Just last week I had a great client passing through and he invited me and several members of my office to lunch. It got me thinking about what makes for a successful business lunch. So I decided to pen down these simple rules to act as a guideline.
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and Coffee
You, just as well as I know that in today’s world we are non-stop. Working hours don’t end when we leave the office nor meals happen at the particular time they once used to. So, when you say you want to take out your business partner for lunch, you are not necessarily taking him/her for lunch. It can be any meal or that much desired cup of coffee.
Agenda, Objectives, and Food
Usually, once the food is introduced into the equation we all forget about the purpose of the meeting. Regardless of the fact the food is there, you and your partner shouldn’t forget about the fact you sat together to discuss business. Food is just trickery to oil things up. When you go to a lunch, you need to have defined goals for what you want to achieve as well as a clear agenda. Don’t be pushy about it, though. Starting talking business the moment you sat down is pretty rude. Let your client get comfortable, eat something and then when you are somewhere half through the meal, lightly start talking about that business deal you wanted to in talk about in the first place. Also, don’t make it awkward. A start like “Wow, this chicken is amazing so how about you investing a million dollars in my company?” is intolerable. Be smart about how you introduce the topic.
It’s Business, not a Date
Food brings us the feeling of comfort. It’s no surprise that you’ll feel like you’ve known your client for years once that desert arrives. And, obviously, it’s no surprise that there’ll be both business and some personal talk, yet make sure you don’t overdo. No serious revelations or discussions are allowed. Well, they are allowed but they are wrong. You are there for business. Also, no flirting. It’s a business thing, not a date thing. Do you really want that reputation following your business name? Of course you don’t. No matter how much you like someone, hooking up in a work place is a big No, no! If you can limit yourself to flirting for a cause (we are all familiar with this one – the cultured amount of flirting, open enough to create a bond with someone, closed enough not to give any ideas) go for it. Just never overdo it.
No Alcohol or the Right Alcohol
We all know that drinking impairs one’s abilities. If you are a sloppy drunk, don’t even go near the bar. Also, if you believe drinks will cloud your client’s judgment, don’t suggest ordering alcoholic beverage. However, if you are on a business lunch with someone who can hold it together, one glass won’t harm anyone. We’d suggest you go with some white wine – it oozes class and it isn’t too strong. Still, the key is in moderation, so make sure you don’t get your client or yourself drunk.
A business lunch can is a moment where you make it or break it. The smallest of gestures you’d usually find insignificant are THE manners you’ll be judged for – or the ones you’ll judge your client for. No matter how charming your chewing and talking with mouth full while you are spitting little pieces of food is (eeek!) steer clear of such mannerism. Also, the infamous “Are you going to eat that?” shouldn’t happen. At least not on your part. Oh, and – pick up the check! No arguing. You are the one who invited your client for lunch, you are the business and the company. This is your call.
One of the most important aspects of a business meeting is to have your client upbeat and open. Nobody likes a situation where you chew on your food while the awkward silence is about to strangle you. Everyone likes a good listener and a good converser! Yet, be the one who listens more and as for your talking – share enough to create a bond.