Business lunches are commonplace, standard events which take place every day of the week for some people. People who know how to be polite on emails, how to act in a board meeting and who know how to dress properly for work sometimes don’t fully understand business lunch etiquette. Why is that? It’s because more often than not we are thrown into a business lunch or dinner, without much warning. We also may assume you just behave as you would perhaps at a formal lunch with the in-laws or in a posh restaurant. However, there is much more to it than that and understanding ‘the rules’ means avoiding faux pas and making the most of your business lunch client meeting.

© Thomas Wanhoff

© Thomas Wanhoff

Here are quick and easy tips to help you perfect your business lunch etiquette:

Choose the Spot Wisely

If the person you are inviting is short on time, try to be considerate of that and consider perhaps opting for a coffee and cake invite instead of a full lunch – know how much time they can spare for you before making a booking. You should also make sure you choose the right place to dine. Offer up a few options for them to choose and make sure to ask if they have any dietary requirements. You don’t want to make a booking at a steakhouse and find your client is a raw vegan! As well as the restaurant it is also important to consider where the table is. If you’re meeting with people you have met with before and have banter with, you can opt for a table in a busier area with a bit more vibrancy. If you’re looking to impress a high value client and have the ability to talk a deal through with them properly, book the best table in the restaurant and ensure it is in a quiet spot.

Don’t Jump Straight Into Business Talk

Make sure you are polite and considerate when you are speaking with your guest. Ask them how their journey was, and compliment them. If you are talking about social subjects, don’t just change the subject to business – it will break the mood. When the subject of business comes up, listen and ask lots of questions – there will naturally come a time you can start pitching.

Deal With the Bill Confidently and Swiftly

When the bill comes reach for it quickly and maintain eye contact as you remain chatting to your client. The best option would be to immediately provide the waiter with your card as the bill arrives, however if this isn’t possible try to leave the table and pay the bill quickly at the bar.

Dress Properly

This may seem obvious but some people can see a business lunch or dinner as a chance to meet a client ‘outside of work’ in a more casual format, turning up in jeans and a t-shirt then looking shocked when the client is sat in formal business attire. Now, you are indeed meeting them outside of the workplace, but it is still for work related matters – it isn’t a few beers down the pub on a Friday with your colleagues which means smart or smart/casual still applies. Even if they turn up in casual clothing, you should always represent your company with your polished shoes, best tie and ironed shirt – first impressions matter.

Shake Hands

When you greet the person make sure you shake hands properly and smile – make them feel welcomed by you.

Don’t Sit Down First

Make sure you sit down after your guest has been seated.

Do Not Use Your Phone

At no point is it OK for you to take a phone call, text or check your emails. Turn it off, keep it away.

Sit Straight and Keep Elbows Off The Table

It can be easy to place elbows on the table when trying to get into a conversation with someone, however this is rude and potentially a bit too close for comfort for the person opposite. Sit back and relax keeping your elbows off the table.

Don’t Order Messy Food

When you go on a date, you never order messy food or food difficult to eat because of the potential for ugly eating – the same applies with business lunches or dinners. Avoid food like barbecue ribs, particularly herby food (immediate herby teeth), lobster and spaghetti and instead go for easy to eat food that won’t end up round your mouth or worse, being flicked in someone’s face.

Make Recommendations

If you can, make sure you know about the food at the restaurant you are attending so you can recommend dishes to your guest. They may well ask you what you recommend and if you say you haven’t been before, that may come across as though you haven’t put much effort or forethought into the meeting.

Don’t Drink Much Alcohol

There is nothing wrong with enjoy a glass of wine over lunch, however, stop at one on all occasions. It doesn’t matter how well you think you can handle your drink, drinking more than one alcoholic drink over business lunch will come across as careless. And you might end up embarrassing yourself, which could be disastrous.

When Sharing, Don’t Be Greedy

When pouring out wine for others, fill their glasses first – you’re last. When sharing dishes with others, take small amounts at a time so you don’t look like you’re hogging all the food – always offer the last piece of food to the other person.

Enjoy Yourself!

Enjoy yourself, business lunches can be amazing experiences leading to amazing opportunities!

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