How to eat and talk during a business lunch

How to Eat and Talk During a Business Lunch

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.

For other dining etiquette posts, take a look at: “Four Table Manners to Impress at a Business Lunch“, and “Five Tips for a Successful Business Lunch“.

Image courtesy of Whatleydude on Flickr.com under Creative Commons licence. No changes were made to this image. [The above image by Whatleydude was also used for the header image].

Image courtesy of Whatleydude on Flickr.com under Creative Commons licence. No changes were made to this image. [The above image by Whatleydude was also used for the header image].

 Do you have any interesting business lunch stories to tell? What secrets do you use to look professional and elegant while eating? Leave your comments in the section below.

About Kara

Kara Ronin is the founder of Executive Impressions. She is an executive coach who specialises in leadership presence, social skills and business etiquette. She is also the creator of Bestselling Udemy course, Business Etiquette 101. Kara’s advice and unique perspectives have been featured in Time Inc., Business Insider, Ignites Europe (a Financial Times Service), The Muse, The Local France, The West Australian, and more. Kara works regularly with lawyers, investment bankers, and finance professionals to help them build presence, authority and influence in business. Get Kara's insights delivered straight to your inbox