Business lunches are an increasingly important part of the process of establishing and developing business relationships. Rarely is a lunch of this sort arranged because the host is concerned that his guests are hungry and need a meal. More than likely, there are farther reaching reasons.
For example, if a host invites a potential employee to lunch, he will keep a close eye on how that person will reflect the corporate image of the company. After all, eating is a ritual which we perform several times every day. If this relatively simple act is handled awkwardly, the host might well imagine that there are other equally simple skills lacking in this individual.
Essentially there are just a few persons of interest at every business lunch, namely the host and his/her guest or guests. There are a set of host duties which, if followed through, will make the lunch far less stressful all around.
As host, it is your responsibility to select the restaurant, make the reservation, and even make a request for a specific table if desired. When choosing a restaurant, keep in mind the sort of food your guests might enjoy. You will be paying the bill, so be mindful of your budget. You may want to pre-order, especially if the party is a large one. Make arrangements to pay the bill after your guests have departed. Ask the server not to bring the bill to the table. Ordering off the menu takes longer and the time available can have an impact on your ability to conduct business.
In many public restaurants and most private clubs, business papers are not allowed on the dining table. Be sure your agenda can be covered without papers. You will want to inform your guests about any rules regarding cell phones as their use is also discouraged during meals and should be turned to vibrate or off. The interruption of a ring tone is annoying and disrespectful to anyone speaking.
As host, be sure to go over all of the arrangements with the manager the morning before the lunch. Do not leave any detail to his or her discretion. Managers are not mind readers and they appreciate knowing exactly what you as a customer want so they can make your entire experience as enjoyable as possible. Be sure to arrive at least 20 minutes before your reservation to make a final inspection and answer any questions which the management may have or which may have occurred to you. If you are using place cards, set them on the table before your guests arrive. If you are not using cards, be sure to have a seating plan in your mind. People like some direction when it comes to seating.
Next week find out what to do as the guest of a business lunch.