Tried and Tested Tips for a Successful Business Lunch

Business Lunch

In the modern money-driven world, business seems to mysteriously find its way through to all of our once private rituals, hobbies and other everyday habits, so having a lunch with a business partner, boss or office superior has become a commonplace way to tie up loose ends job-wise. Still, having a business lunch is not the same as having a successful business lunch: at times, things can go awfully wrong and irreparable damage can be done to our reputation, self-confidence or even career. That’s why we have some useful tips for you right here on how to painlessly survive a business lunch with your colleague, associate or boss without risks, worries and awkwardness, so keep reading.

The knack of planning ahead: Be prepared in advance

The fact that your business partner or superior won’t probably pay attention to the fine details during the lunch doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. Make sure you dress up for the occasion adequately (no short skirts for women; a tie is a must for men), show up on time and check out the restaurant menu, available seating areas and food prices before your lunch company arrives in order to avoid awkwardness and dilemmas even before the dreaded lunch begins. Also, you might want to slip your credit card to the waiter before your lunch partner arrives to avoid needless hassle and confusion as bill arrives after the meal’s over.

Etiquette first: Show your best manners

When in public with your colleagues or superiors, mind your manners with utmost care to prevent potential hiccups and small embarrassments in communication. However close your office staff may be during the office hours or informal gatherings, throwing in some dirty inside jokes, talking with your mouth full or picking your teeth may not be exactly an ideal asset in the proud assortment of your table manners. Remember what your mother taught you: keep your elbows off the table, eat small bites, use cutlery instead of hands and chew carefully, and speak after you’ve swallowed your food. You yourself wouldn’t like to be seen having lunch in public with someone with mannerisms of a common caveman, would you?

It’s a business lunch: Keep it formal

Although corporate lunches are part meals and part business gatherings, the rule of thumb is to avoid personal subjects as much as possible. In your table-talk, you can make some small talk at first to get to know your lunch party and build trust, but once your meal arrives, it’s advisable to try to stay on task in communication. It’s a business lunch after all, and you’re probably not there to discuss the lengthy list of your wife’s pet peeves or the anecdotes from your wild-stud youth. Each corporate meeting has a purpose, structure and goal, so staying on the business track is not only recommendable, it’s absolutely necessary to prevent delays in task-oriented communication.

Keep the talk going: Listen, discuss, repeat

The fact that some intimate topics are definitely off the table doesn’t mean you’re supposed to just sit there nodding away all though the meal. Corporate gatherings, including lunches, are meant for exchange of ideas, experiences and plans, so unless you want the conversation with your lunch partner to dry up as soon as they’ve presented their thoughts, make sure you contribute your share of communication. This means you will have to follow the train of thoughts around the table with due awareness as you’re picking your way across the plate, but hopefully each intelligent individual is capable of eating and listening at the same time. Follow up on your colleague’s ideas and views with your own thoughts and suggestions on the subject and let them present their impressions thereon. After all, most business lunches are all about dialogue, so make sure you truly participate in it.

Show some taste: Pick your food with care

Although a savory pizza with lots of cheese and a can of beer may be your one-stop lunch order on regular days, you should show some consideration when choosing your food on a business lunch. It’s highly recommendable to steer clear of foods and drinks that are either too messy or too cheap, but that doesn’t mean that you are supposed to go and order the most expensive dish on the menu. Remember, moderation and taste often make a strong impression so try to order dishes that show your preferences and habits in the best of lights. Also, avoid too greasy or too complex dishes and pick the items with a relatively reasonable price tag so as not to make your lunch party uncomfortable about their own food choice. If you really have to drink some alcohol, it’s best to go with a glass of semillion sauvignon blanc or some sweet white wine blend to prevent stains through accidental spills.

Though corporate meetings at lunchtime do include food, there’s much more to them than just the grubs. If you’ve been invited to a business lunch, make sure you dress for the occasion, arrive on time, pick your food with taste, show some manners, take active part in the conversation and keep things formal. If you follow these simple tips with due care, you will probably experience no negative vibes from your lunch company or risk embarrassing yourself in front of your office crew, boss or potential business partners. In fact, with come attention, moderation and etiquette, you may actually make a good impression on your associates, clinch some great business deals or even get promoted, so show your best face at the corporate lunch and leave the rest to fate.

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Dr. Jade Marie Tomaszewski is a pathologist-in-training at McGill University, where she also did her degree in MSc Pathology. She obtained her medical degree (MD) from the University of the Philippines, after completing a BSc in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology. In her (little) spare time, she enjoys spending time with family, curling up with a book and a large mug of tea, and trying out new recipes in the kitchen. You can follow her on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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