Dining Etiquette 101: Ten tips to surviving your next business meal

If you think people don’t care about your table manners, think again. Whether you’re dining with a potential employer, your boss, or colleagues, dining etiquette counts. How you conduct yourself before, during, and after a meal can reveal a lot about your professionalism and character.

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Brush up on your dining etiquette before your next business meal. (Photo: Idlewyld Inn & Spa, London, Ontario)

When it comes to business dining, there can be a lot to remember. Which glass is yours? What should you drink? Who picks up the tab?

It can get complicated, especially if you travel to countries with unfamiliar customs. But if you follow these ten basic business etiquette tips you’ll be well on your way to making the right impression at your next business dinner.

Do your homework
Before you arrive, do some homework. Who will be joining you? What business are they in, and what is the company culture?

Then look up the venue. Is it a fine dining restaurant, or a casual pub?

A little bit of background research can go a long way in helping you feel confident, and in making sure you are dressed appropriately for the occasion.  When in doubt, it is always better to be overdressed than too casual.

Arrive on time
By on time, we mean try to be a few minutes early. If your host has not yet arrived, wait in the lobby. If you will be paying the bill, this is a great time to let the wait staff know and to give them your credit card.

Shake hands
Greet everyone with a handshake and a smile, and introduce yourself to anyone you don’t already know. Repeating someone’s name in conversation will help you remember it!

Keep the table clear
Do not place your handbag, briefcase, sunglasses or phone on the table. Bags can be placed under your chair, or between your back and the back of your chair. Coats should be hung on a coat hook, or over your chair back. Don’t forget to turn off your cell phone!

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Don’t clutter the table with bags, sunglasses, or cell phones. (Photo: Idlewyld Inn & Spa, London, Ontario)

Napkin in your lap / Solids to your left / Liquids to your right
Place your napkin on your lap as soon as you are seated.

Then, familiarize yourself with the place setting. If it’s more complicated than the basic fork, knife and spoon remember – the general rule is that utensils are placed in the order of their use. So start on the outside and work your way in.

Your bread is to the left, while your water, wine and coffee cups are on your right.

When in doubt, watch your host!

Drink with discretion
In general, it’s best not to drink alcohol at a business meal. Club soda with lemon is always a good option.

If you do decide to drink, moderation is key. Limit yourself to a glass of wine or one beer, and pace yourself.

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If you drink alcohol, limit yourself to a glass of wine or one beer. (Photo: Elm Hurst Inn & Spa, Ingersoll, Ontario)

Be ready to order
The host usually orders first, and it’s a good idea to follow their lead. Don’t choose the most expensive item on the menu. And don’t ask your server to explain the menu or make substitutions – unless you have a food allergy. You don’t want to come across as difficult or indecisive.

Stay away from trouble
Try to avoid foods that can be messy or difficult to eat. These include finger foods, spaghetti, tacos or hamburgers, dishes with a lot of sauce, or lobster.

Don’t just dig in
Wait for everyone at the table to get their meal before you start eating. Then, take small bites, and don’t talk with your mouth full. Cut your salad into small pieces if needed, break bread / rolls and butter each piece individually, and try to finish at the same time as the rest of your party.

To pay, or not to pay
Usually, the host pays. And while it is always polite to offer to pick up the check, don’t argue or offer to pay the tip.

Thank your host
Don’t forget to thank your host at the end of the meal. You may also want to thank them again later, with an email or handwritten note.

We’ve hosted thousands of business dinners at the Elm Hurst Inn and Idlewyld Inn, and hope these tips take the stress out of your next formal meal.

Share your business dining etiquette tips in our comments!

8 tips for a perfect outdoor wedding

Summer wedding season is almost here, which means many Brides are busy putting the final touches on their upcoming outdoor ceremony.

Summer wedding tips from Elm Hurst Inn and Idlewyld Inn
Keep cool with these summer wedding tips!

