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

If you have been invited to a business lunch, pay attention to the location. The type of restaurant can say a lot about the expectations of the business lunch and help you to prepare. A casual dining locale could mean relaxed conversation and informal dress while a four-star restaurant alludes to a more serious nature for the meeting. Likewise, if you are sending out the invites, avoid the cumbersome question of where to meet by selecting a location prior to sending out lunch invites. This can help you to set the tone for the meeting from the start. Also, when choosing a meeting location, be cognizant of how much time it takes to get in and out of a restaurant, and consider your guests dietary needs. Be sure you are selecting a place that has a diverse menu to meet the particular needs of all parties invited to 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 aren’t all business. Relax, enjoy yourself and remember that this is a great opportunity to get to know your superiors, clients and/or peers.

The business lunch is a classic networking tool that provides both the inviter and invitee with an opportunity to learn more about each other and what they bring to the table in regards to future business relationships. Mastering the business lunch could help you master your business career. For more information about TUW’s business programs, please visit our School of Business and Management page.

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