I've closed millions of dollars of deals over lunch. I'm going to share 10 ways to guarantee a successful business lunch.
1. Know what you're going to order in advance.
Bonus if you've already eaten at the restaurant and know that you enjoy what you're going to order. Make sure it's healthy. You don't want to fall asleep during lunch.
So don't inhale a 10-pound bowl of Fettuccine Alfredo. It's also difficult to outline the parameters of a deal with a mouth full of pasta.
2. Make sure the restaurant doesn't get too loud.
You're there to conduct business, not snap glow sticks and rave. A low din is suitable. Too loud, or too close to happy hour won't do.
3. Make sure the restaurant is easy to find.
If it's not, add very specific directions in your online invitation/calendar reminder.
For example -- don't say 525 5th avenue. Say 525 5th avenue (at the southeast corner of 42 nd street and 5th avenue) green awning. I'll be waiting at the bar (blue blazer).
Your guest will never stress over too much detail. The more detail you offer here the better. Nothing is worse than not knowing who you're looking for when you enter a restaurant.
4. Get there early.
There are only two times. On-time or late. If you get there early, you can look around the room and people watch all you like. If you're late, apologize, and move on. It happens.
5. Put your Mobil device away.
Not on the table. Not on your lap. Not in your notebook. Away. All the way away.
This is the old school in me. If it's on the table you will feel it vibrate. You will see the notifications. And so will your guest. If you feel that you need it out so you seem important, you've lost the deal already.
Put it all the way away, and let them get dazzled by you and your ideas, not your buzzing notifications.
6. Don't drink alcohol.
Caveat 1 - If you've signed a deal and your client wants to celebrate. Go for it. One drink. One.
Caveat 2 - I've lived and worked overseas twice in my life. Once in Belgium, where a beer with lunch was the norm. Once in London, where almost anything goes when it comes to alcohol at lunch.
I indulged but always found that the lunches I chose not to drink were most effective. Now I no longer drink at lunch meetings.
7. Know what's good on the menu, and make a recommendation or two.
Some people have a hard time making a decision. They'll appreciate a recommendation. I find that when I make a recommendation many times my lunch companion takes it, and enjoys the meal. Easy.
8. Never get distracted.
Eye contact, and focus. You're not there to people watch. This is why I like going to a restaurant I'm familiar with. There may be new faces, but I know the normal crowd and can focus on my guest.
9. Always have coffee, or cappuccino, or espresso after lunch.
If you don't drink coffee, get tea, or another glass of water. There is always something else on their mind. Something that may not come to light during the lunch meeting.
This gives them (and you) the chance to wrap up your lunch with a bow.
10. Never let them pay. Ever.
For important deals, always give the restaurant your card in advance. Or excuse yourself to go to the restroom, track down your waiter and give them your card. Instruct them to avoid bringing the check to the table.
You want the waiter to come over with the bill already taken care of, looking only for a tip and signature. If they insist, tell them this "it's on (insert the name of your company here)." They will feel better about allowing you to pay knowing that you've expensed it.
These are my ten commandments. What are yours? What did I miss?