Some of our most successful meetings have happened over a tasty meal at a favorite local restaurant but dining while deal making comes with its challenges! When do you start talking shop? What’s the easiest thing to eat while you chat?
So, we’ve got you set up for success with these five tips for a productive lunch meeting:
1. Scout out a location and arrive early.
Nothing says you’ve got it under control like being settled in at your table with a drink in hand waiting for your guest. Arrive about 15 minutes early to ensure you can start your meeting on time and also to get be sure you have a good table with minimal noise. While in some circumstances it can be appropriate to meet your colleague at the front of the restaurant, you’ll feel much more ready to get to business if you are already at the table and not worried about things like squirming out of a coat and settling in your handbag. Be sure to pick a seat that faces the door so you can keep an eye out for your guests and make a quick note of where the restrooms are if you need to make a brief, graceful exit. This is also a good time to take a few minutes to go over your meeting objective, which leads us to…..
2. Plan the meeting discussion in “courses.”
Ideally, you already know what you want to get out of this lunch. Are you looking for a new business opportunity? Following up on the status of a project? Pick the one or two things you want to have discussed at this meeting and focus on those being well executed. A restaurant lunch is not the place for a laundry list of action items to review so stay focused on a few narrow goals.
Another great trick is to think of your lunch meeting content happening in “courses” in the same way you’ll have a drink, lunch, and then pick up the tab. For example, it works well to stick to social topics and catch up on travel and general personal details while you have drinks and order. More concrete work discussions can happen over the meal like identifying action items—wrapping up with a bit of chit-chat is a great way to close as you’re expecting the check.
3. Order fork only foods.
Choose an easy to eat lunch for your meeting and only order foods that can be eaten with a fork (so avoid anything that needs to be picked up—we’re looking at you avocado toast!). Salads are always a good choice, as are any combo of a few smaller appetizers that already come in tiny bites. You’ll also want to let your guest order first, and it’s nice to follow suit if they opt for two courses. You don’t want them to be uncomfortable starting with the soup while you’re only on your third iced tea.
4. Be intentional about note taking.
One of the trickiest parts of lunch meetings is taking notes or handling any papers while you’re eating. Do yourself a favor and pre-stage your pen and notebook in a small pocket of your bag—you don’t want to have to fish around for them when things get interesting during lunch. You’ll also want to opt for a notebook a few inches tall to have enough room for notes, unless you are bringing documents that need to stay fresh and crease free. If that’s the case, opt for a pad folio with a zipper to keep things in order.
5. Wrap up with authority.
The end of a lunch meeting can get a bit awkward if you haven’t thought out how to handle wrapping up. If there are action items you need to take away, review them while plates are cleared and the check arrives. If you did the inviting, you’re doing the buying, so be swift and classy about snatching that check and tuck it to the side of your space on the table.
Close with chatting about when you’ll next see your colleague, and even feel free to let them depart first while you take care of the bill. A few minutes at the table by yourself post-meeting can be helpful planning time for you to jot a few notes you may not have had time to during the meeting.
6. Follow-up after the meeting.
Enjoy this meeting! Not being in an office setting is a great way to further business relationships and develop your professional tool kit. To keep the momentum going, send a quick email or text the same day to thank your guest for their time and reiterate any action items you discussed. Great follow-up is just as important as the meeting itself and gives you one more opportunity to demonstrate your awesome professionalism and organizational skills!
Finally, enjoy your meeting! Not being in an office setting is a great way to further business relationships and develop your professional tool kit.