Wednesday, July 6, 2011


Regardless of what type of employer you have or where you are in your career, mastering the business lunch is an important skill to add to your arsenal. Business lunches are great opportunities to network, develop clients, and forge relationships with your colleagues. Below are some guidelines to keep in mind:

It's Business Not Lunch. A business lunch is not about eating lunch – it is about building relationships. Pay attention to the conversation. Participate when appropriate. Be interested in the people you are with. If you are interviewing with the employer, the lunch is part of the interview.

Use Proper Table Manners. Don’t talk with your mouth full. Don’t chew with your mouth open. Don’t put your fingers in your mouth. Don’t pick your nose or blow your nose in the napkin. Put the napkin on your lap as soon as you sit down. When you get up, place the napkin on your chair – not the table. Use the proper silverware – when in doubt start with the silverware on the outside and work your way in towards the plate. Follow the BMW rule: Bread is on the left, Meal is in the middle, and Water is on the right. If you don’t know proper table etiquette, look it up on the internet.

Pay Attention To What Others are Ordering. You don’t want to interrupt the flow of the lunch by ordering courses that others haven’t. Don’t order an appetizer if no one else did. On the flip side, if everyone else orders a dessert, you should too. Also, don’t order the most expensive or least expensive thing on the menu.

Research the Restaurant. Menus for most restaurants are available online. Spend some time looking it over before the lunch so that you have an idea of what you will order. You don’t want to appear indecisive or keep others waiting while you peruse the menu. Even if you don’t like anything the restaurant has to offer – find something you can eat. Unless you have specific dietary restrictions (vegan, gluten-free, etc.) most restaurants will have something that you can eat or that can be modified easily.

No Blackberries, iPhones or Other Devices. Do not look at your Blackberry or iPhone during the lunch. Put it on silent and put it away – not on the table. If you do not trust yourself to follow this rule, don’t bring the device with you at all. If you are working on something that you feel may require your attention during the lunch either by email or phone call, warn the others attending ahead of time and excuse yourself from the table when the need arises.

Be Polite to the Wait Staff. How you treat others is a direct reflection on you. Be gracious, polite, and kind to the wait staff serving you. Even if you have the worst waiter who got your order wrong and ruined your new suit - grin and bear it and keep your cool. Don’t explode, take out your frustration, yell, or be rude to the wait staff for any reason.

Do Not Send Your Food Back. Unless the food you received is inedible, don’t send it back. If the meat is not cooked or you are a vegetarian and they served you a T-bone steak, then by all means politely tell your waiter. But if you asked for no onions in your salad and they still put them in, just push the onions to the side and don’t eat them. On a related note, don’t order something with complicated modifications or that is hard to eat neatly.

Do Not Get Drunk. If no one else orders alcohol, don’t take it upon yourself to order it or to suggest it to the group. If the more senior people you are with order an alcoholic drink, order one yourself if you like, but don’t finish it or order another one.