While blue skies and Mother Nature provide a magical backdrop for any wedding, we asked our Wedding Coordinator, Erin Lister, for some professional advice on how to ensure the day goes smoothly for you and your guests:

Let guests know they’ll be outside
Friends and family will appreciate being able to plan for the occasion with appropriate clothing, sunscreen, hats, and even insect repellent.

Elm Hurst Inn, Idlewyld Inn weddings
Let guests know they’ll be outside, so they can plan for the occasion.

Power up
The great outdoors doesn’t always have the best acoustics. Rent audio equipment to ensure that your vows will be heard. Don’t forget to ask if your site has access to power!

Banish the bugs
Did you know that some flowers actually attract insects? Your florist should know which blooms won’t be a fragrant invitation for every bug in the area.

Consider an aisle runner
If you want to keep your dress absolutely pristine, consider using an aisle runner.

Elm Hurst Inn Idlewyld Inn outdoor wedding ceremony
An aisle runner can be a beautiful way to keep your gown pristine.

Know the area
Is there an airport nearby? Or a busy soccer field? You don’t want your ceremony disturbed by surprise interruptions, so don’t be afraid to ask.

Keep them cool
It’s especially important to be on time for an outdoor ceremony, as nobody likes to be kept waiting in the hot summer sun.If your celebration is mid-summer, supply water, fans, and / or sun umbrellas. Get creative and use your fan as a program!

Keep your cool
Summer weddings call for summer wedding gowns. Think light and airy!  Your Bridesmaids will also appreciate dresses that are wind and weather appropriate.
Remember that stiletto heels can sink into the grass. And waterproof make-up should be a must.

Idlwyld Inn and Elm Hurst Inn summer weddings
Keep them smiling by choosing weather-appropriate gowns.

 

Have a Plan B
Mother Nature won’t always cooperate with your outdoor wedding dreams. Have a Plan B in place in case of bad weather, and decide in advance who will make the final decision about moving your ceremony indoors. Then relax, and enjoy your day regardless!

Learn more about the all-inclusive Wedding Packages at Elm Hurst Inn & Spa and Idlewyld Inn & Spa – designed to suit any wedding and any budget. 

Do you have any tips for an outdoor wedding? 

Cajun Salmon & Sweet Potato ‘Flap Jacks’

With maple syrup season in full swing, we’ve asked Elm Hurst Inn & Spa’s Chef Michael Davies to share his delicious recipe for Cajun Salmon & Sweet Potato ‘Flap Jacks’ – featuring the world-famous Jakemans Maple Syrup.

Their farm is just down the road from the Elm Hurst Inn & Spa, and open all year!

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This salmon is sweet, spicy and delicious1

Cajun Salmon & Sweet Potato “Flap Jacks”
With Jakemans Maple syrup, Lime, Bourbon butter
Makes 4

Ingredients:
4             5oz salmon fillet, skin removed
4 tbsp    Cajun spice
2 oz        Chilled unsalted butter, cubed
4 tbsp    Jakemans maple syrup
1              Juice of lime
1oz         Makers Mark bourbon
1 tbsp    Chopped cilantro

Sweet Potato “Flap Jacks”:
2 cups     all-purpose flour
2 tbsp     Cinnamon sugar
2 tsp        Baking powder
1/2tsp    Baking soda
1/2tsp    Salt
1               Egg
1 cup      mashed sweet potato
1 ¼ cup buttermilk
1/2 tsp    ground cloves
1/2 tsp    ground mace

raw-ingredients
A great meal starts with fresh ingredients. 

To Prepare Flap Jacks:
In a large bowl mix all dry ingredients. Make a well, crack egg in centre. Mix well, add buttermilk and sweet potato. Mix batter, (add more buttermilk if too thick). Proceed to cook pancakes on griddle as you would regular pancakes.

To Prepare Salmon:
Sprinkle salmon with Cajun spice on both sides. In cast iron pan, heat a little olive oil and butter until butter turns brown, add salmon to pan and brown on both sides. Remove from pan and finish in 350 degree oven until just cooked. (Should be plump to the touch).

Prepare pancakes at the same time on a griddle while salmon is cooking.  Or, pre-make your pancakes and warm them up in the oven.

