20 things NOT to do during a business lunch
8th Sep 2017
A business lunch is an important stepping stone in creating better relationships with fellow professionals or discussing business deals. It is customary to maintain professionalism always but occasionally, we hear horror stories that someone disrespected someone or drank too much alcohol. I’ve devised a 20-point guide to ensure you are fully prepared for your significant lunch.
Take precautions to attend on time if not early. Sometimes this can’t be helped, you’ve left appropriate time to travel and you hit unexpected traffic. If you are late, call ahead and inform the other business lunch attendees that you will be late. An apology and a rational reason can go a long way.
2. Talk completely about yourself
A business lunch is for both parties to share knowledge whether that be to catch up on the progress of a business deal or get to know a business affiliate. Ensure all parties are a part of the conversation.
Everyone should know not to insult someone. Although when you need to say something negative, it’s best not to blurt out "you’re not qualified enough" or any other similar negative comments. It’s best to sweeten your words, ‘unfortunately, I don’t think you are right for the job’.
Top Tip: Try a compliment sandwich. Begin with a compliment followed by the negative comment and complete with a compliment.
4. Ordering the most expensive item and not offering to contribute to the bill
The person who organises the business lunch typically pays for the bill. However, in some cases, this can be blurry. It is best to offer to pay for your order at least, then the customary polite comment will arise ‘no it’s ok I’ve got this’.
5. Talk about personal issues
A business lunch is solely for work intentions. The other parties do not want to hear about any personal problems. Keep it work related!
6. Bringing up politics or religion
Politics and religion are very controversial subjects, especially in Northern Ireland. It is best to avoid this subject to prevent any disagreements that could tarnish the purpose of your business lunch. In addition, professionals are often extremely busy and must ensure business lunch do not run over set times. This means sticking to script.
Messy food like chicken wings or a burrito. These foods can make your hands sticky or stain your smart shirt. Not good for appearances or professional handshakes.
Top tip: If you choose a burrito - eat it with a knife and fork
8. Avoid food which could get caught in your teeth
Sometimes this can’t be avoided, try excuse yourself to the bathroom to check your teeth.
Top tip: Avoid Sweetcorn & Bring a toothpick
9. Avoid drinking alcohol
Sometimes the other party will take the lead and ask for the wine menu. If so, accept if you are happy to have one drink. But it is best to avoid drinking alcohol especially when you must return to work afterwards. Drinking alcohol can result in you letting down your guard and relaxing. It is best to be sharp and professional so you don’t give away too much or unnecessary information.
10. Be aware of others food tolerances
It is always best to know if others in the meeting have any allergies or food guides i.e. nut allergies or vegetarians. Sometimes this can be hard to find out, especially when you are meeting someone for the first time. Try and be considerate regardless.
11. Mentioning your negative opinions
Negative opinions about colleagues, your company or other companies. You should only talk positively even about your competitors. It says a lot about character and what kind of person you are like to do business with.
“if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”.
12. Forget your table manners
Eat with your knife and fork and excuse yourself from the table when needed. Sometimes these manners can be forgotten.
You may have an important text or need to talk to someone on the phone. You’re essentially in a formal business meeting which has been organised at a convenient time for all parties. It would be best to mention you need to excuse yourself from the table for an important matter. But try to cut the phone call short or even turn off your phone. Depending on the business meeting, avoid using your phone.
14. Pick or bite your nails
If you are a nail bitter, it can be difficult to stop, especially in stressful situations. Usually, when you are deep in thought you don’t even think about what you are doing. Resist!
Top tip: Buy anti-bite nail polish which (apparently tastes disgusting) can help you stop biting your nails.
Daydreaming usually occurs when you are very bored – you’re not paying attention. This can be difficult to control if the person speaking is very dry and not providing any value to the conversation. It is time to be polite, smile and nod like you are interested. If that is too difficult, take notes, it will help you keep track of the conversation.
Whether it be a shirt and jeans or skirt, you should think about how you are visually presenting yourself. You should be able to judge what to wear by the topic of the meeting.
17. Get over emotional about a topic
Becoming angry or upset over a topic can look very unprofessional. Maintain your calm nature and try to change the subject.
A waste of time for all parties, ‘Time is money’. You want a meeting which will provide value.
Be prepared and know your facts. It looks unprofessional if you are guessing or are completely unprepared.
Your posture is a great tell on how interested you are in a conversation. Sit up, smile and have some input into the conversation.
Business lunches are an important part of all professional’s lives. It can be difficult to know how to prepare if you've never been to one before, it's best to be over dress than under. If you're a professional seeking a new career opportunity why not send your cv to firstname.lastname@example.org or register.