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CEO Confidential

How To Conduct A Successful Restaurant Business Lunch

Business lunches are a very common way to do business. Due so their slightly more informal nature they come with whole set of unique circumstances that you must capitalize on. A business lunch is a great way to make a good impression but it can also go badly and you will lose your reputation. Protecting your reputation is crucial in business life.

To help you excel during your next business lunch we got 7 tips for successful business lunches.

  1. Make sure reservations are confirmed: There’s nothing worse than arriving at a restaurant and host doesn’t know who you are. This is the ultimate embarrassment generally, but in a business lunch situation it’s the worst mistake possible. Make sure you have reservations confirmed with the restaurant, especially if it’s a bust place. Some people prefer to use phone calls to make reservations, but a better option could be to book online with the restaurant. This is because a reservation system will confirm your online reservations through email and SMS so you have a bit more peace of mind.
    However, you choose to do it make sure your reservations are 100% confirmed to avoid nasty surprises.
  2. Avoid Alcohol: Depending on the circumstances you might want to indulge in a glass or two over lunch. As a general rule this should be avoided as effective leaders rarely drink alcohol during the day. We don’t live in an episode of Mad Man these days! Drinking inhibits your ability to think critically and insightfully, both essential skills during an important business lunch. You may let a valuable deal slip away if you are not 100% focused. That’s why we always say drinking should be avoided.
  3. Have a loose agenda: Just because it’s lunch doesn’t mean you should it any differently from a regular business meeting. You wouldn’t go into a meeting having done zero preparation and outlined some of the what you would like to speak about during the meeting. Whilst a business lunch scenario may be a bit less formal than a regular meeting it still pays to have an agenda and goals for what you hope to get from the meeting. How would you like the meeting finish? What would be the ultimate conclusion?
  4. Don’t use your phone: Phones are very distracting and should be avoided at the table. Maybe you need the phone for handling the reservations or something along those lines but other than that it’s best to keep your phone out of sight. We recommend putting it on silent mode also, so it doesn’t buzz at some point during the business lunch. Why leave your phone out the discussion over lunch? Well it’s a common courtesy to your guest but also it allows you to focus 100% on the business at hand.

  5. Pay the Cheque: If you invited the person to a business lunch, you should pay the cheque at the end. Most people instinctively know this and it’s 100% true. What do you do if the other persons offers to pay half or something similar? Insist you pay the whole thing anyway. You invited the person so you are paying.

    This is basic etiquette of a business lunch. Make sure it’s a conversation: During a business lunch your guest will want it to be a conversation and not just you telling him how great your company is. This is not an opportunity to go on on about your success. Your guest will just get bored.

    During the business lunch it’s best to try and keep your guest talking. This will invariably make him happier and he’ll most likely come away from the meeting with a better impression of the meeting in general. Make sure you are listening carefully and replying with care and consideration.

  1. Dress for the occasion: For a business lunch, dress is of course important. It’s important to dress for the occasion. This can mean different things in different industries. If you are a banker you are most likely dressing differently from someone who works at a startup. So, there are no hard and fast rules here.

    The best approach is to try and fit in. You dress can also depend on the type of restaurant you are going to.

    If your invited to an expensive, fancy restaurant for a business lunch then you could consider dressing on the more formal end of things. In some circumstances there might be a dress code at the restaurant you are going to. If you are in doubt it’s best to call ahead and check.

Ultimately one of your goals is to feel comfortable and confident during the lunch so take that in to consideration also. The business lunch is a great place to shine and put your best foot forward. By following our tips above you’ve got the basics covered and have the tools you need to portray a great impression.


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Alexandra Dimitropoulou
Deputy executive editor at the ​CEOWORLD magazine. Writer, internet person, professional restaurant recommender, and native New Yorker. Passions: health & wellness, coffee, running & dogs.
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