7 Things Every Man Should Know About Business Lunch Etiquette

Let's do lunch.

It might sound passe to think about your table manners, but believe me, it's not. Being a gentleman is never passe nor is making an impression with your top-notch etiquette. At some point or another, you will inevitably find yourself at a business lunch of some kind. Whether you're trying to make an impression internally with higher-ups or taking associates and clients out for a meal, it's critical that you're putting your best foot forward.

I fear that some of us, however, miss some of the finer details of dinner etiquette. We might think we've made our mother's proud, but in truth...your manners just don't cut it in the professional arena.

Don't miss these essentials of business lunch etiquette.


7 Dining Etiquette Musts for Professional

1) Treat the waitstaff with excellence.

I have a pet peeve. My pet peeve is when the waitstaff are treated poorly at a restaurant. This ranges from not being left an adequate tip to being spoken to rudely and just plain abused by patrons. I fear that at times we as businessmen and professionals can get wrapped up in ourselves and ignore and mistreat those who are serving us. Not only are we usually a large party, but we can be real jerks! We've all heard or read stories.

Don't be a jerk. Treat the staff well. Thank them. Leave a great tip if you're the host. Not only does this reflect on your character to the staff of the restaurant, but it reflects on your character to your company as well.

2) Master your greeting.

When you arrive at your table, it's important to be ready to great anyone who is there before you, particularly the host. Shake hands, make eye contact, and re-introduce yourself if you're not already well acquainted. Wait to sit until the host sits. Wait to put your napkin in your lap until the host puts their napkin in their lap.

Subsequently, as others arrive, stand to greet them. Aim to be the last to sit, after the new arrival and certainly after the host.

3) Follow the host's cue.

At business meals, there can be some level of awkwardness when it comes to ordering. Because you, if not hosting, will not be paying for your meal, you do not want to spring for the most expensive item on the menu. If your host springs for it, it may be safe to say that you have the green light to order something pricey as well. But follow their cue. If they don't order before you, ask for their recommendation.

If for some reason neither of those things happen, opt for a modestly priced choice. The same can be said for alcoholic beverages. If the host orders, you can order one for yourself. Do not exceed their number of drinks, and do not order if they do not.

4) Remember what your mother taught you.

I feel as though I should not have to reiterate something as elementary as table manners, but I think we all know I do! Unfortunately, many of us fall short in this particular area. Usually, it's not our trying to be rude, it's simply a slip of the mind. We're simply not thrust into formality or a state of self-consciousness about how we eat all that often.

That said:

  • Chew with your mouth closed.

  • Don't talk with your mouth full.

  • No elbows on the table.

  • Don't point with your utensils.

  • If you drop a utensil, leave it. Ask for a new one.

  • Don't play with your food.

  • Eat your vegetables.

  • Take small bites and chew slowly.

Remember these small things and you're well on your way to making your mother proud.

5) Keep it light, keep it simple.

If you want a pleasant business luncheon, one of the best things you can do to save yourself from a world of grief is to order something light, neat, and simple. Don't order a meal that is going to take too long to eat, sit too heavily on your stomach or make you too full, or is too messy or greasy.

Spaghetti, for example? Asking for trouble. No one wants to dodge getting marinara on their dress shirt. They don't want to shake hands with you after you downed a greasy patty melt, either. Stick to meals that you can cut into small bites and eat with utensils with little mess. It might not be what you want to eat, but it's what you need to eat.

6) Ditch your devices.

Do I need to say turn off your phone? Turn off your phone. Not only do you want to avoid having to apologize for a mid-meal interruption, but it's poor form to have your phone out in the first place. Definitely don't answer a call, check messages, or look at it otherwise. As far as you're concerned, phones and other electronics don't exist during your luncheon.

7) Hold back on business.

Business lunches naturally include talking shop. Still, you don't want to dive into business chatter before the breadsticks have arrived. There is still a time and place to talk business—even at a business lunch. Ideally, keep up the casual, light conversation until everyone has ordered their food and received their drinks. At that point, the host will ideally initiative business talk.

Business luncheons don't have to be awkward, stilted, or self-conscious affairs. However, making a good impression is paramount. You don't want to be remembered as rude or sloppy. Instead, be intentional about how you are seen and perceived.

Do this and you will be able to relax and enjoy the company you keep.

Have you ever had a nightmare business lunch experience? Tell your cautionary tale in the comments.