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Ten Quick Etiquette Tips for Business Lunches
by Catherine Franz
Knowing what to do when meeting a prospective client for lunch, or going to lunch with the boss or a colleague can be confusing at times. Here is a quick list of items to remember:
- Be in the present moment with whomever you are with. Limit glancing around the room. It's a sign that you are looking for something better. There is nothing worse than having a conversation with someone who is half there.
- Being on time. This sounds so commonsensical. The percentage of people being late is over 65 percent. Don't push your time to the last minute before leaving the office so you will be late. Take some reading or work with you, arrive early, sit in the lobby, and work. Or give yourself some space to think over how you want to approach the time together. Your introduction, tone, style, or even plan a quick get away if the union isn't working. The memory implant of your lateness will always override any request for forgiveness.
- Turn off your cell phone before entering the restaurant. No one around you wants to hear your conversation. Even if you let it ring, pick it up and then take it outside. Did you leave your lunch companion alone? This is just plain rude. If you have an "I don't care attitude" about this, I'll tell you a story about a lunch guest of mine who did this and the three prospects she was meeting didn't even sit down. They saw her talk, she waved a 1-minute finger signal to them, and they turned around and walked out. They wouldn't even answer her phone calls or emails afterwards.
- If you are woman and this is business, it's appropriate now to stand up and shake the hand of a male. This overrides the old rule of staying seated. If the meeting is for your spouse's business and you are coming along because other spouses are coming, then you stay seated as your spouse stands up. This rules applies for either gender.
- Offer your hand and give a firm handshake. Sometimes, people who don't like to shake hands will not meet yours. Don't think anything of it if they don't, this is just their preference. And particularly don't say something cute or funny.
- Think of an opening statement to make as you are shaking hands. This is part of your first impression, so make it good. Always use the guest's first name either at the beginning or at the end of the statement. For example, "Thank you for taking the time to get together today, Catherine." When needing to complete a group of introductions, highest rank rules over gender.
- Small talk is important--don't leave it out. The length of time for small talk depends on many factors. If you are in the presence of famous or very rich people and not in a social setting, then the small talk, if any, is going to be quick and short. It could be as short as one or two sentences. People who know how much their time is worth, or who are doing you a favor by being there, also fall into this category.
- Aha, who picks up the tab? If you did the inviting, you are responsible for the check. No matter how more well-off they are. If a joint meeting, ask at the beginning or when scheduling the lunch on check splitting. Waiting until the check arrives to state the check splitting is a sign of professional weakness. If you are meeting with someone who is giving you valuable advice, you must pick up the tab. A personal handwritten follow-up note is also appropriate. If they have saved or helped you make more money, send them a gift or gift certificate. If you don't you will never get any more of their time again. This has occurred to me, and the person never gets any time again.
- Where does the napkin go? Immediately after sitting, place the napkin on your lap. If you notice the napkin is in the glass, this is usually a signal from the restaurant that the waiting staff will place the napkin onto your lap. If you excuse yourself during the meal, place the napkin on the left hand side of your plate or on the chair. This signals the waiting staff that you aren't done. When you've finished, place the napkin on the right of the plate and your fork and knife horizontally across the plate to signal the waiting staff.
- What to eat and use first? Which glass or which fork can be confusing. Bread and salad plates always to the left, drinking glasses to the right. Utensils start from the outside in and the dessert fork is by the dessert plate. Lay your fork and knife across your plate to signal the waiting staff you're finished.
About the Author: Catherine Franz is a business coach and prolific writer.