Business Lunch Etiquette

The business lunch: a timeless tradition. Whether it’s going to lunch to discuss marketing strategies or sealing a business deal, you’re sure to be faced with businesses lunches many times throughout your career. The way you handle yourself during these lunches will make a huge impression on those you’re dining with—so make sure you know how to mind your manners.

Need a refresher on appropriate business lunch etiquette? Here are 9 sure-fire ways to impress at your next business lunch:

  1. Don’t go into lunch too hungry
    Even though it’s lunch, you should be focusing on the business at hand, not the meal you’re eating. Munching on a small smack before lunch will allow you to focus on the conversation instead of scarfing down your meal.
  2. Mind your manners
    You (hopefully) learned basic table manners as a child—so use them. Executives will often judge candidates based on their table manners, so don’t let your lack of them ruin your chances. This includes things like chewing with your mouth open, putting your fingers in your mouth or blowing your nose into your napkin.
  3. Put technology on hold
    Leave your phone in your purse or pocket—or even at the office—to avoid the temptation to check messages during the lunch. Remember, this is a business meeting—so give the other party your full attention.
  4. Eat something easy
    Getting food on your shirt or stuck in your teeth is distracting. Struggling to figure out how to eat a complex dish will sidetrack you from the meeting. To avoid that, order something plain and simple that will be easy (and not messy).
  5. Wait until everyone is served
    Don’t start eating before the waiter can get his hand out of the way. Instead, wait until everyone at the table is served—in the meantime, continue talking about the business on the agenda.
  6. Be prepared
    Are you an indecisive person? Take the time to look up the restaurant’s menu beforeyou get there. Have an idea of what you’re going to order so you don’t waste time (or look spacey) trying to decide what to order.
  7. Know when to talk business
    Especially if you’re leading the meeting, you need to know the best time to get down to the nitty-gritty. Consider waiting until you get drinks and order your meals before getting into business discussions.
  8. Pick up the tab—if appropriate
    Generally, if you called the business lunch, then you’re responsible for the check. Don’t fight over the bill if the host of your lunch offers to pay—simply offer a gracious “thank you.”
  9. Relax
    One of the reasons business lunches are so effective is that it gets people out of the office and in a more natural setting. This is a great opportunity to strengthen a business relationship—so relax and be yourself.


What’s your number one rule for business lunch etiquette?

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Brian Sutter

Brian Sutter

Director of Marketing at Wasp Barcode
Brian Sutter is the Director of Marketing at Wasp, responsible for the development and execution of the company’s marketing strategy. His role encompasses brand management, direct and channel marketing, public relations, advertising, and social media. He also writes and speaks on topics related to helping small business owners grow their business and improve operational efficiency.
Brian Sutter
Brian Sutter