday evening, Zameeruddin led UW-Parkside’s ninth annual Business Etiquette Dinner at the Racine Marriott, 7111 Washington Ave.
One-hundred-one students in the College of Business, Economics and Computing signed up for Friday’s dinner. Zameeruddin, who started and teaches the Business Etiquette Dinner, said the peak one year was 176 students.
She imported the idea from her native London, explaining, “It was part of our education in London.”
For a prospective employee, Zameeruddin said, a business dinner’s real purpose is to test the interviewee.
“They want to see how you conduct yourself socially, because you’re representing the company in front of clients. It’s to see if they can they trust you to take clients out.”
The event covered a wide range of etiquette issues including proper mingling, seating etiquette, when to start eating, how to handle difficult foods and when to start talking business during a meal.
The Business Etiquette Dinner was served course by course, with a presentation preceding each one.
“They learn how to eat that course,” Zameeruddin said, “and we do it interactively.”
Here are a couple of rules, she said, about the soup course: “Never crumble crackers in your soup.”
And, “Don’t leave the spoon in your soup. Always put it on the plate,” or on your butter plate. It’s a very practical rule, Zameeruddin pointed out: If your hand should knock a spoon from a bowl of soup, you’d create a splashy, messy spectacle.
As for when to start eating, there are specific rules as well, she said. At a table of eight or fewer people, for every course, wait until everyone has their food in front of them.
But at a larger table, look to your left and right, and wait to eat until the people next to you also have their food.
Zameeruddin said one former student, who attended her second Business Etiquette Dinner, became an executive at Disney. He contacted her a few years later and said he’d saved the etiquette brochure that each student receives at the dinner.
“He had gone to an awards dinner, and he said, ‘I would have made a fool of myself.’ ”
The dinner included instructions about “difficult foods.” Zameeruddin said that list includes clams and oysters, crab and lobster, spaghetti, tougher meats and chicken drumsticks. Her instructions about drumsticks: Cut them with knife and fork, but if your host is eating it with his or her hands, “It’s perfectly acceptable.”
As for the questions posed above, about preceding your dinner companion at a restaurant, here are the correct answers, Zameeruddin said: “Wait 10 minutes to be seated, and an additional 20 minutes before you order.”
Even though students come out of Zameeruddin’s Business Etiquette Dinner with full bellies and heads stuffed with etiquette rules, she said, “Rules of etiquette don’t supersede kindness. You don’t call attention to the dining mistakes of others.”