Business lunch etiquette: 5 business lunch no-nos

Meals have a way of bringing people together, and this is especially true in business. In fact, business lunches are a great way to connect with prospects and contacts in an informal, non-threatening setting setting.

business lunch

That is, if you don’t screw it up! There is an etiquette to business lunches.

A business lunch can completely backfire on you if you don’t watch it. Here are five things you should never do:

1. Show up late. I don’t care if you set the lunch time or the other person set the time, you have to be on time. When you’re late, you’re basically saying, “You are not important to me.” If you know you may not make it on time, make sure to give the person enough notice so he or she doesn’t have to sit and wait for you alone in the restaurant.

2. Lick your fingers and other common table-manner faux pas. Both sides — the “inviter” and the “invitee” — should use proper table manners during a business lunch. Don’t blow your nose in the linen napkin, put your elbows on the table, slurp your soup, talk with your mouth full … that kind of thing.

3. Treat the “help” like garbage. Nothing says “I’m a jerk” more than being disrespectful to a server. If you don’t get the right order or if your food is taking a little long, keep your cool. How you handle the situation will speak volumes to the other person.

4. Answer cell calls or texts during lunch. As a mom of four kids, my kids are a priority. If school calls, I have to take it and I think most people understand that. If there is something urgent, just make sure the other person knows ahead of time. “My daughter just hit her head at school, and the nurse said she would call me if my daughter needs to come home.” But most work calls or texts can usually wait (even though you think they can’t).

5. Drink alcohol. I personally think that you shouldn’t drink alcohol at all during a business lunch, but if you do, drink just a little bit. Being drunk isn’t professional. Ever.

As far as who pays, I would say whoever invites the person to lunch should pay. But, it depends. I remember Barbra Walters saying one time that whoever has the most money should pay — so obviously, she usually pays the bill! I say go with your gut on this one.

What are some etiquette gaffs that irk you during business lunches? 

Photo credit: John Morgan


Bridget Ingebrigtsen

Bridget Ingebrigtsen owns Write On Command, a company that provides writing and editing services to businesses and not-for-profits. Bridget describes her six-year stint as Anchor Advisors' writer/editor as being "mutually beneficial" -- she helps Anchor Advisors keep their written projects on track and Anchor Advisors helps her keep her business on track. When she's not running her business, Bridget is running after her four children, two dogs and the latest in entertainment news. Connect with Bridget on Google+, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Speak Your Mind