Some of the largest deals are not struck in board rooms or during hours of painstaking negotiations. Many will be surprised to learn that partnerships and even the future of entire firms can be decided over a business lunch. Whether referring to a preliminary interview or simply making a good impression, it is the smallest habits that can often determine the outcome of such opportune meetings. Let’s take a look at proper etiquette as well as a handful of habits that should be avoided at all costs. There is nothing worse than putting your foot in your mouth as opposed to a tasty meal!
Dress for the Occasion
It is often said that the suit makes the man (or the woman). It is critical to appreciate that outward appearance will form lasting impressions. This is why you need to address what you will be wearing in advance. Having said this, not every luncheon is associated with a black-tie atmosphere. Consider the venue, the temperature and the dress code. It is wise to strike a delicate balance between overly formal and too relaxed. This is particularly the case in warmer weather, as sweating can be mistaken for nervousness. If the location demands that you need to walk a short distance, it is also worth considering what shoes to wear. Stilettos no doubt are a statement piece of a wardrobe and can compliment an outfit perfectly…not so flattering if you grimace with every step or need to cling on to your host for support!
There can be times when you are hosting a business lunch at your office. Make sure that the interior space reflects the mood that you hope to convey. A sloppy or disorganised office is often seen as a reflection of shoddy business practices. If your office is in a state of disrepair, or needs a lick of paint, it is advisable to instead, where possible hire a meeting room.
In the same respect, ensure that any unnecessary staff are not present so that the focus can remain on the conversation at hand. If these suggestions are not feasible, it is better to search for a third-party venue such as a nearby restaurant.
Like Mum Used to Say
Embrace the very same table manners that were drilled into your head as a child. Place a napkin on your lap as soon as the food arrives. Avoid putting your elbows on the table and chew with your mouth closed. Keep your voice at a reasonable level and always look the other party (or parties) in the eye during introductions.
Do Not Eat or Drink Too Much
Gluttony is another common pitfall during a business lunch. Order a substantial and yet simple meal. Many would-be professionals often spend entirely too much money due to the fact that their lunch will be billed to a company expense account. Of course, it should go without saying that tipping back a dozen cocktails is a dangerous prospect. While there is nothing wrong with enjoying an after-meal aperitif, keep it to a minimum even if others may indulge.
Address the Staff with Courtesy
One of the lesser-known tricks embraced by headhunters and other business professionals is to observe how guests treat waiters and staff. Those who choose to feign power through disrespect are likely to offend the other parties. Disregard works of fiction such as the film Wall Street. The fact of the matter is that a kind word and a smile can go a long way.
Assertive as Opposed to Aggressive
A final faux pas involves cutting others off to make a point. Some believe that this displays eagerness. On the contrary, this is downright rude. Wait until others have spoken before beginning; even if you are bursting with an opinion or an idea. Always know the difference between assertion and aggression.
These are a handful of the most important business lunch etiquette guidelines to follow. Never forget that you will never have a second chance to make a first impression!