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The Corporate Menu: Defining The Master Professional Dining Protocol Mastering the social side of business is an important part of networking success.

By Fida Chaaban

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Wheeler's of St. James's, Dubai

New to the corporate dining scene? A bit confused on what is deemed appropriate when inviting your clients out for a fine meal? Not sure how to navigate a set menu to celebrate that newly-inked deal? It's a tricky playing field, and mastering the social side of business is an important part of networking success. Senior Corporate Chef Daniel Lewis of Rmal Hospitality and Wheeler's of St. James's at DIFC is going to help you out. Follow his guide on what to order and when, and run the corporate dining scene like a pro.

Scenario #1: Company execs hosting clients for an "informal" lunch celebration

"Always remember that people eat with their eyes, so great presentation can make a good solid dish seem really special. Take into account who the clients are and the occasion. Also take into consideration the style of cuisine that you want to offer, such as healthy, fashionable, or perhaps food from a certain region. As with our business lunch at Wheeler's of St James's, think about the time frame that you might have, as a lot of executives have limited time. Try to avoid a succession of heavy or light dishes, as well as too much repetition in the type of ingredients you select running through each course. Finally, don't forget to plan what you'll be drinking, to complement the dishes you've chosen, and consider the ambience that you want to create."

Scenario #2: Company execs hosting clients for a "dignified" lunch celebration

"Perhaps you can begin with canapés to pass around at the start- remember they are small, so bear in mind intensity of flavor and texture. Everyone enjoys the aroma of fresh bread, and pair with great condiments that match your chosen menu ideas, placed on the table as everybody has just been seated. Then offer a pre-plated starter: in the Middle East, we'd look at adding some individual cold mezze after the starter is cleared, and then silver serve some hot mezze to create a little more theatre and interaction. Move on to your pre-plated main course, and then why not offer a light cheese course? Go for a big finish with a dessert that have a "wow' factor; use great flavors and tried and tested recipes, steering away from culinary "gimmicks' like foams. Dry ice is a simple way to give a great feature, but you'll need to take care and handle it correctly. Finish with a great coffee and infusions and some petit fours."

Scenario #3: CEO entertaining top company execs over dinner

"In general, I would suggest that a dinner of this type should be presented in a formal way. However, if the dinner takes place after a fun event like a golf tournament or teambuilding exercise, then this could continue informally to really ensure that everyone feels special. The basic rules of thumb are to work with the guests or clients, listen and understand their requirements and suggestions, and always ensure that they are delivered. Try to keep away from game dishes unless they are European- then it could be taken into account. Always keep in mind that pork should never be suggested to an Islamic client, while beef should not be served to patrons who follow Hinduism, Jainism, and Zoroastrianism, and so on."

Scenario #4: Exec staging a dining event that involves statesmen or political dignitaries

"Having worked at many events where head of states have been present over the years, the rules of thumb that I would say are to work closely with the personal assistant of the dignitaries as they will let you know all of their likes, dislikes, and any other matters you will need to take into account. Check the protocol with regards to any issues that might compromise security. There will always be an organizer or events company working on the event, so follow up all issues and matters with their representatives. I have noticed over the years that the food trends of statespeople and political dignitaries has become healthier and focused on the trends of the moment. Additionally they also seem to take comfort from the food they are used to in their own countries and are rarely over-adventurous."
Fida Chaaban

Chief Communications Officer, KBW Investments

Fida Chaaban is the Chief Communications Officer of KBW Investments, a privately held Dubai-based investment concern that works across multiple sectors. Prior to her most recent appointment, Fida was the founding Editor in Chief of Entrepreneur Middle East and Entrepreneur Qatar magazines. She is a big believer in the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region’s startup ecosystem, and endeavors to use both print and web to positively encourage development in various entrepreneurial spaces and across industries. Based in Dubai, UAE, Fida is a social media enthusiast and sees it as the medium of today’s effective enterprises.
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