Ten Quick Etiquette Tips for Business Lunches
Knowing what to do when meeting a prospective client for
lunch, or going to lunch with the boss or colleague can be
confusing at times. Here is a quick list of items to
1. Be in the present moment with whoever you are with.
Limit glancing around the room. It's a sign that you are
looking for something better. There is nothing worse than
having a conversation with someone who is half there.
2. Being on time. This sounds so commonsensical. The
percentage of people being late is over 65 percent. Don't
push your time to the last minute before leaving the office
so you will be late. Take some reading or work with you,
arrive early, sit in the lobby, and work. Or give yourself
some space to think over how you want to approach the time
together. You introduction, tone, style, or even plan a
quick get away if the union isn't working. The memory
implant of your lateness will always override any request
3. Turn off your cell phone before entering the restaurant.
No one around you wants to hear your conversation. Even if
you let it ring, pick it up and then take it outside. Did
you leave your lunch companion alone? This is just plain
rude. If you have an "I don't care attitude" about this,
I'll tell you a story about a lunch guest of mine who did
this and the three prospects she was meeting didn't even sit
down. They saw her talk, she waved a 1-minute finger single
to them, and they turned around and walked out. They
wouldn't even answer her phone calls or emails afterwards.
4. If you are woman and this is business, it's appropriate
now to stand up and shake the hand of a male. This
the old rule of staying seated. If the meeting is for your
spouse's business and you are coming along because other
spouses are coming, then you stay seated as your spouse
stands up. This rules applies for either gender.
5. Offer your hand and give a firm handshake. Sometimes,
people who don't like to shake hands will not meet yours.
Don't think anything of it if they don't, this is just their
preference. And particularly don't say something cute or
6. Think of an opening statement to make as you are shaking
hands. This is part of your first impression, so make it
good. Always use the guest's first name either at the
beginning or at the end of the statement. For example,
"Thank you for taking the time to get together today,
Catherine." When needing to complete a group of
introductions, highest rank rules over gender.
7. Small talk is important--don't leave it out. The length
of time for small talk depends on many factors. If you are
in the presence of famous or very rich people and not in a
social setting, then the small talk, if any, is going to be
quick and short. It could be as short as one or two
sentences. People who know how much their time is worth, or
who are doing you a favor by being there, also fall into
8. Aha, who picks up the tab? If you did the inviting, you
are responsible for the check. No matter how more well-off
they are. If a joint meeting, ask at the beginning or when
scheduling the lunch on check splitting. Waiting until the
check arrives to state the check splitting is a sign of
professional weakness. If you are meeting with someone who
is giving you valuable advice, you must pick up the tab. A
personal handwritten follow-up note is also appropriate. If
they have saved or helped you make more money, send them a
gift or gift certificate. If you don't you will never get
any more of their time again. This has occurred to me, and
the person never gets any time again.
9. Where does the napkin go? Immediately after sitting,
place the napkin in your lap. If you notice the napkin is in
the goblet, this is usually a signal from the restaurant
that the server will place the napkin into your lap. If you
excuse yourself during the meal, place the napkin on the
left hand side of your plate or on the chair. This signals
the server that you aren't done. When done, place napkin on
the right of the plate and your fork and knife horizontally
across the plate to signal the server.
10. What to eat and use first? Which glass or which fork
can be confusing. Bread and salad plates always to the
left, drinking glasses to the right. Utensils start from
the outside in and the dessert fork is by the dessert plate.
Lay your fork and knife across your plate to signal the
server you're finished.