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Dining For Success.

Bite sized etiquettes for your next business lunch.

Food plays an important part in the life for Malaysians. We greet each other with “Have you eaten?” and our conversations may revolve around “What’s for lunch?” Malaysians’ love for a fabulous feast is apparent. But a good meal is not just an indulgence for the palate, it can also be the opportunity to foster a successful business relationship.

However, in a business environment, your image matters and you may not want to be as casual as you would be when dining with, say, your old school buddies. Displaying proper dining etiquette may reflect your professionalism and social skills.

Here are a few dining etiquette you can take with you to the next business lunch or dinner.




The perfect host

If you are the one to extend the invitation, the onus is on you, the host, to ensure that every part of the gathering and meal goes smoothly.

Location, location, location

In planning for the meal, the right venue is paramount. Does your guest have preference for certain cuisine? (eg. Japanese, Italian) Or special dietary requirements? (eg. vegetarian) If you do not know, it may be a good idea to check with your guest before making reservations.

Get a great deal

You may also want to look up HSBC SmartPrivileges for dining deals that offer up to 50% discounts1 on a wide variety of cuisine to suit your taste buds.

Venue options

It may be a good idea to shortlist a few suitable venues and offer these as recommendations to your guest. Allow him or her to make the final decision. This may ensure that the venue is appropriate and accessible to your guest. Furthermore, by giving your guest options, you also reflect your consideration for him or her.

Do your homework

If you have never dined at the chosen restaurant, you may want to check it out before the actual event. It would also give you an opportunity to review the menu and master difficult menu terms, if any. (Eg. Salad Niçoise is pronounced salad NI SWAZ) and a Mexican Mole is not a black pigmentation on a Mexican. Pronounced MOH-LAY, it is a rich, dark, reddish-brow sauce usually served with poultry.2



Use the right cutlery

If your place setting is complicated (eg. more forks and spoons than one), always remember to begin from the outside and work your way in.

Place setting

When looking at the place setting in front of you, remember: solids on your left (bread plate), liquids on your right (water, ice tea, coffee).

Eat your bread… the proper way

If your meal is served with dinner rolls, the proper way is to break off and butter one small piece of bread at a time on the plate. Unless you want to appear juvenile, making and munching on a sandwich is out of the question.

Drop it, leave it

If you do drop a utensil, leave it on the floor. It is not necessary to dive under the table to retrieve it . Request for another utensil from the waiter and pick up on your conversation from where you left off.

No dipping!

If there are sauces to be shared, spoon some of it onto your plate. You may not want to dip your food into it.

No elbows on the table either

It is only proper to keep your elbows off the table. And please resist licking your utensils or fingers.

Mouth full = no talking

You may not want to speak with your mouth full. When you speak, put your silver ware on your plate, not on the table.

Do take your time eating, talking and especially listening to everyone at the table. Maintain good eye contact.


Arrive early

Firstly, introduce yourself (especially if you have never met your guests) and shake hands with all as they arrive.

“Have a seat”

It is a good idea to put your guests at ease. Invite them to take a seat as they may wait for your cue to sit down first. When sitting, sit up straight and don’t tip your chair back

Ordering food

You may not want to ask the waiter to explain every thing on the menu. You may annoy others and appear indecisive. Your guests may look to you to take the lead when ordering. What you order may give them an idea of what to eat and how much to order. You may also want to politely suggest recommendations on what to order.


When you’re done

Place the knife and fork prongs down side by side on the plate with the handles at 4 o’clock; the waiter will understand this as the “I am finished” position.

“Bill, please!” 

As the host, you would be responsible for the bill and tips, if any. Wherever available, use your HSBC Credit Card for dining discounts and enjoy 5x Reward Points when you dine at selected hotels with your HSBC Premier World MasterCard and HSBC Visa Signature Credit Card3.

For more information on dining discounts and offers, check out HSBC SmartPrivileges at


Source: 1. HSBC Smart Privileges Terms and Conditions apply. 2., “43 Most Mispronounced Food Words” February 25, 2010; KitchenHeat, “Mole (Moh-lay) on my mind” September 13, 2006.

3. HSBC Premier World MasterCard and HSBC Visa Signature Programme Terms and Conditions apply. Promotion ends 31 December 2013. 


Footnote: Derived from various sources as follows:, “29 Rules Of Etiquette For Your Next Business Lunch” April 29, 2012; “Dining for Success: 15 Tips to Avoid Business Meal Mishaps” April 6, 2011;, “Dining Etiquette: The Art of a Mannerly Business Meal“ July 25, 2013.