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HomeFood & DrinkThe Art of the Business Lunch: Dining With a Potential Client

The Art of the Business Lunch: Dining With a Potential Client

Lunch meetings are quite useful in leaving a good first impression on potential clients. In fact, this dining experience offers an excellent way of gaining not just new customers, but also starting a healthy relationship with partners and investors.

With the goal of initiating a lasting relationship, a business lunch is a kind of dance that remains useful in furthering one’s career. This is because breaking bread with individuals you plan on creating a connection with can help foster positive feelings and strong bonds in an intimate and casual setting.

However, it will only work if you do it right. Remember that sharing a meal with your prospect will put your demeanor on display — something that could leave you vulnerable to the person you’re attempting to woo. This is the very reason why you need to prepare, not just for lunch, but also to make an excellent first impression that will last.

This article will show you the crucial tips for planning, preparing, and dining with a prospective client.

Planning and Prepping for Lunch: More Than Just a Free Meal

Planning a business lunch starts with picking a place to hold the meeting in. Ideally, this should be based on the taste of the person you are meeting as well as a place you have already tried and tested over time.

But in case you have no clue as to what the other person prefers, avoiding ethnic and exotic restaurants is wise. After all, you wouldn’t want to bring him to a sushi bar only to discover that he doesn’t eat anything raw or wrapped in seaweed.

Business luncheons are also often best held on neutral grounds. This means you should do it someplace where both of you feel comfortable in, like bistro-style restaurants or steakhouses. However, you must remember to check if the menu includes a handful of vegetarian options in the bistro or steakhouse menu, just in case he happens to shy away from meat.

Aside from the venue, a good business lunch also requires a properly delivered invitation. Believe it or not, there is more to inviting a potential client to lunch than merely sending details like the time, date, and place of the meeting.

Before you invite someone out for a business lunch, you must first make sure that an invitation is even necessary. You wouldn’t want them – especially those holding prominent positions in their companies – to feel like you’re intruding in their schedule or are trying to “buy” their favor with a free meal. Keep in mind that while a free lunch may seem welcome to most people, you must always be open to the possibility of meeting in their office instead.

That aside, there are three things you should remember when wording your business lunch invitation:

1.     Clearly state the purpose of the meeting

Make sure that you clearly state the purpose of the lunch in your invitation. It is best to avoid making the person you’re meeting with think of it as a social get-together, only to get a business pitch when the steaks arrive.

2.     Establish your role

Since you’re the one inviting, you must establish your role as host to avoid that awkward fight over the check after the meal. Some phrases you can use to do this include:

  • “Let me take you to lunch.”
  • “Would you like to be my guest for lunch?”
  • “Please allow me to take you to lunch.”

On the flip side, you must avoid saying something vague, like “Can we have lunch?” or “Let’s eat lunch together.” These sentences leave room for the other person to think that he must pay part of or the entire bill.

3.     Leave room for a refusal

A good invitation should also make it possible – easy, even – to say no. Avoid making it seem like the person you’re inviting for lunch has no choice or needs to come up with a lie so that he can decline the invitation without wondering if you took it the wrong way.

4 Business Lunch Etiquette Tips to Follow

Now that you know the proper planning and preparation for a business lunch, it is time for you to learn all about the proper etiquette when attending such an affair.

1.     Know the right time to talk shop

When playing golf, business talk often comes just before the fourth hole. Unfortunately, rules in lunch meetings are not as straightforward.

The trick is to put off bringing up business until you have finished ordering meals or until the drinks have arrived.

Once the business conversation begins, make sure that the flow is framed around your guest. Lead with questions about his business, what he’s been working on lately, and what kind of help he may require. This will give you a chance to naturally follow this up with how you and your firm can assist him while still staying within context.

2.     Let clients order first

When ordering a meal that your company is paying for, it is best to stick to non-alcoholic drinks. However, if your guest wishes to imbibe, let him do so. Just remember the rule of thumb: Let him order first so that they won’t feel limited by your own choice.

3.     Be swift and graceful with the bill

Taking care of the bill is another thing that you should be quick and graceful about in business lunches. When the check arrives, remember to reach for it swiftly while still maintaining eye contact when your guest is still speaking.

You must also avoid staring at the details of the bill with a look of horror or shock. In case there is an error, politely excuse yourself and talk to the waiter away from your table. This will help you avoid making your guest feel uncomfortable.

If you have the chance and you know the restaurant well enough to entrust them with your credit card, it is better to let them run it with a designated tip percentage before your guest even arrives.

4.     Never be late

Punctuality is a must when it comes to business lunches. Even better, arrive earlier than the set time to avoid making your guest wait. This will also give you time to ensure that the setting is ideal for talking by picking a quiet spot where traffic and noise are minimal.

The Takeaway

Aside from picking the best restaurant in Abu Dhabi, you also need to consider many different things when you invite a potential client, partner, or investor out for lunch. Make sure that you know the right way to plan the meal and follow the proper etiquette even before the need arises with the help of this article.


Chiara Bisignani is the F&B Marketing Executive at Saadiyat Beach Club. She oversees website maintenance, PR requests, marketing initiatives and all general guests' inquiries for the company's destinations of KOI Restaurant & Lounge, Boa Steakhouse and Caramel Restaurant and Lounge in Abu Dhabi.

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