People have discussed or closed millions of business deals over lunch for the past several decades. Lunch offers a relaxed environment and occurs at an ideal time, right in the middle of the workday.
Despite the popularity of business lunch, not everyone knows the right approach to make the best possible impression. From table manners to how to dress, a brief refresher on business lunch etiquette does a long way.
How to Initiate or Accept an Invite
Most business professionals send luncheon invites via email or a calendar meeting request. The invitation should be friendly and concise while providing the date, time, and location of the proposed meeting.
Those sending the invite should select a location that is convenient to both parties. If possible, choose a restaurant both parties have dined at in the past. The restaurant should have a pleasant ambiance, but not be so loud that people at the business lunch cannot hear each other speak.
People on the receiving end of a business lunch invitation should respond promptly, whether they can make it or not. If there is a scheduling conflict, suggest a few alternatives time to meet.
Pro-active communication shows the other party that you’re genuinely interested in getting together. Invitation recipients should always RSVP to avoid putting the sender in the awkward position of having to follow up to see whether the date and time to meet for lunch will work.
Arrive at Least Five Minutes Early
Both hosts and guests of business lunches should give themselves plenty of time to find the location and secure a parking spot to avoid the uncomfortable position of showing up late. Of course, even the best-laid plans can go wrong due to an accident on the road, car trouble, or another unforeseen situation.
Good manners dictate that the person running late contact those waiting for them. Do this regardless of the reason for the tardiness. A quick notification reassures those waiting that there hasn’t been a miscommunication or time or location.
Always Dress Professionally
Business lunch attendees will need to research the restaurant or meeting place ahead of time to gain a better understanding of the atmosphere and typical dress. Wearing casual clothes to a casual restaurant is fine, but clothing choices should still reflect professionalism.
Avoid ripped jeans, t-shirts, baseball caps, or any attire that suggests you don’t consider the meeting to be of importance.
Choose Your Business Lunch Wisely
Be thoughtful about the food and drinks you order. Some foods are less than helpful to work productivity or positive impressions.
For example, a garlic crab entree might truly taste delicious. But cracking crab legs and squirting garlic and lemon in the eyes of a potential client or colleague isn’t likely to generate the desired outcome of a business meal.
Similarly, a choice like dumplings come with risks, especially for those who don’t know the proper method for eating dumplings. Burning your mouth or spitting hot dumpling across the table won’t make a positive impression.
Keep Attention Focused on People at the Table
Even if everyone at the restaurant is staring at smartphones, business lunch attendees should avoid this practice at all costs. It is the height of rudeness to text and take calls from others as either a guest or a host. The only exception if there truly is an emergency.
Arranging a time to meet is not always easy. Therefore those in attendance must give everyone else at the table their full attention.
Not every business lunch will go well. But things will be better if people make conscious choices to learn from their mistakes.