To Prepare the Sauce:
In the same pan as the salmon, add butter, melt until brown, add Jakemans maple syrup, lime juice, flambé with Makers Mark bourbon, and add chopped cilantro.

Plate presentation:
Place one pancake in the centre of a plate, set salmon skin-side down on top, and arrange some of your favourite seasonal vegetables on top, finish with the sauce. Enjoy!

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Bon appetit!

How do you like to use Maple Syrup in the kitchen?

 

 

 

Wedding Day Showers – They’re nothing to cry about

As a Bride, you can plan everything down to the last detail – but the one thing you can’t control on your Wedding Day is the weather!  And as our snowy Ontario winter turns into a cool and rainy spring, it’s time to offer a few tips to make sure that a few rain drops don’t put a damper on your celebration.

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This Idlewyld bride didn’t let a few showers put a damper on her celebration.

Always have a Plan B
Whether you’re getting married in June, December or April, you just never know what Mother Nature will have up her sleeve.  Don’t be shy about asking your venue about a back-up plan, especially if you are hoping to hold your ceremony outdoors.  Does the venue offer suitable inside alternatives? Or should you order a tent with sides, just in case?

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Even if your heart is set on an outdoor ceremony, it’s always good to choose a venue with an indoor alternative – just in case!

Watch the weather channel
Check the weather forecast about a week before your wedding. While it’s not foolproof, it should eliminate any last minute surprises, and help you decide whether or not to put Plan B into action.

Designate a Point Person
Decide in advance who will make the final decision about any changes brought about by bad weather.  Don’t leave it until the last minute!

Venues will do their best to accommodate your request and keep your ceremony running on schedule, but it takes time to move an outdoor ceremony under cover, or to close the sides of an open tent.

Waterproof makeup is a must
You don’t want makeup dripping down your face if you’re caught in a downpour, so make sure your eyeliner and mascara are waterproof.

Embrace the Rain
Many cultures believe that Wedding Day rain brings good fortune, so if the skies open try to go with the flow and have some fun. Colourful rain boots can make cute accessories for any outdoor photos and will save your stilettos.   And don’t forget to bring plenty of umbrellas for your bridal party.  Clear umbrellas are always a good choice for photos, but colourful ones can also add a sense of play.

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Don’t forget some umbrellas  – and your smile.

Stormy weather can make for some unforgettable wedding photos, but ask your photographer about alternate indoor locations if you’d rather not brave the elements.

In the rain
Stormy weather can make for some dramatic photographs!

At Elm Hurst Inn & Spa and Idlewyld Inn & Spa, our wedding coordinators will work with you to ensure your big day goes off without a hitch – regardless of what Mother Nature throws your way!

Ready, set, meet…3 tips for a meeting people will want to attend

We’ve all been there. The meeting that goes on and on with no concrete outcome. The meeting that gets hijacked by the most outspoken member of the team. The meeting were people pay more attention to their smart phone than the issues at hand. The meeting that leaves you asking : why am I even here?

It doesn’t have to be this way!

Here are three simple tips to make your next meeting more productive:

Know what you want to accomplish
A meeting should have a clear and well-defined objective. Are you making an announcement? Seeking input into a challenge facing the company? Or is it simply a brainstorming session?

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The key to any good meeting is planning….(photo: Idlewyld Inn & Spa)

Think about who you need to invite. Is the discussion relevant to them? And do they have the skills to contribute to the conversation? If the answer is no, then don’t waste their time.

Begin and end on time
There’s nothing more annoying than a meeting that starts late and then drags on and on. A written agenda can help keep everyone on track.

Remember – an hour is the longest time most people can truly remain engaged. If it’s not enough, schedule a break.

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Need to meet for more than an hour? Plan a lunch break! (photo: Elm Hurst Inn & Spa)

Establish some ground rules
If your colleagues typically spend more time emailing or surfing the web than focusing on the issue at hand, don’t be afraid to ban technology – or at least insist that it’s placed on the table and out of reach.

