Tips for Having a Successful Business Lunch

Sharon Boyd has nearly 25 years of experience between both the healthcare and marketing industries. In addition to being an RDH and content writing expert, she also holds a degree in business. Her responsibilities primarily include tackling the communication barriers between small business owners or healthcare providers and their prospective clientele.

Tips for Having a Successful Business Lunch

Now that we’re entering a transitional stage between "post–COVID" protocols and "re–entering" into the groundwork of new ways of conducting business in a vaccinated society, an older but valuable aspect of business connections is starting to make a comeback: the business lunch.

What’s the Value in a Business Lunch?

Time spent out of the brick–and–mortar corporate environment is some of the most essential when it comes to developing professional relationships. The business lunch is a classic example (especially if you’re not into golf.) Today’s business lunches can be quite more casual than those of the past. But they’re just as crucial when it comes to networking or laying the groundwork to form a business partnership.

Now that more states are opening back up again, it can help to have a refresher on traditional–and new–etiquette to keep in mind. Here are some important tips to keep in mind:

1. Arrive Early

To be on time is to be late.

To be early is to be on time.

Time is money.

Don’t make anyone wait on you. Always arrive at least 10 minutes early, to show you value the time of others. It doesn’t matter whether you’re meeting at a bistro or on ZOOM.

2. Silence Your Phone and Set it Aside

Make sure you’re devoting your attention to your lunch guest. Set your phone in your bag, pocket, or underneath any folders you may have brought with you. Most of us can easily get distracted when our phone alerts come through, so it’s best to show you value the other party’s presence by eliminating the distraction altogether. Start by immediately recognizing your guest once they arrive, whether they prefer a traditional handshake or the sanitized elbow–bump version.

3. Don’t Start Out Talking Business

Depending on what information you have on hand, start by making small talk to find commonalities. Perhaps you’re both baseball fans, have teenagers, or even drive the same type of vehicle. Small talk is one of the best ways to lay the groundwork for deeper conversations. In fact, there are even books out there on the "art" of making meaningful small talk. As your conversation progresses, you can easily segue into learning more about the other party’s business needs, history, goals, etc.

4. Mind Your Table Manners

Although there are differing opinions on the formality of "old school" table manners, you still can’t go wrong with keeping your elbows off the table, waiting for everyone to have their food before you start eating, cutting your food into smaller bites, chewing with your mouth closed, and not talking with food in your mouth. Order something that’s less likely to be messy.

If your mother would shudder, just don’t do it.

5. Keep it Simple and Practice Active Listening

Ask questions to get your guest talking. Pay close attention as you home in on your "active listening"skills, engaging in conversation at the prompts of your colleague. Once you get around to business, which may very well be halfway through the meal, try to do more listening than talking (unless of course, they’re the ones asking the questions.) Watch for body language to make sure you’re on the same wavelength as the other party.

6. Pay the Tab

Be prepared to pick up the tab, especially if you were the one who initiated the invitation to lunch. Keep your receipt, since it’s a business expense!

Your business lunches don’t have to be restricted to lunchtime. Breakfasts and dinners work well, too! If you’re in an area where restrictions are still fairly rigid, consider DoorDash or UberEats and having lunch over ZOOM. If you find it’s difficult to eat a healthy lunch because of how busy your workday is, consider blending meetings and work together to kill two birds with one stone.