Business Meal Etiquette

Business Meal Etiquette

More and more business transactions and negotiations take place while dining. Business dining is not just about the meal, but developing relationships. The business lunch affords professionals the opportunity to evaluate and get to know each other better. Are you making a good impression and representing your company by exhibiting the highest degree of business lunch decorum? 

Hosting a Business Lunch

As the host, it is your responsibility to ensure that your client’s experience is pleasurable.  Pay attention to details to warrant a well executed lunch meeting.

When selecting a restaurant, choose a venue that has quality foods and good customer service. If you are unaware of your guest’s dietary preferences, choose an establishment that offers a variety of menu selections. It is also acceptable to inquire if your guest has a restaurant preference. Don’t experiment; if you are unfamiliar with a restaurant, I advise you to scout it out ahead of time.

Inform the restaurant that you will be hosting a business lunch when you make the reservations.  Some establishments have select seating areas for these types of meals.  Your table selection should afford some privacy.  Avoid tables near the entrance, bathrooms and kitchen.

The day before the lunch meeting, reconfirm with your guest.  Exchange mobile phone numbers and provide the phone number of the restaurant in case of an emergency.

Try to arrive before your guest to ensure all of your specifications have been met.  Pay for the meal ahead of time or let the waiter know that you will be responsible for the meal.  Once all of the preliminaries have been handled, wait in the lobby for your client.

Do not only familiarize yourself with your clients business, but be prepared to discuss non business topics.

The host is responsible for paying the tab.  The person who invites someone to a business lunch is expected to pay.

At the conclusion of the lunch, verbally extend your appreciation, and then follow up with a thank you card.  Take this opportunity to recap any business decisions.

Client’s Responsibilities

  • Inform the host upon confirmation of your acceptance to the lunch, if you are a vegetarian, have shellfish allergies or any other dietary restrictions/preferences.
  • Arrive on time.  If the host has not arrived, do not proceed to the table, but wait in the lobby.
  • Turn off your mobile phone before entering the restaurant.  Give your dining companions your undivided attention.
  • As the guest, you should be prepared to place your reasonably priced menu order first.  It is okay to inquire of the host’s food selection to gauge the price range.  Remember that closing the menu indicates that you are ready to order.
  • Send a thank you note to show appreciation for an enjoyable meal.

Five Dining Tips for a Business Lunch 

  1. Order a meal that is easy to avoid messy and challenging foods such as French onion soup, red pastas, crab legs, barbecued meats or chicken with bones (unless you can skillfully eat boned chicken with a knife and fork).
  2. The general rule is not to discuss business during the onset of the be prepared to initiate small talk by having non business conversation topics in mind.  Be cognizant, however of your clients time.  A business lunch should not consume an entire afternoon (average time 1 ½ hours).
  3. Order the same number of courses to keep pace with your dining if your client orders soup, salad or dessert, follow suit.
  4. To avoid talking with food in your mouth, take small bites.
  5. The standard tip is 15-18 calculated on the pre-tax total of theIn upscale restaurants, 20 is customary. For those of you who extend your time at the table (more than 1 ½ hours), leave more than the standard tip.  Take into consideration the additional customers your waiter could have served.
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Tina Hayes is the founder and owner of The School of Etiquette and Decorum in Antioch, CA. As a passionate instructor dedicated to providing quality and professional etiquette training to her clients, Mrs. Tina Hayes promotes the awareness that social presentation and behaviors are important to be successful in today's society for all ages.