David was the publicity and marketing in charge of a renowned firm. The firm had just hired a new marketing director to work under him. As luck would have it, the company had almost bagged a customer who would bring in a substantial amount of business. Now, although a bit skeptical, David put the responsibility of cracking the deal at a luncheon business meeting with the hotshot customer, on the new fellow. His fears came true when he got a call from the customer, who was absolutely furious about the way he was treated.
I'm sure, none of you reading this, in the concerned field, would want to be in this scenario. Then the question remains - how can such an embarrassment be avoided? Simple! One just needs to brush up some etiquette related to business luncheons. Are you ready then?
Business Lunch Etiquette Tips
Time is Money and Business
All management and business experts never shy away from telling this to everyone - practice punctuality. Being at the meeting on time or even a few minutes ahead of the stipulated time, before the clients, is advised. If you do not value your customer's time, you lose points there itself. Thus, NEVER ever make a customer wait for you.
Give the client an option to pick a place, though there is no harm in suggesting a place suiting your budget. After you zero in on a place and time, send an email reminder, a day before the meeting. It is a good habit to inculcate with regards to proper business etiquette.
Now this is a bit tricky. Offering a handshake and greeting, with a 'good afternoon', is good etiquette. Saying something like a simple thank you for taking your precious time for this meeting will be appropriate. Unless you know the person you are having the meeting with, avoid coming up with witty one-liners. If there is a large group, from a single firm, meet the senior most with regards to the position and then accordingly, the others. Oh and yes, please do not forget to switch off or put your mobile phone on silent mode. This is very, very crucial.
Talking the Talk
Just to give the conversation a kick start, a bit of small talk is required. But let it be just that - SMALL. No rambling about your family or kids for too long, it can put off the client. Break it when the waiter comes for your order. Slowly get into the business mode. Avoid rushing directly to business talk. If your food does not come before the client's, ask the client to go ahead with his, lest it gets cold.
Coming to the Point
Broach and venture into the actual business talk, as the dessert or coffee comes in. Avoid looking at the napkins. Getting your basics right about fork and spoon handling would be an added advantage. Further, if the customer has wine, it is okay for you to have a little wine too and do I need to mention that being inebriated at such a meeting is a huge no-no? In addition to that, remember to keep your napkin on your left, after you are done with your food.
Paying the Bill
Another sensitive issue - who pays? Well, it has to be you, obviously! To make this affair discreet, there are many ways. To start off, before you take your place, ask the waiter to give you the bill directly. The client or your guest should not even know, ideally, that you paid the bill. What you can also do is, as and when you are sure that you are not going to order anything more, excuse yourself and pay at the reception directly. This will avoid any ambiguity as to who will pay.
Finally, give a good enough tip and walk the guest out and ensure that he is comfortably on his way. You should never leave before the client. That is considered bad etiquette.
Last, but not the least, it is a good idea to send a follow-up thank you note to the guest. Even in case you haven't been able to strike a deal. It could be a physical note or an email for his graciousness of having given you time. Leaves a positive impression.
This is where I sign off in the hope, that you find this useful. Cheers, for now!