Entertaining guests in a restaurant is often preferable to having people in your own home, for a meal you have had to prepare yourself. The latter can often be a hit and miss affair that leaves you exhausted and without enough free time to attend to your guests. To make sure that your guests are bowled over by the occasion, just follow these few simple rules.

Always choose a restaurant with a reputation for quality food and service and, where possible, go to a restaurant where you are already known and valued. This way there will be no nasty surprises and you should get a bit of star treatment.

Remember the style of restaurant you choose can reflect the image you want to project. It is sometimes a mistake to go too exotic or way out as you intimidate or irritate your guests.

Location and style of restaurant is an important consideration. For example it is no use trying to have a serious working lunch at a lively noisy venue where it is hard to make yourself heard. Good parking is vital if your guests are to arrive on time and unflustered.

As the host try to find out beforehand what your guest or guests prefer to eat. For example it would be disastrous taking a Jewish businessman to a carvery, where the dish of the day was roast pork or someone with an ulcer to an Indian curry house. Equally it could lead to few awkward moments if you took an anti-blood sports supporter to a top restaurant to savour the first grouse of the season.

Book well in advance and make the point of asking for a good table, if necessary exaggerate the identity and importance of your guest. Any hint of a celebratory or someone in high office can miraculously conjure up tables in pleasant little alcoves or those with excellent views.

For large parties place cards are a nice touch and will avoid a scrum when everyone sits down to eat. Send the cards and a table plan to the restaurant well in advance of the event.

If your guests are coming from far and wide send them a map and directions – including parking information.

Call the day before to confirm the booking and check all is well with the restaurant.

Where possible arrive before your guests are due to touch base with the staff and to be sure that you have been allocated a decent table.

Inform the Maitre D’ that you will be the person picking up the bill. Also clarify the ruling on any unforeseen bar bills incurred by your guests.

Keep a close eye on guests through the meal to make sure that glasses are refilled promptly, rolls and butter are replenished when requested, there is not too much time wasted between courses (especially when entertaining time hungry business men), plates and food arrive hot and those who don’t want a pudding are offered a good savoury alternative. You will probably need to prompt for coffee refills well before they are required. In other words it is your job as host to keep an even uninterrupted and apparently effortless flow of good food and wine coming to your table.

A nice touch for birthday parties or special celebrations is to get the restaurant to unveil a beautiful cake to serve with the coffee. Any left over can be cut up and sent home with your guests in paper napkins or special little cake boxes.

Avoid overtly throwing money around or being over-demanding with restaurant staff – it won’t cut any ice and it will certainly embarrass your guests. Also never be a wine bore even if you consider you are an expert. Making a big song and dance in front of the sommelier is very tedious for your fellow diners who probably just want something that slips down the throat easily – and plenty of it!

At the end of the meal pay the bill discreetly and make sure that your guests are safely seen off the premises with all of their belongings. Those that have made a bit too merry will need to be sent home, or back to the office, via the safety of a taxi.

If the restaurant staff have done you proud tip well – they are then certain to try even harder next time you bring important guests to dine.