Jan 30 2017
3 Minutes to read

Business lunches are usually about one of two things. You want to make a good first impression, or you want to build relationships with clients. When it comes to new clients, a successful business lunch means being prepared, considerate, and entertaining. Business lunches are a great way to entertain your guests outside of the normal routine. When you do, you want to make sure you don’t inadvertently offend someone.

We gathered some tips on how to pull off that perfect client business lunch.

Business Lunch etiquette

Offer Options

These days, there are many food intolerances or diets to be mindful of. It’s up to businesses to offer options to their lunch guests that ensure everyone will have a good meal. Make sure you have a hearty meatless option, such as soup or a salad with beans or another type of protein. Make sure sides are hearty enough to make up a meal if someone can’t have a sandwich because they are eating gluten free.

Letting guests choose their own options can be the best approach. Many paleo eaters, for example, are happy with a build-your-own-sandwich bar. Then they can eat the meat without the cheese, dressings, or bread.

If you want to order pre-packaged lunches, ask for preferences beforehand. That way, everyone will get something they want.

Follow Standard Dining Etiquette

Basic table manners go a long way in a business setting. Remember these basic etiquette tips when you are dining with clients and colleagues:

  • When someone asks for the salt, always pass both the salt and pepper. They are always a pair.
  • Don’t talk with your mouth open.
  • Don’t start eating until everyone has their food.
  • Don’t order alcohol if no one else has ordered it.
  • Be mindful of how much you’re talking to ensure you aren’t hogging the conversation.
  • Put your napkin on your chair when you leave the table.
  • Always be courteous to any serving staff.
  • Make sure guests always have full beverage glasses and that the coffee stays hot.

Basic politeness goes a long way toward making a good impression.

business lunch etiquette

Make it Worth Their Time

That said, be sure that your business lunches are serving their purpose. Don’t waste clients’ time by going over items that you’ve already finalized via email or phone. Instead, focus on things you can only do in person.

Some bigger business lunches also offer a presentation or speaker, instead of a discussion based on an agenda. Whichever route you go, make sure the topic at hand is useful and serves a purpose.

If your primary goal is to introduce new clients to your company, spend some time explaining who you are and what you can do for them. No one wants to listen to a litany of personal accomplishments. Instead, make it client-focused and show results.

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Offer Clear Agenda and Instructions

Many business people may feel skittish attending a business lunch if they don’t know what to expect. You may find that new clients are more willing to agree to a lunch if they know what the agenda will be. Send out an outline, as well as a list of who’s attending. If the client has never been to your office or lunch location, offer clear instructions so they don’t get lost.

This cuts down on stress and ensures a better mood once the lunch gets started. No one appreciates not being told the best door or parking lot to go into, especially if it makes them late.

business lunch etiquette

Have Good Food

When it comes to lunch, this may be the most important tip of all. Make sure you check out your local catering options to get the highest quality food available. No one wants to attend a business meeting over their lunch break and find that the lettuce is wilted, the soup is cold, or there are not very many appealing options to choose from. Check online reviews of catering businesses, ask friends for a referral, or request testimonials before calling in a catering order.

If you haven’t worked with a caterer before, it may be worth sampling a few of their dishes or trying out their service first with an internal employee lunch. That way, when you are hosting clients, you’ll know the standard of food everyone will be enjoying.

Think of a business lunch for new clients as a professional dinner party at your own “home.” Go the extra mile to impress your guests with great food, a timely agenda, and useful topics. This will help them get to know your company better. And they’ll have a better image of your business as a whole.

Sharing a meal with colleagues is an intimate experience that stands out more than another conference call or roundtable discussion. Be prepared by hiring the right caterer, setting a time limit, and offering clear expectations to all involved. This will ensure that your business lunch goes as expected: without a hitch.

Ready to order your next business lunch?

Start here


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ezCater is the only nationwide marketplace for corporate catering, connecting business people with caterers and restaurants across the U.S. Our blog is here as a resource to help you be successful in your job, from professional advice and food ordering tips, to the latest food trends.

Posted in: Food at WorkSales

Tagged with: Catering, Customer Relationships, Lunch, Selling