Hosting a Successful Business Lunch

A business lunch with a potential or current client is an excellent way to grow your business. Eating with a client sets the scene for a casual and intimate connection. This setting can bring about a bonding experience leading towards a long-lasting business relationship. Of course, you have to handle yourself professionally and sociably for this to happen. Eating with someone will bring familiarity to the relationship, exposing your manners (good or bad), weaknesses and strengths. Depending on how you conduct yourself, it will either strengthen the relationship or ruin it.

Is your Client Available

Before making an invitation for lunch, you need to determine if your client can fit the meeting into his schedule. Some business people get bombarded so frequently with lunch offers that they make it a practice not to accept any invitations. If they can’t meet you somewhere for lunch, or don’t have the time, then offer to meet them at their office.

The Purpose of the Lunch

When you invite a client to business lunch, you need to make the purpose of the meeting very clear. Do not act as if you just want to hang out and shoot the bull. Make it clear that you are paying for the meal by saying, “I’d like to take you to lunch” or “Please allow me to buy you lunch.” Do not say, “Let’s do lunch” as it will leave him wondering who is going to pick up the tab. A good invitation would be: “I’d like to meet with you and talk about (insert your purpose). May I come and see you sometime? Or, could you break away from your busy day to let me take you to lunch?”

Choose an Appropriate Venue

Be sure you choose a place to eat that is appropriate for a business lunch! You will want to avoid noisy places, restaurants located in areas plagued by traffic congestion, and certainly, seedy strip clubs or hole-in-the-wall bars! Find a restaurant that has an inviting feel to it. The location should be close to your client’s office and convenient for him. The meeting place should be chosen with only him in mind and not you. As the host, you should be the one to choose the venue, unless he outright requests a certain restaurant.

Here is a list you should consider when making your restaurant choice:

  • One that serves a variety of cuisines such as a café, bistro or steakhouse. This is to be sure your client will be able to pick out a dish he likes.
  • One that you have been to before and know that the food is tasty and the customer service is first class. Remember if it is not first class, it’s no class!
  • Pick a place that is clean, has a relaxed atmosphere, and, most importantly, quiet.
  • If the meeting is out of your area, search the internet for restaurants with great reviews.
  • Do they accept your credit card?

You do not want to be stuck sitting in the restaurant lobby for 20 or 30 minutes because there are no tables available, so be sure to make a reservation! There is nothing worse than looking like a poor planner by ending up having to go somewhere else to eat because your client can’t spare the time for a 50-minute queue for a table. Also, be sure to reserve a quiet table for your business lunch.

Get There First

Arrive at the restaurant at least 10 minutes before the scheduled time. Use the restroom when you arrive so you do not have to excuse yourself during the lunch to do so. You should allow the hostess to seat you, and tell her to be on the lookout for your client. While you are waiting, have a word with your waitress. Inform her that this is a business lunch and you would like her to bring you the bill. Also request that she keep interruptions to a minimum, but not to sacrifice customer service in doing so. Promise her a healthy tip for her service.
Once you have your table secured, you may go to the restaurant lobby and wait for your guest to arrive. When he arrives, allow him to follow the hostess to the table and let him choose his seat.

Lunch rules:

  • Shut off your mobile phone.
  • Give undivided attention to your guest and the meeting.
  • Don’t get drunk.
  • Do not smoke.
  • Match your client’s meal. If he has a three-course meal, then you should do the same.
  • Try to order something similar so your plates will come at the same time.
  • When you choose your food, be sure you order food that is not messy and easy to eat. No Saganaki flaming cheese, barbecued ribs or Oysters Rockefeller!

Getting down to business:

Do not attack him with business talk as he is sitting down. You need to wait for an appropriate time to talk shop. For new clients, you should spend some time getting to know each other. For a current client, take some time to catch up on things since your last meeting. Enjoy some light conversation minus any talk about politics or other touchy subjects. Sports, travel, and hobbies are excellent subjects for conversation. Continue to hold off on talking business until your meals have been ordered. A great time to talk business is between the salad or appetizer and the main course. When the bill comes, casually pick it up and place your credit card in the bill holder and close it. This should be done with absolutely no effort or attention drawn to it.

The Follow Up Communication

The day after your business lunch, you should send the client a short note thanking him for taking the time out of his busy schedule to meet with you.

February 5, 2017

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