Business lunches leave a lasting impression.

Hopefully it will be the type of impression that will land you that new position in your company or a big account with a new client.  Having business lunch will help you cross the formal boundaries and will let you get to know the other person on a more personal level.

Business LunchCredit:

If you are arranging a business lunch it’s worth your while to follow these never-fail tips:

The Invitation:  As a rule, business lunches are arranged between people who are already acquainted.  They do not involve a complicated presentation, detailed financial matters or heavy sales pitches.  Those issues should be attended to days before or even after the lunch in a formal meeting venue.

The Reservation:  Choose a convenient place that you know well and is a reasonably quiet setting.  Loud music, chatter from other diners, and street noises are distracting.  Now is not the time to experiment with a new restaurant.  If possible, meet at a place you know well, and where you know you will be treated with respect.  If you are planning a lunch in a city that you are just visiting, get a referral from other business friends or even your hotel concierge. 

Be specific about the table location when you are making the reservation – five for lunch, near a window, where we can talk without interruption.  If you alone are meeting only a  member of the opposite sex, it is best to ask for a table that is in a more open setting.  If the reservation is made more than 24 hours in advance, make sure to call and confirm it on the day of the lunch appointment.  If you are meeting your guests there, be sure to arrive early.  You will want to be at the restaurant well before you expect your guests to arrive.  This way you can make sure you get the table you requested and you might even have a chance to look over the menu options. 

Drinks:  Speak up when the waiter inquires about refreshments.  Ask your guest if he or she would like a drink.  Order something light for yourself such as mineral water and lime, a spritzer (wine and soda) or an aperitif.  It shows poor judgment as well as poor taste to overindulge.  Typically, your guests will follow your lead when ordering a drink and if you wish to discourage using alcohol, then by all means order water or a soft drink. 

The Food:  Make your guests feel comfortable by commenting on some of the menu selections you have already tried.  If you haven’t eaten there before, it’s a good idea to call ahead and ask the maitre d’ for advice.  By your suggestions, the guest will have an idea of the price range in which he may choose.  Choose foods you are familiar with when ordering for yourself.  Simple foods such as salad allow you to concentrate on the job at hand while getting to know your guests.  Messy foods, such as pizza, fried chicken and spaghetti, court disaster!  Be careful of strong and spice foods for lunch, as you don’t want to have everyone run from your breath for the rest of the day! 

If the food is unacceptable or has a problem, send it back without making a fuss, simply saying for example, “The steak was supposed to be rare.”  Don’t assume responsibility for bad food that has been served.  Suggest a substitution if you can’t get it to your liking. 

The Conversation:  This lunch should not be an interview or an interrogation of your guests.  Relax and converse casually.  Chat about subjects unrelated to your business.  Ask guests about family, hobbies or other interests and try to find some common ground.  Nothing relaxes a person more than to talk about his favorite football team or the opportunity to brag about a recent accomplishment of a child.  Keeping the conversation on a slightly personal level will help you develop a relationship with your guest.  Do not probe or get too overly personal.  If your guest seems uncomfortable with any conversation topic, quickly go another direction.  Make sure you include all guests at the table in your conversations.  Avoid talking politics and religion, as you do not want to offend your guest in anyway.  These are boundaries that aren’t appropriate to cross at this point. 

Listen to your guest and don’t be distracted with phone calls or emails while at the table.

Act Like a Professional:  Don’t over do compliments and flattery.  If you appreciate something on a professional level that is fine but keep it low-keyed.   Don’t try to oversell yourself, or make promises you have no way or no intention of keeping.  Be yourself but be professional. 

Business:  When lunch orders have been taken, direct the conversation to business, but remember that taking notes or presenting papers is not appropriate at lunch.  Set up a meeting for a later time or date for this type of activity.  When the food arrives, carry the conversation back to lighter subjects.  It’s not polite to discuss business while eating.  After you have finished your meal, switch back to talking business over coffee or tea and dessert.  Now is the time to make your point in a comfortable manner.  You will feel more like friends talking than just business acquaintances. 

The Check:  There are several ways to establish that you’re paying the bill.  Your invitation is the first; state clearly that you would like to take your guest out for lunch, rather than suggesting that you just meet for lunch.  Make the reservations in your name and when you arrive at the restaurant, tell the maitre d’ privately that you would like to receive the bill.  Once the bill has been paid, keep the conversation light, but before saying goodbye, reinforce the major points you wanted to make.  Exchange business contact information if you haven’t already done so.

After the meal, quickly follow up with a note, email or phone call.  It’s important to continue the relationship you have established while enjoying lunch.