What's your problem? Restaurant etiquette

My new job will involve taking clients out to restaurants. I'm a bit nervous about what to order and which wine to suggest. What can I do?

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 01 Jun 2012

Q. I've just been promoted and my job will involve taking clients out to fancy restaurants. I'm a bit scared because I haven't been to many restaurants myself and I don't know what the rules are. I can't say anything to my boss as I'm too embarrassed. I don't know things like how to eat lobster or what wine to drink with what food. What can I do?

Jeremy Bullmore: The best thing you can do may well seem to be the most difficult: never pretend. If you try to bluff your way out of this, you'll dig yourself in deeper and deeper. You'll fool no one and learn nothing Your embarrassment will be crippling and you'll hate yourself.

You're scared that clients will think you a novice and that wine waiters will sneer at you. Well, they will if you try to wing it - but they won't if you play it absolutely straight.

The only rule you have to follow is this: if you don't know something, always ask. When your clients have chosen what they want to eat, ask them if there's any particular wine they'd like.

If they don't know, ask the wine waiter to suggest something. Most wine waiters enjoy being consulted and they're very unlikely to rip you off And you don't have to worry about how to eat lobster if you don't order it. If your clients do, watch carefully for next time - and tell them that's what you're doing.

I promise you: once you get used to the unembarrassed (and unapologetic) confession of ignorance, you'll actually begin to enjoy yourself. And everyone will respect you for your honesty, because everyone's been through it themselves.

- Jeremy Bullmore is a former creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London. His book Another Bad Day at the Office? is published by Penguin at £6.99. Address your problem to Jeremy Bullmore at: editorial@managementtoday.com. Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.

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