Depending upon your line of work, you may find that you do business over meals. It’s a great opportunity to get to know your client or prospective client and conduct business in a more relaxed setting. Much of the success of a business lunch lies in the planning. A well-planned event shows respect for your guest and that you care enough about the relationship to pay attention to the small details.
Some things to keep in mind as you plan your business lunch are:
1. Invite your guest for a specific date, time, and place. As host, it is your duty to make the arrangements. That said, if you know your guest has a particular favorite or there’s a restaurant more convenient for them, that’s a good choice.
2. Make a reservation. If your restaurant of choice doesn’t take reservations, choose a different restaurant. You don’t want to show up and have to wait for a table.
3. When making your reservation, let the restaurant staff know of the importance of your meal and your guest. Ask if it is possible to not have the check brought to the table, but rather that you will settle it after your guest has departed. Be sure to follow up with this request when you arrive at the restaurant on the day of your meeting.
4. Plan to arrive about 15 minutes early. This will give you time to confirm arrangements and select a good table. Let the host know your guest’s name, so they can welcome them accordingly when they arrive.
5. If you will be doing business over lunch on a regular basis, establish yourself with a few restaurants. This will enable you to more easily make arrangements and be confident that the best impression will be made to your guest.
6. While waiting for your guest, don’t order anything. It’s fine to sip on water, but hold off on all ordering – even a beverage – until your guest arrives.
7. At the table your guest should be offered the better seat with the better view. A big part of making a good impression is showing respect for your guest and their comfort.
8. When ordering food, allow your guest to order first and match them course for course. If your guest orders an appetizer, order an appetizer. If your guest wants dessert, have dessert.
9. Most business will be discussed between ordering and when the food arrives. Once your meals are served, notebooks and such should not be on the table. If you know that there are details of the conversation that you need to capture, a small notepad on which you can discreetly jot down notes is acceptable.
10. Following the meal, send your guest a note expressing thanks to them for joining you. Even though you were the host, they gave you their time and you should be appreciative of that.
Of course, you will want to ensure that you are well versed in your table manners to make a good impression during the meal. A book I like on the subject is The Etiquette Advantage in Business from the Emily Post Institute.
The bottom line is that it’s all about paying attention to details and making your guest feel comfortable. If you do that, you should have a successful and enjoyable meal.