How to Host a Business Lunch

A business lunch is the perfect time to get your employees thinking about their future and how you can help them achieve it. Here are some tips for hosting a successful business luncheon.

A business lunch meeting is a type of social event where people can get together to discuss business. It has been a long-standing tradition that people have used to network and build relationships.

Although the term “power lunch” and fantastic expressions like “gag me with a spoon” became obsolete in the 1980s, meeting for a meal with a possible customer, investor, or business partner remains a terrific method to network and connect with people who may help you advance your career. Breaking bread with another individual fosters positive ties and sentiments by creating a more personal and informal connection.

But only if you manage it professionally. Because sharing a meal exposes more about you and your habits, you’re more likely to say or do anything that will turn off the person you’re attempting to court. As a result, it is advantageous to plan ahead.

Many of the same rules apply to business lunches as they do to proposing a concept at someone’s office, but the restaurant setting necessitates certain extra considerations. What we’ll speak about today is how to handle those concerns.

Make a formal invitation. You should double-check if a business lunch is really essential before inviting someone. While you may believe that everyone appreciates a free lunch, many people, particularly those in positions of power, get such invitations on a regular basis, and they may 1) resent the intrusion on their time, and 2) be suspicious of anybody attempting to “buy” their favor. So always let them know you’re available to meet with them at their workplace.

A good invitation may be written in a variety of ways, but it should always incorporate the three elements below:

  • The objective of the conference is stated clearly. Never give the impression that you want to take someone out to lunch to thank them for something or just to socialize, only to surprise them with a business pitch once the Southwestern egg rolls come.
  • This establishes your host role. Your invitation is also your first chance to establish your status as host (whoever invites is the host), which might help you avoid unpleasant wrestling over the check later on. As a result, always make it explicit in your invitation that lunch is on you. “I’ll take you to lunch,” “Please let Conoco buy us lunch,” or “Be my guest for lunch” are all options. Avoid words like “Let’s have lunch,” which make it seem if the food is a Dutch pleasure.
  • It’s simple for the individual to politely refuse. Make him work hard to figure out how to let you down easily, and don’t make him lie about how all of his lunch slots are booked for the next six months.

“I would love to meet together with you to chat about x, y, and z,” a nice invitation would say. Is it okay if I pay you a visit? Or, even better, could you spare some time in your hectic schedule to allow me take you out to lunch?”

Select a suitable dining establishment. If you don’t know the person you’re meeting with’s preferences, avoid going to an unusual or ethnic restaurant. You don’t want to take Bob to a sushi restaurant just to discover that he’s a meat-and-potatoes kind of man who despises anything raw or covered in seaweed. Steakhouses and bistro-style eateries are excellent choices. However, make sure there are one or two good vegetarian alternatives on the menu.


It’s best to choose a restaurant that you’ve visited at least a couple of times previously, so you know the service and cuisine are both excellent. However, if you’re traveling and away from home, do some internet research before deciding on a restaurant. Look at the restaurant’s website and other websites for reviews.

While you should never defer to the visitor when it comes to where to dine, if you think the guest may desire something other than the usual cuisine, select one “safe” restaurant and one more exotic one and let him choose.

A good business lunch restaurant has a clean but warm ambiance, is modestly priced, and is quite quiet. It should be someplace nice, but also somewhere where your client will feel comfortable even if he comes dressed casually. It should also be a reservation-only establishment, since you should always–

Make an appointment. Never be trapped telling an approaching guest that lunch won’t start for another 20 minutes because there aren’t enough tables. To avoid any confusion, include your name as well as the name of your visitor when making your reservation.

Perform some preliminary research before to the conference. Even if you’ve been to the restaurant before, scouting it out before your meeting is a good idea. Consider questions like: Does this location have the correct ambiance and feel for what we’ll be discussing? What’s the status of the music? Is it so loud that having a conversation will be difficult? What’s the finest spot for a seat? Is my credit card accepted?

Arrive early to avoid disappointment. Arrive at the restaurant 10 minutes before your guest’s planned arrival time. Wait for your visitor at the table or at the bar, and inform the hostess to keep an eye out for him.

The benefit of waiting at your table is that you may converse with your waiter before your visitor comes. Inform him or her that you will be doing business over lunch and politely request that distractions be kept to a minimal. Tell the waiter that you’ll need the bill as soon as possible after the dinner if your visitor is on a tight schedule. You may also tell the waiter that you’ll be paying the bill and that he should give you the check when it comes out.

To avoid walking in, shaking the host’s hand, and saying hello, make sure you go to the restroom before you get at the restaurant… after which you excuse yourself to use the toilet.

Switch off your phone. Nothing can derail a business lunch quicker than a host whose phone rings during the meal, and who, worse, decides to answer it. When you arrive at the restaurant, turn off your phone so you can focus entirely on your visitor (this goes for all meals, business or otherwise). Tell your visitor as soon as you two sit down at the table if you are anticipating a very urgent/emergency call that you must take. Put your phone on vibrate, and when it rings, immediately check to see who’s calling, and if it’s not an emergency call, mute it as soon as possible.


