Just What Year Does Kraft Foods Think This Is?

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A commercial for a new Kraft macaroni and cheese product claims the family-sized meal kit could save moms from the embarrassing situation of having nothing on the stove when their husbands unexpectedly bring a client home for dinner.

Gee, Kraft, how would women find time to get dinner ready when they're busy shopping for girdles and planting victory gardens? Despite a weak attempt by Kraft to update the creaky scenario with contemporary lingo -- "Dad's in the doghouse again: He just showed up with his client unannounced, not even a text," the son explains -- the client dinner debacle plot was already dated when Ozzie and Harriet devoted an episode to it in 1963. But it's an especially odd narrative to resurrect in an age when almost nobody brings clients home for dinner.

Home hospitality is still considered the apex of business etiquette, according to business etiquette expert Lydia Ramsey. "It's a really nice thing to do, when you develop a friendship," says Ramsey, author of Manners That Sell: Adding the Polish That Builds Profits. "I've been invited to an associate's home, and find it very relaxing."

Yet Ramsey concedes, "It's not done often any more. It's easier and more convenient to go to a restaurant.

Entertaining clients at home waned when upper-middle-class women entered the workplace, leaving no one behind to prepare an elegant supper. Ramsey says the increased acceptance of dietary idiosyncrasies also helped make restaurant dining a more attractive option: It's far simpler for a professional kitchen to accommodate a party with various food restrictions.

Salespeople who invite clients home also risk exposing unimpressive elements of their private lives. Does anybody really want to do business with someone who owns a ferret or decorated his dining room in jungle prints?

"If you're going to do it, you want to make sure your family is presentable and your wife's in a good mood," Ramsey says.

And it's probably not wise to serve macaroni and cheese out of a bag, Ramsey adds.

"Make sure whoever's doing the cooking is a good cook," she advises.

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