Plan a Productive Business Lunch

Lunchtime is work-time at many offices. If you're not hunched over your keyboard, typing while eating, you're probably at a lunch meeting, schmoozing while eating. If you're stuck planning one of these work-and-eat sessions, you're also in charge of making sure it's a good use of everyone's time. So how can you do three things at once?

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(Photo Credit: Martin Cathrae/Flickr)

In a word: planning.

"Breaking bread with another person creates a more intimate and casual connection and can foster positive bonds and good feelings," write Brett and Kate McKay at The Art of Manliness. "But only if you handle it like a pro. Because sharing a meal also tends to reveal more about you and your habits, which makes you more vulnerable to doing something that will turn off the person you’re trying to woo. So it pays to prepare."

Before you break bread:

1. Make sure this trip is really necessary.

Business lunches are different from casual catch-ups with former colleagues or friends outside of work. To make sure everyone gets the most out of the experience, figure out what the meeting accomplished for every participant. Ideally, you want to be serving your companions' best interests, as well as your own.

2. Plan the invitation.

Give plenty of notice, and make sure that everyone's schedules align. The McKays say that a good invitation should include the following information (even if it's an Outlook invite, not the engraved kind):

  • The purpose of the meeting.
  • Your role as host. (E.g. "I'll take you to lunch!")
  • The option for guests to decline.

Obviously, details like where, when, etc., should also be explicitly stated.

3. Choose a restaurant carefully.

Keep in mind food allergies and personal preferences. Don't foist fancy fare onto plainer palates. Don't choose something messy, or a loud, crowded place.

Once you're at the restaurant, manners are the most important thing. Turn off your phone, don't drink (or don't drink too much) and order food that's easy to eat.

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