“Let’s meet for lunch” may sound like a fun business invitation, but remember there’s no such thing as a “free lunch. ” What you do or say could either make or break a deal. So, as host or guest, if you feel lunch is an inappropriate place to hold your meeting, offer a different possibility.
For the times you decide to “do lunch, ” here are a few tips to make your luncheon meeting as pleasant and profitable as possible.
Begin by choosing the right place to meet and eat. Avoid loud, busy restaurants. You can pick some place you already know or you could allow your guest to choose their favorite spot. That way, you can avoid mistakes - like taking a vegetarian to “Fat Bubba’s Rib Joint. ”
Always confirm the time and place so there’s no miscommunication or embarrassment and be sure to arrive on time dressed appropriately. If you have a limit to how long you can spend eating, let the other person know. And definitely turn off your cell phone. It’s rude to take calls during a business meal.
Start the meeting with a warm smile and firm handshake. Thank the other person for either inviting you or accepting your invitation. Some pleasant, getting related small talk is important to set the proper tone, so don’t jump right into talking business. Wait until the food order is placed or at least allow the other person to make the first move.
Almost every restaurant in the country now has their menu posted on the web. Check it out ahead of time, so you know what to order in advance. Never smoke or drink and never order sloppy. (Let’s face it, there’s no way to eat a double bacon cheeseburger with extra sauce without looking like a pig. ) Also, if you’re the guest, never order an appetizer, dessert or the most expensive entrée, unless your host encourages it. Even then, be appropriate.
Know your table etiquette (forks on the left, knives on the right, etc. ) and always mind your manners. Don’t be looking around the restaurant to check out what other people are doing. Focus first on the conversation at hand and secondly on the meal. And never speak rudely to your server. Be polite at all times.
If you’re the host, it’s your responsibility to pick up the check and cover all costs, including the tip, parking and coat check. And if you’re the guest, be gracious and express appreciation. Let the host know you enjoyed their company and the meal. (But not to the point of asking for a “doggy bag. ”) A thank you note sent to the host on the following day is always a classy thing to do.
As schedules get busier, the business lunch is becoming more popular. When handled with style, grace and charm, breaking bread together is a great way to get to know someone on a more personal level, as well as an efficient and effective way to conduct business.
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