Hosting Successful Business Lunches
By Bruce Lacroix © 2007
Bruce Lacroix is a small business and tourism consultant, speaker and writer. He lives in Nelson, BC, Canada and has clients in Canada and the Caribbean. He can be reached at email@example.com To learn more, go to www.smallbusinessconsultant.ca and www.tourismconsultant.ca
Business people “do lunch”. A successful business lunch requires planning and consideration. So let's take a look at how you can wow your guest and get more business while breaking bread.
First, decide why you want to do lunch. Is it to meet for the first time and introduce you and your business? To finalize that deal you've been working on? Decide what you will need to bring. If you do not know your guest well, discreetly ask his or her assistant, or if necessary the guest, about dietary restrictions. Carnivores may leave vegetarian restaurants feeling hungry, and people with garlic allergies feel like vampires in an Italian restaurant.
Now, choose a suitable restaurant. A low volume level for conversation combined with professional service are important. If you will be laying out paperwork, a large table helps. Visit the restaurant in person a few days before the meeting. Talk to the manager. Pick a quiet table. Ask that the best server look after you, and mention that you plan to tip well. Make the reservation.
Invite your guest. Mention the purpose of the meeting, where and when. If the location or time is inconvenient, work with the guest's preferences. If necessary, change the reservation.
Lunch day, arrive at least fifteen minutes early. Speak to the manager. "I do not want the bill to come to the table. I'll settle after my guest leaves. Or you can take an imprint now, we'll add a tip, and mail me the receipt." This takes care of the occasionally embarrassing dance to pay the cheque. You are the host, so you pay.
If possible, greet your guest at the door. In a better restaurant, tell the host/ess who you are, who you are expecting, and have them escort your guest to the table. Your guest gets the best seat. If the guest is brought to your table, you rise and shake hands. Thank them for meeting you for lunch. Turn off your cell phone!
Regarding alcohol: "Would you care for a cocktail or glass of wine before lunch?" is fine. If they do, and you imbibe, then have one also. One! If they do not, follow suit and refrain. Make your guest feel comfortable. Suggest a couple of menu items you enjoy to give him or her an idea of the price range you have in mind, if any. Guests order first. You order the same number of courses as the guest. Avoid messy foods like spaghetti, ribs or chicken on the bone. Practice your best table manners; you know, elbows off the table, napkin in the lap, knife and fork held properly, no talking with food in mouth. It is truly amazing how many people use their fork like a dagger. Or leave their caps on in a restaurant.
Get a feel as to whether your guest wishes to discuss business during or after the meal. If there are papers to be spread out, wait until coffee is served. When your meal is finished, lay knife and fork across the plate in the "ten to four" position. Discuss business. (That's why you're there, remember?) When completed, rise, shake hands and thank your guest. See them at least as far as the door or their car. Go back and clear up the bill if necessary.
You've done it! Lunch went smoothly, your guest was impressed, and you landed that big contract. Congratulations! You are a "lunch pro".