Top 7 mistakes you can make at a business lunch

Top 7 mistakes you can make at a business lunch

Health & Lifestyle

Shital Mehra

Shital Mehra

317 week ago — 4 min read

Summary: “Let’s catch up over lunch” is a staple phrase of our business culture today. What is important to remember that there is an etiquette to dining with a business associate. Learn how to avoid the common faux pas that people make over lunch.


Often we casually say “let's catch up over lunch” when chatting with a business associate or a client. While a business meal sounds casual, there are several skills, besides your dining skills, which are on display. Following are a few common business meal faux pas:  


  1. Arriving late: Not acceptable. As the host, it’s expected that you reach a few minutes before your guests, request for your table and wait in the lobby area or at your table for your guests to arrive. While waiting, order nothing for yourself – your guests get to see a well laid-out table instead of half-consumed food/ drink. To avoid confusion about time and place, follow up verbal invites with an email.


  1. Rudeness to the wait staff: A superb technique to embarrass everyone! It’s acceptable to politely ask the wait staff questions about the menu or bring to their notice problems with your order. Beckon the waiter by making eye contact or briefly raising your hand. Business deals may go haywire after a potential client sees your shabby treatment of the wait staff.


  1. Wrong choice of restaurant:  Know your restaurant by referring to reliable sources – some target business persons while others target families, some take pride in being the best for their food, while others are known for their ambience / service. Ideal business restaurants are those where the seating is in discreet booths, making it difficult for the other patrons to either see or hear you.


  1. Not knowing your guest: Some business persons enjoy leisurely four-course meals in upmarket restaurants, while others are happier with a quick sandwich in the local coffee-shop or delicatessen, which promises good food and better service. Also, ask your guests for their preference of food – the best seafood restaurant will not impress a guest who is either vegetarian or allergic to shellfish!

  2. Wrong timing: The appropriate time to start business discussions is driven by culture. In the US, it is after ordering the drinks and starters, while in Europe you wait till the host raises the toast. When in doubt, follow your instinct and take cues from those around you. Generally, breakfasts and lunches are business meals where you launch into business talk quicker than dinners, which are “socio-business”.

  3. Overdoing the alcohol: While several companies have a “no alcohol” policy for lunch, if you decide to order a martini, go easy.  

  4. Weak follow-up: End the meal with a firm handshake and a warm “thank you”. As handwritten notes stand out in today’s paperless offices, send one to your host thanking him/her for the meal. Also, send a note to your client thanking him/her for taking the time out for a meal with you. This note can be used effectively to highlight your discussions during the meal.  


Next time you catch up with a colleague or a potential client over a meal, keep these tips in mind to make a good impression. This will ensure the best possible outcome for your meeting.


To explore business opportunities, link with us by clicking on the 'Invite' button on my eBiz Card.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views, official policy or position of GlobalLinker.


Posted by

Shital Kakkar Mehra

Business Etiquette & Cross-cultural expert; Business Communciation Coach for CXOs