And if one person starts to monopolize the discussion, call them out. A simple : “We appreciate your comments, but we need input from everyone before making a decision” should do the trick.

What is your best tip for holding a productive meeting?

The Elm Hurst Inn & Spa and Idlewyld Inn & Spa are preferred venues for meetings and multi-day conferences. Ask us how we can make your next business meeting memorable!  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Terrific Tomato & Roasted Red Pepper Soup

 

This delicious mid-winter soup is perfect for your Valentine’s Day dinner – or for any day. It’s a favorite of our Brides, and Chef Michael Davies has had many requests to share his recipe…Enjoy!

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This colorful tomato soup is an Inn favorite!

 

Tomato and Roasted Red Bell Pepper Soup
Serves 4

Ingredients:
2 large          red peppers, halved, de-seeded & chopped rough
1 small         Spanish onion, chopped rough
1 small         carrot, chopped rough
1                     celery stick, chopped rough
18oz              plum tomatoes
2                     cloves garlic, chopped
2.5 cups      vegetable stock (can buy ready-made)
2 tsp.            Sugar, optional
2 tbsp.          Tomato paste
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
½ cup           35% cream
2oz.              Fresh basil chopped

To Prepare:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Place peppers, onion, carrot, celery, garlic and tomatoes on baking tray. Mix with olive oil. Bake for ½ hour or until vegetables are roasted & tender. Blend in tomato paste and cook for 1-2 minutes longer.
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Roast the vegetables on a large baking tray.

 

 

  1. Remove vegetables from baking sheet, transfer to a stainless steel pot. Add vegetable stock, simmer for 35 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
  1. Taste for seasoning using kosher salt & ground black pepper and sugar if needed.
  1. Add cream and half of the basil and puree using a blender until smooth.
  1. Serve in soup bowls with a sprinkle of fresh chopped basil and a swirl of fresh cream.

 

Happy Valentine’s Day from everyone at the Elm Hurst Inn & Spa and Idlewyld Inn & Spa!

6 great reasons to hold a winter wedding

While some Brides dream of a June wedding, others know that a southwestern Ontario winter can offer a magical backdrop for an unforgettable celebration.

And although you may not be able to hold your ceremony outdoors in February, there are plenty of great reasons to have an off-season Wedding:

Reduced cost

Winter is the ideal time of year for budget-conscious Brides. Elm Hurst Inn & Spa and Idlewyld Inn & Spa are pleased to offer Winter Brides a preferred rate for off-season celebrations (January, February & March.)

A choice of dates and vendors

Since only 30 per cent of couples choose to hold their ceremony during the coldest months of the year, chances are your preferred date will be available!

Winter Brides also have more choice when it comes to photographers, bands, florists and other wedding vendors. It’s their low season too, and they’ll be happy to work with you to make your dreams come true, often at a reduced rate.

Winter wedding themes

Popular seasonal themes include Winter Wonderland and Fire & Ice. Candles can add a romantic, cozy and inexpensive touch to any winter affair, or consider Poinsettias or Holly as a budget-friendly alternative to the traditional floral centerpiece.

Our inns are always dressed to the nines for the holiday season, making the occasion even more unforgettable for you and your guests.

Holiday tree
The Idlewyld parlour dressed for the holidays.

 

Creative comfort foods

Comfort foods such as a hearty soup or lasagna can be a welcome addition to any Winter Wedding Menu. And everyone loves fun winter beverages like hot apple cider, hot chocolate, and eggnog.

Glamorous gowns

Choose a dress adorned with sequins and crystals to sparkle like the snow.  You’ll also need a fur (or faux-fur) wrap or long satin cape to keep cozy for those outdoor photos. Add a matching muff or pair of long satin gloves for an extra touch of glamour!

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This Elm Hurst Bride stayed warm in an elegant wrap.

An island honeymoon

Winter is the perfect time of year to escape to the islands for your honeymoon, with plenty of all-inclusive packages available.

Learn more about the all-inclusive wedding packages at Elm Hurst Inn & Spa and Idlewyld Inn & Spa. And don’t forget to ask about our off-season savings!