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Business Lunch Etiquette

Etiquette at a business lunch can make or break the deal…or job. Do you know the rules of a successful business lunch? Here are lists of do’s and don’ts that will help you leave the table with a positive impression.

Business lunch

It’s important to remember that a business lunch isn’t just about getting a bite to eat. Most often, it’s about getting the deal, getting the raise, getting the job, or getting the boss
to see things your way. It may be just about networking. In all cases, leaving the table with a positive impression helps to better achieve your goals.  Use these Do’s and
Don’ts of business lunch etiquette to polish your business lunch style.

Proper lunch etiquette

  • Select the right type of restaurant for the meeting. A quieter atmosphere, in most cases, is more conducive to business than a loud, deli type environment.
  • Dress appropriately. Casual or risqué clothing may give a wrong impression or tone to the meeting.
  • Select a table away from foot traffic with your guest seated facing into the restaurant rather than towards a wall.
  • Arrive on time!
  • Use good handshake etiquette. Stand to shake hands. Use a firm grip and good eye contact. In a group, shake the hand of the senior ranked officer first, or the
    hand of the person who has invited you.
  • Place the napkin in your lap immediately upon sitting. A napkin in the goblet usually indicates that the server will place the napkin on your lap. When leaving the
    table during a meal, place the napkin to your left. When the meal is over, place the napkin to the right.
  • Introduce guests to one another if you are the host.
  • Invite your guest to order first. In either case, be sure to order conservatively.
  • Speak in a soft, yet audible voice.
  • Be a good listener. Stay focused. Looking around the room or appearing to be thinking of something else is distracting and discourteous.
  • Take small bites.
  • Use good body language. Good posture with elbows off the table is both professional and shows self-confidence.
  • Keep the topic of conversation positive. Smile in appropriate places, and start with small talk or current events. Save business talk until later in the meal or during coffee and
  • Treat the wait staff with courtesy and respect. This is an indication of how you treat co-workers and employees.
  • Handle any service or meal problems or complaints in a dignified manner. This will reflect upon how you deal with situations on the job.
  • Excuse yourself if leaving the table.
  • Know who will pick up the tab. It’s customary for the host to pay. Offer to pay your half, but don’t argue over it. If you’re hosting, make
    previous arrangements with the server to receive the check.
  • End a business lunch with a good handshake and positive parting remark.
  • Send a thank you note. Whether the host or guest, a well-written follow-up thank you note the next day is good business practice.

What not to do during a business lunch

  • Leave your purse on the table.
  • Order the most expensive thing on the menu.
  • Order messy foods (ribs, corn on the cob, spaghetti).
  • Order alcohol, even if your host does.
  • Begin eating before everyone is served.
  • Chew with your mouth open.
  • Slurp through a straw or chew ice.
  • Discuss private or intimate matters.
  • Bad mouth a company (including yours) or business person.
  • Speak with your hands.
  • Smoke.
  • Pick your teeth.
  • Use your phone or text message.
  • Comb your hair or apply lipstick at the table.
  • Leave the lunch meeting before your guest.
  • Ask for a doggie bag.

Other cultures and business lunches

What is acceptable in one culture may not be with another. If on a business lunch with someone from another country, be sure to first
become familiar with their rules of etiquette.

Getting it right can make a difference

Frequently, there’s only one chance to get it right, unlike at a social luncheon where the relationship and understanding of a good friend will wave off a blunder. In the end, practicing
the do’s and don’ts of successful business etiquette can really make a difference.

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