They say that the way to a man’s heart is his stomach. That same train of thought is a major cultural custom for business in places like Japan and Russia.
A business lunch is the best opportunity to make a personal connection with a potential client.
Treating a valued customer or client to a meal at a nice restaurant helps calm nerves and lighten the mood. You can create a lasting impression on them, even if your pitch wasn’t the greatest.
Choosing the perfect place to hold your business meeting can be tough, of course. This guide will help you secure a great restaurant that will tantalize the senses.
Look for these traits when deciding on a location:
Waiting and Serving
If the service is bad at a restaurant, it can be very hard to ignore during a business lunch.
The food and decor can be out of this world, but if the service isn’t it could be a big distraction. You’ll need to do a little investigating before deciding on a place to eat.
Call up the restaurant itself and see if they do a lot of accommodating for businesses. Read reviews online, of course, to see if any comments stand out.
You want to make sure that their waiters aren’t too intrusive, but are very observant. Nothing is worse than being seated and having to wait a long time to get your food or being interrupted frequently.
Is the Food Good?
This might be a difficult question to answer without trying it yourself, of course. It’s always good to make sure that you match the cuisine based on who you’re meeting.
If you don’t know their preferences, ask them which foods they are allergic to or prefer to avoid.
Try to avoid asking about favorite foods because it’s much better to surprise tastebuds at a meeting. You can still play it safe and give them an awesome new experience at a new restaurant.
Steak, pasta, and sushi are all solid entrees that you can lean on for quality and flavor. This website has a great example of a menu that has a good variety of classics and unique dishes.
Environment & Location
The part of town you decide to meet up at can have an influence on how comfortable potential clients will be. Some clients prefer downtown locations, others will love neighborhood restaurants. Obviously, this will depend on their personality and background.
Will they care more about the food and service than the decor or neighborhood? This is something that can make or break a good meeting.
You don’t need to pick a 5-star restaurant to impress corporate or conservative businessmen. If you’re doing a lot of business lunches at upscale restaurants, make sure you’re tracking your expenses.
What to Do Before a Business Lunch
The better prepared you are for client meetings, team lunches, and important business proposals, the better you’ll perform.
Reserve Ahead of Time
The earlier you can reserve your meeting the better. You want this lunch meeting to be punctual and contain as little delays as possible. Make sure you reserve with both your name and your guest names.
Do this even at restaurants that may appear to be less crowded. You may have the same cravings as ten other people that same day, so don’t assume anything.
Pay a Visit Before the Meeting
If you’ve never stepped foot inside the restaurant before, try to get a look at it before your meeting. Ideally, you should eat there first to see what they have.
Look around inside and find out the ideal seating location. Does this atmosphere feel conducive to a business lunch? Is the music too loud? Are the chairs comfortable?
Take note of the cleanliness of the tables, too.
What to Do During the Meeting
You’ve done all your homework, made the reservation, and have confidence in your pick for lunch. Now, it’s time to prepare yourself for your big meeting.
Get There Early
Always arrive early, even with reservations. This can help you assess your surroundings and make sure the table location is to your liking. It’s also nice to give your hostess an early heads-up.
Talk to your waiter, let them know you’re waiting on a business guest to arrive. This is a good time to let them know that you’ll be discussing sensitive information. They’ll know to keep interruptions to a minimum and observe from afar.
You can also use this time to coordinate how the bill will be paid. If you’re treating lunch, ask them to bring the bill directly to you.
When to Talk Business
Don’t let your nerves get the best of you when your guest arrives. Business rules on the golf course say never talk business before the fifth hole. You have to settle in first and allow everyone to get comfortable.
Hold off all business talk until after you order the entree if you can. This not only makes the conversation more natural, but it also helps the waiter do their job. The time spent waiting on the entree is perfect for business talk.
Get to know your potential client or partner on a personal level, this makes pitching easier.
End the meeting with some light sports, travel, or hobby talk. A lunch that is all business will end very abruptly and impersonally, which is a poor impression to leave on someone for future partnerships.
Be a Team Leader
Demonstrating your leadership skills is the key to successful partnerships.
All of these tips on organizing the perfect business lunch demonstrate leadership. You can control all the variables, so even if the restaurant makes a mistake, it’s repairable.
If you don’t assert yourself, your employees and potential clients will lose confidence in your business. You should be challenging yourself to learn to be more assertive every day.
Read business blogs to learn more intangible skills like these to help your business thrive.