The timing of business meals in the USA can often come as a surprise to first time visitors.
Firstly, it is not uncommon to be invited to a breakfast meeting which might start as early as 7:00am and secondly, if invited for dinner, this may be scheduled for as early as 5:30 – 6:00pm. You can also, of course, be invited for lunch and this is probably the favoured time for business entertaining.
US business people have few qualms about discussing concrete commercial issues over a meal. The idea that the mealtime is set apart from business and that it is unmannerly to raise the subject of commerce over food is an alien concept in the States. Therefore, it is acceptable to view a business meal as an extension of the business meeting. (This does not mean that other, non-business issues cannot be discussed at these events.)
North Americans tend to only use the knife to cut food items. After the food has been cut, the knife is usually laid down and only the fork is then used. Some foods may be eaten by hand, with both the knife and fork laid to rest. Most restaurant staff rely heavily on tips to supplement their basic salary and tipping is therefore virtually mandatory. It is not uncommon for tips of between 10% – 20% to be left for good service provision — and the service is usually very good.
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This World Business Culture profile is designed as an introduction to business culture in The USA only and a more detailed understanding needs a more in-depth exploration which we can provide through our training and consultancy services.