If you're meeting with a client, going out with your boss or attending a group function, the business lunch is probably not what it appears to be. Although being yourself and going into it with a relaxed attitude is the best way to impress others, understand that it's much different from a nice lunch with your spouse. You're being watched and judged based on how you carry yourself which is why you don't want to break these six business lunch rules. (To learn more about networking tips, read 4 Career Networking Tips That Work. )
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Wearing jeans when everybody else is in a suit would be a career nightmare, but the opposite is true as well. Wearing a suit in a business casual environment makes you appear as if you didn't know where or why you were attending the lunch. Ask others you know about it, or call or stop by the restaurant to get a feel for how others dress.
Sure, you don't want to get drunk at a business lunch, but alcohol isn't the subject this time. You don't want to be the person who has to use the restroom when important conversations are taking place. Not only does it look bad, but what if you drink so much water that you have to go to the restroom multiple times? Don't stress drink.
This isn't the time to check your email, talk to your wife, text a friend or look at the score from last night's game. In fact, unless your phone has work-related content on it, keep it in the car so you aren't tempted to break the rule. Just because our phones have become an almost permanent extension of our hand, doesn't mean that it's proper to have it out all of the time.
Easy to Eat
What can you order that is not only easy to eat, but also makes you look dignified as you do? Do you want a spaghetti stain on your shirt? How professional do you look when you're trying to wrap your mouth around a monster burger? Also, eat healthy. Don't represent yourself as the person who doesn't take care of themselves. Nobody looks down on somebody who is too health conscious.
Don't be the Lone Eater
Never start eating until the host eats or invites everybody to indulge. A basic rule is that you never want to be the only one eating. If you're the host and are about to talk business, take a bite or two so everybody else at the table knows to begin.
Anything that involves a heavy opinion is a topic for another time. Your opinion may not be right or wrong, but it's probably different from at least one other person's at the table. Not only will you make them uncomfortable. but they'll also form an opinion of you that may be less than flattering.
The Bottom Line
See your business lunch for what it is. It's a business function where you have to be on your best behavior and manners. Aim to impress. (For additional reading, check out Social Networking Your Way To More Money.)