Last week we learned about the responsibilities for a host at a business lunch and this week we focus on guest etiquette.
If you are a guest at a business lunch, be sure to arrive on time or perhaps a few minutes early. Later than 10 minutes is not a good idea and should be preceded by an apologetic phone call. If you have any dietary restrictions, let your host know well in advance. Be sure your clothes are clean, freshly pressed and with polished shoes. Be sure to check in the rest room, if necessary for last minute grooming.
It is likely that you will know why you are invited to the lunch. Your host will have an agenda. You may want to review the following two important questions and formulate answers before your arrival. First of all, what are your host’s intentions towards you? Be sure you are attentive to all questions and comments directed to you and answer them clearly.
Eating can make some people anxious. To avoid this feeling, brush up on your table manners. Be sure to greet your host with a firm hand shake and a warm smile. When you sit down, do so from the right side of the chair. Place your napkin on your lap when your host does, following his lead throughout the meal.
Remember that your host is in charge of the table. If you require something from the service staff, it is usually best to direct your request to the host, rather than summoning the wait staff yourself. If you must excuse yourself from the table, do so quietly, placing your napkin on the seat of the chair. Do not speak with food in your mouth. Pace your eating speed trying to keep time with your host. In other words, don’t gobble down your meal or neglect your food.
The second question you must ask yourself is, “what’s in it for me?” You want to have your own objectives for this meeting. Meals in general are not appropriate times to bring up unpleasant subjects however and this is true of business lunches. Keep the conversation on topic and constructive. Business cards should not be exchanged during the meal, but afterwards on your way out of the restaurant. Be sure to thank your host. Follow your verbal thank you with a note, preferably hand written.
Business lunches are opportunities to show off your best attributes including personality, sense of humor, and self esteem. This is one reason why you are invited to the lunch in the first place. The mutual respect established between host and guest at a business lunch can lay a firm foundation for building strong business relationships. Following these few rules of business etiquette will likely prove very beneficial.