Should You Abandon Business Lunches?

Breaking bread has always been a traditional setting for building camaraderie, so it naturally fits into making deals early in human history. Is a business lunch still a good spot for contracting business? Here are the advantages and pitfalls to doing business over lunch and how to do it right.

Missed Details

Many studies conclude that multitasking is not truly possible, and people don’t make the best decisions when they’re hungry and focused on filling their stomachs. You must contend with restaurant noise, confidentiality concerns, payment transactions, and interaction with the wait staff. Since you’re not in as controlled an environment as an office, the meal could go wrong or be lackluster, putting your guests in a bad mood.

It might not be prudent to make complex agreements requiring many calculations and notes over a meal. If the deal cannot be quickly approved with an elevator pitch, leave the wheeling and dealing at the office. Keep the agenda to a single item or two at most. If you know you can pull it off with a brief conversation, then a meal may be an acceptable venue.

Etiquette Concerns

Your guard comes down when you’re eating, which is why it’s such a great time to bond. This could be dangerous as you may not be as conscious of your manners. Decorum at meals is especially crucial if you’re dealing with someone from a different culture or background from yours. Research their practices and only take the plunge if you’re confident you can comply with all necessary customs. Learning such a skill is best practiced in advance. Make sure you don’t do anything offensively and leave a bad taste in their mouth — figuratively, that is.

Conversational Engagement

Turn the phone off and be fully present with your guest. That advice is easier to remember during a formal presentation, but you may get too relaxed at a meal and ignore your guest at the wrong time. Other than consuming your meal using good manners, your guest deserves your undivided attention.

Partner Assistance

It could be a good idea to have someone come along with you. Encourage your guest to do the same. The goal is to be in a comfort zone. The enjoyment of meals is increased by good association. With an upbeat atmosphere, you increase the odds of a better outcome.

A business lunch can be great for building rapport. When it comes to closing tough deals, you may be better off in a formal setting where everyone can be clear on the terms.