How to Master the Business Lunch in 8 Easy Steps

Navigating the etiquette of this career builder, networking standard

Business has always been about making connections; however, today’s business connections have gone digital with emails, instant messages and Skype chats standing in for business meetings and phone calls. With the digital nature of business operations, it can be difficult to connect with potential business partners, co-workers, clients and peers on a personal level. However, not all age-old networking tools have gone to the wayside. The business lunch remains one of the few standards of classic face-to-face networking that can create positive ripple effects benefiting your career. And, whether you are meeting with clients, prospective employers or your co-workers, understanding how to master the business lunch can pay off in a big way.

Follow these steps to knock your next business lunch out of the park:

1. Personalize the invitation

Whether you are doing the inviting or receiving the invitation, it is important to keep all communications personal when arranging a business lunch. Avoid having your secretary arrange business lunches with people you are meeting for the first time. And, if you are sending out the invitation, be sure to ask your guests about any food allergies or preferences. Invitees should respond with a personal phone call or email kindly thanking their host for the invitation.

2. Location matters

When invited to a business lunch, the venue’s choice is telling of the meeting’s expected tone. A casual eatery may suggest a laid-back discussion and a dress-down code, whereas a high-end restaurant may indicate a more formal agenda. If you’re the host, pre-selecting a venue before issuing invitations can sidestep the awkward ‘where to meet’ query, setting the meeting’s tone early on. Additionally, when picking a location, remember the time needed to dine comfortably and the dietary preferences of your guests, ensuring the menu caters to everyone’s needs at your business lunch.

3. Prepare for your lunch

Casual lunches with co-workers require little preparation; however, if you are meeting with a new client, your boss or a prospective employer, you should do some research to find out more about them. If you’ve never met the person before, use Linkedin to explore their professional background or conduct a Google search for any publications regarding  their recent accomplishments. This will help you spark conversation and prepare you for a successful business lunch.

4. Arrive early

Set the tone for the meeting by arriving early, especially if you are meeting with new clients or a prospective employer. It gives a positive impression and provides you with the opportunity to get your thoughts together.

5. Order something easy

Remember that you will be talking a lot during a business lunch so it is to your advantage to order something that will be easy to eat. Avoid messy pastas or a plate of ribs. Business lunches are all about the conversation so you want to be able to talk and express yourself without the distraction of an awkward dish.

6. Limit your drinking

Most experts suggest avoiding alcohol all together in business settings, including lunch and after hours networking events; however, there is often some wiggle room. Simply follow the lead of your company. If they order a drink, do the same; however, limit your drinks to just one.

7. Don’t complicate the check

Business lunches can get awkward the moment the check arrives. Follow these simple rules for the check: if you invited a guest to lunch, you should foot the bill. Quickly take the check from the waiter and do not comment on the price of the bill. If you have been invited to lunch by a top CEO or manager, they should pay for lunch.

8. Enjoy yourself

Business lunches go beyond simple work-related discussions, they are precious opportunities to build genuine relationships. Take a moment to appreciate the experience and seize the opportunity to forge connections with superiors, clients, or colleagues.

Consider these lunches as crucial networking opportunities, where hosts and guests alike can go beyond their professional capacities to find common ground and forge potential collaborations. Thriving in such environments can serve as a springboard for career progression. Check out the programs offered by Touro University Worldwide’s School of Business to learn more.

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