Of course, if your visitor wishes to leave his phone on and answer his calls, you must allow him to do so without casting scornful eyes his way. While your visitor is chatting on the phone, walk to the restroom or look at your phone or proposal documents to offer him the impression of seclusion.

Allow your visitor to go first. Allow your visitor to accompany the maître d’ to the table while you take up the rear. You want to offer your visitor first choice of seat—if it’s one of those half-table/half-booth arrangements, he may prefer the booth side. If your visitor hesitates, make a motion encouraging him to choose the better seat. If your friend has lengthy legs, make sure he doesn’t have to sit in a small space.

Men sitting for lunch meeting.

Drink with moderation. Mad Men may have returned for a second season, but the three martini lunch will not. When ordering drinks, follow the client’s lead. If he orders a non-alcoholic beverage, follow suit. If he purchases an alcoholic beverage, you may do likewise as well, but order something lighter than what he does. Get a light beer if he wants a whiskey on the rocks. If he’s downing drinks, don’t feel obligated to match him drink for drink; you need to be as alert as possible, so stick to one drink and nurse it throughout the meal.

You’re in a pickle if you’re a non-drinker and your visitor wants to drink. It might make them feel like they’re doing something wrong if you purchase a non-alcoholic drink while they get beer. “I’ll just take a water for now,” I inform the server, being a teetotaler myself. Later, I purchase a diet Coke, but that gives the visitor greater confidence in ordering anything they want.

Follow in the footsteps of your visitors. Place an order for the same number of courses as your visitor. You want to eat at the same time, so if he orders an appetizer or salad, you should get one as well so he isn’t the only one eating. You also want the dinner to conclude at the same time for both of you, so if he’s not having dessert or coffee, neither should you. Also, if he gets something like chicken breast, don’t order a steak and ask for it well done. Your lunch will take twice as long to prepare, delaying your guest’s supper. Also, why are you destroying a delicious steak by ordering it well done?

Make sure you order food that is simple to consume. If you want to create a good first impression on your visitor, avoid ordering food that will make you appear uncomfortable as you eat it. Salads may have large bits of greens that are difficult to consume in one bite, onion soup can result in cheese threads, and spaghetti and ribs can get sticky.


Vintage men sitting and enjoying at lunch table.

At the appropriate moment, transition into business. Don’t start talking about your proposal the moment you sit down. First, have a lighthearted chat. This not only establishes rapport, but it also allows you to get a sense of your guest’s personality, allowing you to personalize your pitch to his preferences. Keep the discussion focused on sports, hobbies, and non-controversial news; if you don’t know them well, don’t dig into their personal lives.

Never discuss business until everyone has placed their orders. It’s a good idea to jump after the salad/soup course and before the meals come.

Treat your employees nicely. Is it likely that a prospective customer would want to deal with someone who is rude to the waiter? Nope.

At the same time, if a visitor knows you’re paying the bill, he’ll be less inclined to express his requirements. As a result, if a visitor has an issue, please ensure that the staff takes care of it.

Take a deep breath and confidently pick up the bill. Remember that whomever invited you is the host and is responsible for the food. You should have previously created the framework for defining your position as host, avoiding the uncomfortable “I’ll fetch it.” At the conclusion of the dinner, there was an exchange of “No, I’ll get.” When the bill arrives, take it casually while continuing to converse or listen to your visitor as you place your credit card in the folder—don’t call too much attention to yourself or make a big deal out of it.

There’s no need for complicated methods for paying the bill “quietly,” such as providing your credit card to the waiter ahead of time or pretending to go to the toilet while really locating the waiter and paying him away from the table. That’s what ladies used to do when they first started working to prevent the appearance of (gasp!) paying for a dinner, according to our old etiquette manuals. There’s no need for subtlety or high strategy when you pay like a guy.

Post-Meal-em. Write a thank you note to the visitor after your business lunch to express your gratitude for his taking the time to meet with you. But don’t think of him as owing you anything—business lunches aren’t supposed to be reciprocal. But, perhaps, your visitor will be enticed to examine your ideas and a future connection while basking in the warmth of your well-executed feast.

What are your suggestions for a productive business lunch? Leave them in the comments section. 



Watch This Video-

A “luncheon” is a gathering of people, typically in the afternoon or evening. A business luncheon can be hosted by an individual or a company. The main goal of hosting a luncheon is to provide food and drinks for guests and to entertain them with conversation.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you conduct a business lunch?

A: I conduct business lunches by eating lunch.

What are two rules of etiquette when hosting a business lunch?

A: When hosting a business lunch, it is important to create an environment that inspires conversation. This means making sure the atmosphere of your space is casual and inviting for those attending. It also suggests being mindful of distance between yourself and others when dining together at one table so you dont have too close an interaction with any person seated across from you or next to them while they eat their meal

Who pays for a business lunch?

A: That depends on a lot of factors. For example, if the business owner is known to be significantly more wealthy than you are and was offering you lunch in his/her companys building, it might seem like he or she pays. However, if they were just kindly taking care of their office staff with no expectation for anything in return from them, then that would make sense as well given how common these kinds of things are at companies around the world.

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