Whether you’re silencing your inner critic, sharpening your listening skills or nailing your presentation to get a raise, we know that your #girlboss status never takes a break — not even for dinner. If you deal with clients or large internal teams every day, work dinners can quickly become a regular occurrence. From figuring out what to wear to who picks up the check, navigating the dinner table can be tricky territory. Thankfully, we have Jill Jacinto, millennial career expert and associate director of editorial and communications at WORKS by Nicole Williams to steer us clear of any etiquette missteps.


1. Be cautious with alcohol. Hopefully it’s obvious that a work dinner is NOT the time to order a round of tequila shots. But it can be tricky to know if and when you should order a glass of pinot or draft beer. Jill says, “Always let your client or superior make the first move here. If they order a drink, follow suit. If they don’t, stick to an iced tea. No matter what, do not have more than two drinks at a work dinner.”

2. Avoid the awkwardness over the check. “Whomever arranged the dinner traditionally picks up the check,” says Jill. However, there are exceptions to the rule. “If it is a dinner with your client, then you should pick up the check. Otherwise, if you are out on a team dinner or with your boss, the lead on the projects traditionally picks it up and expenses it back to your company.”

3. Pick a cool locale. Your favorite pizza place or burger joint might be perfect after a Saturday night out with friends, but not so much in a work setting. “Every business operates differently in terms of where they head for client dinners. Work within your budget and scan menus beforehand. Feel free to suggest new places or classic standbys for people coming from out of town who are most likely looking at this dinner as a night out in the big city,” advises Jill.


4. Choose your food wisely. Spoiler alert: This is not the time to order ribs or another super messy food. In fact, Jill goes so far as to say that if it requires using your fingers at all, you should avoid it. She adds, “No need to order the most expensive thing on the menu since someone else is paying for it. Take note of your fellow diners and follow suit. Are they ordering appetizers? Order one. If not, skip it. Word of advice: Avoid squid ink. It stains your teeth.”

5. Dress the part. “You are most likely coming straight from the office, so I’d stick to the office dress code here,” says Jill. She adds, “Maybe switch out your office flats for pumps [and] freshen your makeup, but otherwise stick to what you traditionally wear.”

6. Get good at small talk: A work dinner is not the time or the place to bring up politics, religion or any other hot button topics. Jill agrees saying, “Keep the conversation light. You never know which way people’s opinions shift. You don’t need to lose a client over a business dinner. And while it might be a work dinner, you shouldn’t only talk about work. In fact, try your best not to. Business dinners are your chance to build a relationship. Get to know your clients and fellow team members.”

Tweet us your go-to tips for getting through client dinners @BritandCo!

(Photos via Getty)