Business lunches can be exciting but also a bit nerve-racking if you’re unsure what to do. There are many unspoken rules of conduct and business lunch etiquette that many people simply aren’t aware of. You can use the following 9 tips to ensure you’re following proper business lunch etiquette!
1. Keep Track Of Your Water
There’s nothing worse than the awkward silence that follows after you accidentally take a sip of your boss’s water. Do yourself a favor and keep track of your water throughout the meal. Generally, your water is the one to your right. Same goes with any bread that may be served at the table. Keeping an eye on your water can prevent awkward situations from occurring.
2. Order Before Diving Into Business
Diving right into a business is a good way to ruin the social aspect of a business lunch. It’s worth waiting until you have ordered to start talking about business. If you try and dive into things right away, you’ll be interrupted by the waiter multiple times for drinks and when it’s time to order. When you first arrive, keep the conversation light.
This is a good time to suggest meal recommendations if you have a corporate catering service in mind. If you’re the host, this is a good way to set the pace of the business lunch.
3. Stay Off Your Phone
General phone etiquette is tied to business lunch etiquette more than you might think. Generally, there’s no reason to be on your phone during a business lunch. If you’re not talking about the task at hand, you still have a valuable opportunity to connect with the person in front of you.
You shouldn’t be worrying about other meetings or responding to emails while sitting in front of another person. Business lunches are excellent opportunities to build relationships and engage the other person in an interesting conversation.
4. Whoever Makes The Invitation Picks Up The Bill
A lot of people worry about how to handle the bill when the time comes, but it’s really quite simple. Whoever makes the invitation for the business lunch is responsible for paying. This is an unspoken rule that you’ll find most people abide by. Splitting the bill can come off the wrong way in a professional environment.
Of course, it’s a good idea to bring money with you just in case. At the same time, don’t try and pay in an effort to be polite as you’ll be turning down your host’s gift to you. While offering to pay is a nice gesture, depending on the situation, you may be stealing the host’s thunder.
5. Make Strategic Choices Off The Menu
If you’re not sure what to order, follow the lead from the host. Definitely don’t order the most expensive items on the menu if you’re not hosting. The meals in the mid-range of prices on the menu are safe choices.
You can ask the host for recommendations and see what types of foods they suggest. Try and order an amount you can finish at the table, you don’t want to hold things up waiting for a doggy bag.
6. Pay Attention To How You Handle Your Utensils
Utensils are an important part of business lunch etiquette. The way you handle your utensils can send silent signals to the servers and the people you’re about to eat with. Once you’re ready to order, close your menu and put it to the side to signal you’ve made up your mind.
You can always open the menu again once the server arrives to double check your selection. Once you’re finished with your meal, place your utensils across the center of your plate to signal to the server you’re done.
7. Don’t Show Up Starving
One of the biggest errors you can make is showing up to a business lunch starving. If you don’t know the conditions of the lunch, don’t take the risk. The host may only be offering drinks and appetizers for a quick meeting.
Being starving can also interfere with your ability to focus on the business being discussed. It’s also easier to go overboard with alcohol if you’re really hungry. Have a small snack before showing up to the lunch just in case.
8. Stay Away From Hand Foods
Finger foods will do everything they can to ruin the good impression you’re trying to make at a business lunch. It’s really not possible to enjoy foods like ribs or wings in a professional manner. Even foods like spaghetti or burgers are too messy to fully enjoy when you’re around colleagues, and you’re dressed in work clothes. Stick with simple foods that are easy to eat without making a mess.
9. Thank The Host
It’s always a good idea to thank your host personally for inviting you to lunch. Let them know you enjoyed the meal, and you appreciate the gesture of being invited. Showing your appreciation is a good way to get invited back next time.