Business Lunches Are Back!
Over the past few years, most of us in business came to rely on online conference calls over in-person meetings, as business lunches and networking events instantly became a thing of the past.
But all that is changing now. People are returning to their offices. The landscape has reverted, though, it’s definitely not like it was. Many professionals now have hybrid positions that involve some office work, some teleconferencing, occasional business travel, and endless hours communicating by phone or email.
Does anyone even remember how to go out to lunch in public… with clients?
As the author of the award-winning book, The Art of the Business Lunch, Building Relationships Between 12 and 2 (Career Press), I know the challenges that dining with clients can present. But executing a successful business lunch has never been more challenging than it is today. People who are just now entering the workforce have never had the opportunity to learn, let alone practice, any “soft skills.”
By contrast, “hard skills” are jobs and proficiencies that people train for, like becoming a doctor, a lawyer, an IT professional, a marketing expert, an accountant, or an engineer. Soft skills, on the other hand, are something you must have to succeed, but few focus on it until it’s too late! Most colleges don’t teach soft skills. A doctor doesn’t need to have soft skills to be a great surgeon, but he needs them if he wants to grow a successful practice. In medicine, it’s called his “bedside manner,” or how he makes others feel. To run a great office with a happy staff, being a skilled surgeon isn’t enough. Soft skills include knowing what to say, how to say it, and when, plus it involves having critical thinking and interpersonal skills
In an April 2023 article, Forbes.com reported that individuals need “…to possess attributes and abilities that allow them to collaborate with teams and colleagues.” The article went on to list 11 of these skills, including effective communication, leadership, teamwork, creativity, and emotional intelligence. That’s a good start. Resources.workable.com offered a similar list of 15 soft skills that also included stress management, organizational skills, and adaptability.
But What About Etiquette?
Do most people know what’s what when it comes to etiquette? Has anyone actually studied what to do to get through a meal without embarrassing themselves? I knew a lady who wouldn’t order any food that needed to be cut, like a steak, because she was 27-years-old and still didn’t know how to cut her meat correctly! No one had ever taught her how to eat like a lady.
Sunday dinners with a family gathered around the table are all but a thing of the past. That was where many of us learned how to cut our food, sit up straight, and not talk with our mouths full. But since television infiltrated homes, Sunday dinners with family gave way to TV trays in front of the TV set where you’d all eat your TV dinners. If mom was watching television, she wasn’t noticing Junior playing with his food or Sally’s bad manners. It’s not all mom’s fault, though.
As the pace of life sped up, people started to eat on the run or at their desks. “The Art of the Business Lunch” was only sacred to those whose livelihood depended on building productive relationships. A successful business lunch can net big deals… if you know how to do a client lunch the right way. A lot can go wrong if you’re not prepared. What can you do if you can’t even get a client to agree to have lunch with you? Is there a way to get around this and other obstacles? I believe there is!
“The Queen of the Business Lunch”
I personally hosted more than 3,000 client lunches and saw my sales increase by more than 2,000%!
My clients started calling me “The Queen of the Business Lunch” – a title I eventually trademarked. During my time in sales, I discovered all the secrets to hosting successful client lunches. And, since I’ve been speaking on the subject for more than twenty years. Most business professionals have more questions than answers:
- Is it ever okay to order alcohol when you’re out with clients?
- What’s the one entrée you should never order at a business lunch? It’s not what you think!
- Should you pick your client up at their office or meet them at the restaurant?
- How can you handle the check discreetly?
- When should you bring up the subject of business?
- What should you look for in choosing the most perfect restaurant for a business lunch?
When you’re unsure of what to do, your business lunch can turn into a disaster. I had a new salesman ask me how he should excuse himself when he needs to use the restroom! You can’t underestimate the naiveté of someone who is new to the art of the business lunch.
I’ll Ask Again: What About Etiquette?
Which fork should you use for which part of your meal? (Start from the outside and work your way in toward your plate.) Which water goblet is yours? (Think BMW; Bread, Meal, Water… left to right in front of you!) What should you do if someone asks you to pass the salt? (Pass it, but always pass the pepper along with it.)
I spoke to an academy of high school seniors and their questions were not at all what I expected:
- Is it okay to throw your tie over your shoulder? (No.)
- Is it okay to take off your jacket? (Of course!)
- And, not surprisingly, how should one excuse themselves when they need to use the restrooms?
Apparently, this is on everyone’s mind!
I love talking to groups about “The Art of the Business Lunch” and Etiquette. Now, as we emerge from darkness into the light of day and venture outside to mingle amongst people again, it’s more important than ever to know the right way to host a successful business lunch.
For speaking inquiries, please contact Robin@LVCSB.com. For more information on my presentations or to watch a demo video, visit: https://robinjay.com/about-robin-jay/las-vegas-motivational-keynote-speaker-robin-jay-sales-expert/