Planning the perfect lunch for your next small business meeting

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By Ryan Zaritsky

If you’ve ever gone to a business luncheon where something went wrong, one thing’s for sure: You remember it. The same goes for your clients, partners, prospects, and colleagues. If you make a major misstep in the meeting plans, it can be hard for them to forget. What this means is that luncheons represent great opportunity — either to foster relationship or discourage it.

With that in mind, to help you create the kind of business luncheons that build connections instead of harming them, here’s a look at top tips for planning the perfect meeting:

1) Make plans well in advance. To ensure everyone can come to your event, give the people that you are inviting plenty of advance notice. You can send an online invite with clear details about the time, place, and any other important information.

2) Choose easy, crowd-pleasing food. Whether you’re meeting at a restaurant or using catering solutions at the office, opt for food that tastes good, appeals to diverse palates, and isn’t overly complicated. You want your guests to enjoy their meals enough to feel great and be able to focus on the purpose of your meeting.

3) Communicate plans with guests beforehand. Send the menu to your attendees before the event, so they can know what to expect and/or let you know about any dietary needs.

4) Be early. Good hosting begins with a warm welcome. Make sure you arrive before your guests, so you’ll be there to greet them. Likewise, set the stage for a successful event by being thoughtful about the little details. Are there enough seats for everyone? Do you have all the silverware, plates, and napkins that guests may need? Is anything missing? By arriving early, you’ll have time to take care of any last-minute concerns.

5) Be polite. If there’s ever a time to practice manners, it’s at a business lunch. Thank servers. Ask for someone to pass an item rather than reaching across other guests. Communicate care by acting with proper etiquette throughout the meal.

6) Start with small talk. Jumping into business too fast can be off-putting to your guests. Instead, start slow with a little friendly chit-chat, at least while everyone is getting drinks and making order selections.

7) Skip the alcohol. A business lunch is not the place for day drinking. Don’t serve alcohol at the event and don’t accept it from anyone who offers. You want to keep everyone as focused and productive as possible, especially because you’re all likely returning to work afterward. Stay sober and on task.

8) Listen thoughtfully. When you have an agenda, it’s easy to let that override the meal, but most people will respond better when they’ve had a chance to interact, too. Take time to listen to others as well as present your ideas, fostering relationship in the process.

9) Present your topics. Once everyone’s comfortable and you’ve built up a little rapport, go ahead and introduce the reason for meeting. Hit your ideas and action points, allowing time for questions that arise.

10) Pick up the tab. When you’re the one hosting a meeting, you’re the one who covers the bill. Make sure this is clear and obvious upfront by either paying ahead of time or communicating with the restaurant or caterer that you are the one to contact about the check.

Whether you’re planning a luncheon for two or 20, you’re sure to have a more successful event when you take time to prepare. Use the 10 tips above to set the stage for a smooth, stress-free meeting where guests leave satisfied, impressed, and ready to work with you.


Ryan Zaritsky is the owner and operator of MGM Roast Beef. Founded in 2008, MGM Roast Beef is a gourmet sandwich shop located in D.C. that is dedicated to providing the freshest product possible.

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