How to take a client to lunch: Advice from an etiquette expert
photo by Annie Spratt
words by Lisa Orr
There is no entertaining skill more critical for any professional to master than the art of taking someone to lunch. It is an opportunity to impress your colleagues as well as existing and new clients and it allows one to take business relationships outside of the boardroom. Taking someone out for lunch is all about building relationships and connections, which has always been the foundation for great business. There are four necessary elements to keep in mind when taking someone for lunch:
Know your guest
Having a sense of who your guest is and their personality is essential when being a spectacular host. Knowing personal details such as if they are foodies or if there is a new restaurant they would like to try can be very helpful. If that information isn’t available, even being mindful of a simple detail like selecting a restaurant close to their office shows your hosting prowess.
Invite them appropriately
Electronic invitations are the norm these days, but it is still important to follow the traditional invitation protocol. In your initial email you are extending the invitation to lunch so your note should include: the purpose of the lunch, who is attending and provide a few times with the caveat for them to provide alternatives if they are not available. Once the date is settled, the next email should include all of the key details and ideally a calendar invite. Finally, on the morning of your lunch you should send a brief email letting your guest know you are looking forward to lunch. This serves as both a confirmation and a friendly reminder.
Make the Most of the Meeting
Ensure that you are seated so that you are able to make eye contact with the wait staff throughout the meal, as host it is your responsibility to communicate with servers and to keep your lunch on schedule. Conversation topics should focus on building both a professional and social connection with your guest. If you will be discussing sensitive information you should host your lunch in a private space to ensure discussions remain confidential. If you extend the invitation, you should expect to pay for lunch.
Don’t’ Forget the Follow up
Now that you have hosted the perfect lunch, don’t squander the opportunity by forgetting to follow up. Best practice is to send a thank you email by end of day, next day at the very latest, thanking them for a great lunch and making sure to address any deliverables discussed over lunch. For those of you looking to stand out from the crowd, sending a handwritten note on your personal stationary is a very polished touch.