I want to share with you what I’ve learned from being a Meeting Service Concierge in the past when it comes to Business Luncheon Meetings. I am no Emily Post, but I know a thing or two about what makes an outstanding luncheon meeting.
Business luncheons are the perfect way to conduct less formal client meetings. Sharing a meal gives you a chance to get to know one another on a more personal level. Though client lunches may be a bit-less informal meeting, you’re still discussing business. . . Right? As such, you want to make sure you bring your best “game plan”.
A poorly-planned business lunch that ignores the rules of etiquette will leave a lasting impression – and not a good one. Think about some of the business luncheons you have attended. Was there an awkward moment when the bill came? Have you ever sat waiting for the host of the meeting? Did the host drink a bit too much? Make sure you’re ready to ace your next business luncheon and make a positive impression with these planning tips:
1. Consider the Setting
Where you decide to host your business lunch isn’t always up to you. It depends on your clients, their availability, and everyone’s time commitments. If you’re planning a lunch at a restaurant, select a few options in an area convenient to everyone. Choose places you know well, and ask your guests their preferred venue.
Similar rules apply when planning an in-office lunch. If you’re bringing lunch into your office, though, you’ll take the lead in planning. Reserve a private space in your office (preferably a conference room) and choose a reliable caterer to serve an array of foods. Don’t be afraid to lean on the caterer for advice. They’re the food experts, after all. Your office manager or coordinator can lead you in the right direction if you don’t know where to start. Ask your guests if they have any food preferences, dietary restrictions and food allergies in advance. This will prevent the embarrassment of someone sitting out while the rest of you are eating.
2. Be Respectful of Time
No matter the meeting place, you want to respect your guests’ time. Arrive early and check the small details, especially if you’re having an in-office lunch catered. Do you have plates and utensils? Is there a comfortable place to sit and eat? Business lunches are a casual way to conduct business, but don’t let the informality distract from your purpose of the meeting. Prepare for your meeting in advance by drafting an itinerary of the meeting to keep yourself focused. It’s your job to politely keep the conversation on-topic throughout the meal. As a rule of thumb, don’t launch into business conversation until after drinks have been served and meals ordered. Instead, prepare some topics in advance to engage your client in small talk.
3. Order Smart
If you’re hosting your client at a restaurant, there are a few rules of etiquette to keep in mind. Let your guest order a drink first, so they don’t feel inhibited by your choice of non-alcoholic drink. If you’re meeting during business hours, you might want to play it safe and steer clear of alcohol. But this doesn’t mean your guests should, too. You want them to feel comfortable.
When ordering your meal, follow your guests’ lead. If your guest orders something light, you’ll want to follow suit. Messy foods that are difficult to eat can distract from the business topic at hand, like someone licking their fingers from eating buffalo wings is certainly a distraction.
4. Talk Less Listen More
As the host, you want to do more listening than talking, apart from facilitating the meeting itinerary. Keep your phone off and out of sight throughout the meeting, and resist any urge to peek at messages or answering the phone – unless it’s of importance and has to do with the business luncheon.
5. Keep Lunch Etiquette in Mind
If ever there was a time to be on your best manners, a business lunch is one of them. Keep your napkin in your lap, and wait until everyone is served to begin eating. Ask your guests to pass items like salt and pepper, bread and butter to you, rather than reaching across the table. When finished, don’t push your plate away or stack it. Lay your utensils down on your plate so that your server knows to clear your plate.
*Here is a list of 10 etiquette tips for business luncheon
6. Pick up the Check
As the host, it’s your responsibility to pay for the meal. An easy way to handle the check is to give your server your credit card when you arrive to the restaurant or meeting event space. This way the bill won’t arrive at the table and awkwardly interrupt your discussion. If you’re hosting an in-office lunch, you should order and pay for everything well in advance. This is also the time for you to access your meeting with your itinerary. Have you covered everything you intended? If not, try to find a way to cover remaining items and conclude the meeting with a positive message.