Break Bread for Business


If you’re interviewing clients or meeting a prospective employer in a restaurant rather than an office, remember that actions speak louder than words. Knowing what to do when having lunch can make or break an offer or a deal. Here are 10 tips to keep in mind.

Be in the present moment. Limit glancing around the room; maintain a lot of eye contact with your guest(s). Your luncheon partner does not want to have a conversation with someone who is only half there.

Get there on time. This sounds like common sense, but more than half (65%) of people run late. Don’t push your time to the last minute or you’ll be tardy. Take some reading or work with you, arrive early, sit in the lobby until your guest arrives. Or give yourself some time to think over how you want to approach the meeting.

Turn off your cell phone before entering the restaurant. No one around you wants to hear your phone conversation. Never ignore your lunch companion to take a call. It’s just rude.

If you are a woman and this is business, it’s appropriate to stand up and firmly shake the hand of a business associate. This overrides the old rule of staying seated. However, if the meeting is for your husband and you are present, you may stay seated as your spouse stands up.

Think of an opening statement to make for your introduction. This is part of making your first impression, so make it good. Always use the guest’s first name (if he or she is a client, not a prospective employer) either at the beginning or at the end of the statement. You could say, for example, “Thank you for taking the time to get together today, Katherine.” When making group introductions, remember to start with the highest rank. Note: The junior person gets presented to the more senior person.

Small talk is important—don’t leave it out. The length of time for small talk depends on many factors. If you are meeting with a company’s executives or high-end clients, the small talk is going to be quick—as short as one or two sentences.

Where does the napkin go? Immediately after sitting, place the napkin in your lap. If you excuse yourself during the meal, place the napkin on the left-hand side of your plate or on your chair. This signals the server that you haven’t finished.

What to eat and use first? Bread and salad plates are always to the left and drinking glasses to the right. Utensils start from the outside in and the dessert fork is by the dessert plate.

Who picks up the tab? If you invited the clients, then you’re responsible for the check. If the meeting is jointly arranged, ask when scheduling the lunch or at the beginning of the meal about splitting the check. Waiting until the check arrives to ask about check splitting is awkward.

Leave a lasting impression. A handwritten follow-up note to your client or to your prospective employer also is appropriate.

Source: Catherine Franz is a certified life and business master coach and can be reached at or her blog .

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