Ok, this post is actually an offshoot of networking. After all that mingling, sometimes a conversation leads to an exchange of cards which leads to getting together in person, often for a lunch meeting.
I was recently at a business lunch with someone I had met before many times but this was the first time we had a considering-doing-business-together meal. After our lunch was served, he looked down and commented that each of us had ordered something we didn’t have to pick up with our hands.
I knew it was a conscious decision on my part, but it was the first time I realized that other business people think the same way. The focus of a business meal should be business. Its not about the food. Order something that can be easily cut and eaten with a fork, won’t make a mess or cause comment. I eat a lot of salad, but at a restaurant, a salad can be hard to manage and are often huge, leaving you still eating when your meal partner is done.
Another key factor of a business meal is paying attention – to the discussion, the proposal, the opportunity – not the eating. I can be a disaster, so I try to avoid sauces, dressing and anything red or it may end up on me.
To manage stress and keep the focus on the conversation the number one thing that has helped me is to choose what I will eat before I get there. Many restaurants have their menu online – look it up and choose your meal. Don’t count on getting the the restaurant first, I’ve thought I was early only to find my dining companion waiting for me. This is especially helpful if you are particular. Once I had a business breakfast and the gentleman I met asked for all sorts of special preparation and then was dissatisfied when the order came. I couldn’t help but think he would be difficult to work with as well.
Going into a business meeting able to politely scan a menu while actually listening to the conversation is one of the best tricks I’ve learned. It is hard enough to meet a stranger in a restaurant, a little planning makes the whole thing much easier and more professional.