As more and more business meetings move out of conference rooms and to more casual settings like lunch meetings, there are a few important things to keep in mind. Having a successful lunch meeting can yield a lot of benefits, since it can be a bit more relaxed and informal, and you can have more candid conversations.
To help you maximize your chances of success, we’ve put together the ultimate guide to lunch meetings filled with helpful tips and tricks.
What is a Working Lunch Meeting?
A working lunch meeting is a straightforward part of working life and can take several forms. You can have working meetings outside of the office by going to a nearby restaurant.
Or if you’re meeting a prospective client, taking them out to lunch can help you get to know them better in a more casual way, and you can conduct the meeting on neutral territory. Alternatively, you might invite attendees to a lunch meeting in the office, such as hosting a luncheon in a conference room.
Why You Should have Regular Lunch Meetings
Whether you choose to have your lunch meeting at the office or go out to a restaurant, a working lunch can be a great way to talk about pressing issues over a more informal setting. It’s a simple step you can take to help establish rapport, get to know one another, and it can be a nice change that boosts morale.
Here’s why you should consider making lunch meetings a regular occurrence:
- Equal footing: A business lunch can help equalize the situation, particularly with prospective clients or more junior employees, giving them a chance to relax.
- Bring employees together: Regular business lunches outside the office are a great way to bond as a team, and get together outside of just going to each other’s desks and talk over a meal.
- Easy to schedule: Unlike morning or evening meetings, lunch tends to be relatively straightforward to schedule, and it gives people time to return to other scheduled work afterwards.
- Neutral territory: If you’re meeting with prospective clients, or have a more sensitive issue to discuss, a lunch outside of the office might be more conducive for confidential discussions.
- Social event: Lunches tend to be more social anyway, so even hosting an informal event in the office, or ordering in meals for staff can help boost morale and encourage teams to talk to another in a more casual setting.
- Shows appreciation: Whether you’re treating clients or employees to food, it’s always an appreciated gesture that can help build goodwill in the relationship.
16 Tips for the Perfect Lunch Meeting
So now that we’ve established why lunch meetings can be beneficial, here is some helpful advice to make your next meeting a success!
1. Send Invitations Online and In Advance
Always make sure to formalize any lunch plans with an online invite, and send it well in advance. Even if you might have chatted about it in person or over the phone, having the online invite synced to someone’s calendar ahead of time makes it more likely that they are aware of the event and will attend.
2. Pick the Perfect Location
Where you host your lunch makes a huge difference for a business lunch. Generally, it’s always better to meet outside the office, since it’s easier to be candid and you’re less likely to be interrupted. If going to a restaurant is challenging, then consider blocking off a part of the office.
When choosing restaurants for business lunch, consider:
- How convenient it is for the attendees
- Whether the menus can cater to dietary restrictions
- Allows you to make a reservation and/or has ample seating room so that you won’t have to wait for a table
3. Pick Easy to Eat Food Options
If you happen to be in charge of picking a location, make sure to look at the menu before making your selection. Ideally, lunch should be a lighter meal, otherwise everyone will be sluggish going back to their work and not too messy to avoid spillage. Opt for menus that fork-only foods, as that will be the easiest to manage.
4. Book Your Table in Advance
If possible, try to book your table in advance. Making a reservation ensures that you’re guaranteed seating during a lunch time rush, and won’t have to keep your guest waiting. It also helps streamline things and keep it running on time, since the entire party has to arrive on time to make the reservation.
5. Announce the Menu Choices Before the Business Lunch
Once you’ve made your selection, you should send the menu to the attendees beforehand. That way, everyone can be aware of what they will eat, and dietary restrictions/issues can be flagged ahead of time. If you’re planning on ordering before at the restaurant, or catering food, let attendees make their selections first.
6. Make Sure Everyone Has the Same Number of Courses
Part of a successful business lunch is ensuring that everyone is eating at relatively similar speeds and that no one is being overlooked. Having a set number of courses beforehand prevents these issues and ensures that everyone will get similar treatment.
7. Choose a Facilitator to Conduct Business
Before the lunch, select one person to be a facilitator for the business lunch. during the course of the meal. What this means that it’s their responsibility to bring up issues, or take the discussion from small talk to concrete detail. Doing so helps keeps things on track, especially when you’re trying to juggle multiple objectives.
8. Always Arrive Early to a Business Lunch
Arriving early to your lunch venue is good for two reasons. Firstly, it allows you to scope out and flag potential issues with seating or meals early on before your party arrives and secondly, punctuality always creates a good impression.
9. Wait for Everyone to Arrive Before Being Seated
Ideally, your whole party should be present before seating to make the meeting as smooth as possible, and have everyone start their meals together. If that isn’t possible though, try to have the organizer sit facing the door so they can welcome late arrivals to the table.
10. Pay Attention to Dining Etiquette
To make your lunch meeting as successful as possible, following dining etiquette is incredibly important to make a good impression. Important things to remember include:
- Order easy items to meet that won’t make a mess
- Don’t start eating until everyone else’s food has arrived
- Put your phone away for the duration of the lunch, or at the very least, place it on silent
11. DON’T Drink at a Business Lunch Meeting!
Drinking at a daytime business lunch is generally a bad idea. It can be considered unprofessionally by your client, and since everyone will need to return to work afterwards, it may not reflect well. Do not offer to buy drinks during the meeting, and refrain from drinking when offered by a guest and keep the meeting productive.
12. Stay Focused and Discuss Intended Topics
Business lunches tend to be a delicate balance. You want to stay on-track and discuss important matters, but you also don’t want to alienate anyone by getting straight to the point. The best way to achieve this balance. You can discuss the agenda by course for more focus. You can also start the lunch with some icebreakers or general small talk to create a rapport before launching into business.
13. Make Sure There’s Time for Questions
Always leave room after the meal for questions and any concerns your guests might have. It might be hard for people to break the flow of the conversation, so having a dedicated point for questions and answers can be helpful and ensures that you’re not doing all the talking.
14. Consider Taking Notes
There is usually a lot to keep track of during the meeting itself and taking notes can help make sure everyone is aligned on objectives and outcomes. Note down key agenda points, any action items, and ideas that are discussed. Afterwards, make sure to send the notes to your guest and other attendees so that everyone has the information.
15. Pay the Bill if You’re the Organizer
If you’re the organizer, it’s very important that you pay the bill. It signals your appreciation and respect to attendees since you have invited them, and creates a good impression. If you can, try and pay without the other party realizing or knowing as a gesture of politeness.
16. Always Follow Up on Lunch Meetings
To make your meeting 100% successful, always follow up after. You’ve finally been able to get their attention, and following up helps you leverage that momentum. You can follow up via phone or email a day or two after to see best results.
How do you ask for a lunch meeting?
There are a variety of ways you can ask for a lunch meeting, such as over phone, email, or in-person.
Are lunch meetings effective?
Lunch meetings can be an incredibly effective way to build relationships with clients and employees and is conducive for discussing business objectives and priorities.
What do you serve at a lunch meeting?
The best food to serve at a lunch meeting are easy items that will not make a mess and are fork-friendly.
You could serve:
- Sandwiches and wraps
- Burrito bowls or poke bowls
What should I not do at a business lunch meeting?
There are a few things you should avoid doing at a business meeting, such as:
- Drinking alcohol
- Answering your phone during the meeting
- Spilling food and creating a mess
- Eating before everyone else’s meal has arrived
- Getting right to business before
- Be rude to guests or staff