Business lunches can be stressful. Within the space of one and a half to two hours, you have to impress your client with your business know-how, show off your skills as a gracious host, uphold your professional image and engage in conversation as you cut and chew your food. Let’s be honest, it’s a complicated juggle of social skills.
To help you feel more in control and your guest more relaxed, here are five of the more common issues we come across during a business lunch.
Who Chooses the Restaurant?
The person who extends the invitation chooses the restaurant. It’s always best to ask your guest what food they prefer and if there is any food they cannot eat for health or religious reasons. To ensure the total dining experience will reflect well on you and your company, I also recommend that you choose a restaurant you have dined at before.
Is Chivalry Necessary?
During a business lunch, men should not feel obliged to pull out a woman’s chair, or to stand when a female colleague or client approaches and leaves the table. In the business world, it is rank that is important, not gender. Having said that, if your male colleague or client does pull out your chair for you, it is polite to accept this kind gesture by stepping to the right and responding with a simple ‘Thank you’.
Where Should You Seat Your Guest?
If you want your guest to feel at ease during your lunch so they can concentrate on your meeting and conversation, offer them a seat against the wall, looking out onto the restaurant. As humans, when we sit with our back against a wall or object of some kind, we feel more secure and comfortable. In contrast, when we sit with our back to an open space, we feel vulnerable because we cannot see who or what is approaching.
When Do You Discuss Business?
An appropriate time to discuss business is during the main meal or dessert. Business lunches are a more relaxed style of meeting that give you a chance to get to know the other person on a casual basis. Start off with some general chitchat about news events, sports or holidays. After the main meal is served, the host can steer the conversation toward business.
How, When and Who Should Pay?
Whoever extends the invitation pays for the business lunch. During a well-managed lunch, the bill should never arrive on the table. Instead, as host you have two choices: you can excuse yourself after dessert to discreetly pay the bill, or you can organise with the restaurant beforehand for the bill to be sent to your office.
For more articles on dining etiquette, take a look at “How to Eat and Talk During a Business Lunch“, and “4 Table Manners to Impress During a Business Lunch“.
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