Pretty soon, we’ll be back to dining out and entertaining clients over wonderful meals. Whether, it’s breakfast, lunch, cocktails or dinner, dining out is a great opportunity to brainstorm ideas, finalize deals, built relationships, even make hiring and promotion decisions. Here follows a few etiquette tips for each scenario.
Breakfast Meetings: This is the shortest timeframe in which to entertain clients. Most people are eager to start their day and want to get down to business immediately. In order to do so, and to be courteous of people’s time, get the discussion going while you’re standing at the hostess stand or even on the way to the restaurant.
Lunch Meetings: These meetings are nice because they don’t require a super early start and they don’t take away your time when most people can be quite fatigued. The downfall to lunch meetings is that they still don’t provide the most amount of time between you and a client. These meetings usually fall in between other meetings of the day. With that said, it’s best to wait until all parties have ordered before discussing business. People often need more time to read through this menu (compared to breakfast), so don’t interrupt their decision-making process with business talk. Once all orders have been placed, discuss away.
Dinner Meetings: I have a love/hate relationship with dinner meetings but they are ideal when you need more time to discuss important projects or require deeper conversations. Etiquette dictates that you wait until the dessert/coffee course before bringing up the issues at hand. If you want to talk business, wait until this last course. Of course, if your guests bring the subject up earlier, take the cue that it’s okay to continue.
Footnote: In some cultures, it’s taboo to talk business at all over a meal. They use these settings purely for building and solidifying relationships, not to talk shop.