Once upon a time, the business lunch meant meeting up with a client, enjoying a few drinks, having a leisurely meal and then ringing the office to say you won’t be in again until the morning. But those days are long gone and now a working lunch is exactly what it says it is. And, to make it as productive and worthwhile as possible, here are seven handy tips.
It doesn’t have to be lunch
The very first thing to note is that a business meeting can be held over any meal, not just lunch. In fact, many people would prefer it at the start or the end of the day when it’s less disruptive to their schedules – so breakfast is a perfect solution, especially if you can have it brought in to your office by a service like Deliveroo, which has brought the option of ordering from higher-end establishments that don’t traditionally do delivery.
Set yourself an agenda
It’s important to remember that it’s a meeting first and meal second, so you should have it clear in your head about what you want to talk about and, if possible, in what order. Don’t worry if you get slightly side-tracked but do try to bring the conversation round again.
Remember to stick to business
Tied to the point above, in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere it can be easy to get off the subject in hand to discuss family, holidays and other more “social” things. There’s certainly room for this, but not too much of it. Keep your goal in mind, or even set specific targets for the working lunch to make sure you are productive.
Stick to soft drinks
Obviously not a problem if it’s a breakfast meeting, but alcohol is quite a big no-no at lunch and definitely dubious in the evening. As well as being quite unprofessional to be glugging it back you can also end up saying precisely the wrong thing if you become over-relaxed after a few glasses of wine
Remember your manners
A business meal doesn’t have to be quite as formal as the Japanese tea ceremony, but you will be under scrutiny as far as your manners are concerned. So it’s basic common sense really. Don’t talk with your mouth full, pour your guest’s glass of water before your own and generally be a polite host.
Listen more than you talk
While you may have plenty you want to say, take time to listen too because that’s the only way that you’re going to have a meaningful and productive dialogue and both stand the best chance of what you want to get from the meal, and the meeting.
Pay, but don’t make a big thing of it
Finally, if you arranged the meal, make sure that it’s you who picks up the bill – but don’t make a big thing of it. Of course, if your guest is insistent about splitting it don’t argue too hard about it. They may just be doing it to ensure that they’re not indebted to you in any which could influence your relationship in the future.
So there you have them, seven cardinal rules of making business meals work for you. It’s not a comprehensive list but it’s a good place to start – and they might even help to make the whole experience even more enjoyable too.