“Breaking bread is the oldest and best way to build relationships”, according to professional etiquette expert, Patricia Rossi. Have you flipped through her book, Everyday Etiquette: How to Navigate 101 Common and Uncommon Social Situations? If not, my dear, you are sorely missing out! This purse-worthy guide is something you should consider keeping within arms reach at all times. Seriously. The tip topics run the gamut from proper correspondence cards (thank you’s, RSVP’s, sympathy notes) to “Petiquette” (yep, etiquette at the dog park.) Undoubtedly deft, her business lunch advice just might come in handy the next time you have a tête-à-tête over a mid-day filet mignon. Regardez…
1. Host: Arrive Early. Guest: Arrive Punctually.
Whether you are inviting someone else or you’ve been invited to lunch, you do not want to be late for your very important professional date. Hosting? Arrive early, allow fifteen minutes to coordinate the bill situation with your waiter (intimate that you’re conducting a business meeting, hand over your plastic, and explain that you’ll initial the check once your guest has departed), look over the menu, and find your zen. Invited? Waltzing in tardy wasn’t acceptable in junior high, and it’s certainly not permissible in this environment either. If something comes up unexpectedly and you’re going to be late, call in advance to alert the necessary parties.
2. Restaurant Choice + Table Placement
If you’re hosting, choose an establishment that caters to both meat-eaters and herbivores. Be aware also, that you’re buying; don’t go to McDonald’s over it, but be aware of your wallet’s capabilities. Best to utilize a restaurant you’ve visited before, that you know has good service, where you can choose a table private enough to converse but not so secluded that you’re next to the kitchen or bathrooms. Based on that, devise a plan for the most appropriate place to meet your guest. Can a hostess escort someone to your table easily? Should you meet your guest personally at the door? Plan it out ahead of time so the greeting and seating is seamless.
3. Cell Phones and Office Paraphernalia
While it should go without saying that to text or take outside calls at a business lunch is inappropriate no matter which role you’re playing, to be blunt, lunch = phone-free. You’re accomplished enough to know it takes the focus off of your discussion and that tacitly demonstrating your personal needs have greater priority isn’t very polite. Another note from Ms. Rossi – having things (papers, iPads, notebooks) on the table is distracting. Avoid at all costs. Your table should be clear, and you should be concentrating on this particular conversation.
4. Musical Chairs and The Chitchat
When you arrive, scope the scenery and give your guest the prime view and best seat. If there’s a booth on one side that faces the restaurant and a chair across it that happens to only face a wall and whoever’s sitting in the booth, your behind best be in that chair and your guest should be in that plush booth. When you’re talking, find common ground (university study, hobbies, vacation, food) before diving into the business. It’s always good to feel like you can relate to your colleagues, and it’s important for countless reasons… including but not limited to the possibility of your professional future together.
5. The Wrap
Hosts, you know the drill with the bill. Guests, you’re writing a thank you note ASAP with not only exquisite penmanship and genuine gratitude for your lunch, but also specific details you recalled from your conversation, which will illustrate to your host how much the dialogue exchange meant to you.
Now remember, it’s just lunch with a business contact. It’s not a marriage proposal. Be personable not overly personal. Be your polite and professional self, and you’ll be just fine. More importantly, go buy Patricia’s book and you’ll be prepared for just about anything…or you’ll be prepared enough to know how to gracefully wing it.
With the utmost sincerity and best wishes, I bid you adieu.