If you’ve ever been to an important business meeting that took place over lunch, you’ll know exactly the struggle it can be when you’re trying to eat, talk, and look professional, all at the same time.
I recently had a business meeting at a fabulous restaurant here in Lyon. It got me thinking about this exact topic: eating, talking, and looking professional during a business lunch. No matter how many business lunches you’ve attended, it can really be difficult to juggle food and conversation. But there are some things you can do to take the pressure off. It’s these tips I want to share with you today. Hopefully these tips will help you to better enjoy your food and get your point across in an elegant, professional manner.
Take Small Bites
Smaller bites are quicker and easier to chew. By cutting your food into smaller pieces, you can smoothly and elegantly place each item of food into your mouth. Make your knife and fork work more, so you can work less.
Don’t Order Steak or Spaghetti
These dishes are too difficult to eat when you’re trying to talk. Steak is often too chewy. And unless you’re a pro twirling spaghetti around your fork, it can easily end up on your lap. Avoid these disasters and instead order food that is easier to eat.
Order Fish or Chicken
Fish and chicken are generally softer meats and much easier to chew. The only exception would be fish with bones. Although there are polite ways to remove fish bones from your mouth, no matter how you do it, it can detract from your elegance and class.
Keep Your Napkin on Your Lap in Case of Accidents
When you sit down at a restaurant table, the correct napkin etiquette is to place the napkin on your lap. This is done for a reason: if you need your napkin in a hurry (for example, you sense you have sauce on the side of your mouth), you can quickly reach for your napkin and wipe away your distraction.
Keep a Glass of Water Nearby
One of the familiar sights on a French dinner table is a pitcher of water (and of course some wine). In case you need to wash food down in a hurry, or to simply refresh your palate, it’s always a good idea to ask your waiter to leave some water on the table and a water glass for each person.
Be the Conversation Leader
When you are the conversation leader you can ask the questions, and do more listening and more eating. By asking more questions, the other person has to elaborate and talk more. But don’t make the other person talk through the whole lunch. They will need a chance to eat their meal as well.