5 Unwritten Rules Of A Successful Lunch Meeting

To combat the negative stigma and adhere to widely accepted business etiquette, consider below the five rules to live by for a successful lunch meeting.

Photo: P.J. Howland, Digital Marketer; Source: Courtesy Photo
Photo: P.J. Howland, Digital Marketer; Source: Courtesy Photo

The joys and terrors of business lunch meetings. Sometimes conference calls or meetings within the office don’t cut it when pitching clients or courting new hires.

To combat the norm, why not take your business guest(s) to lunch? Business lunch meetings are often beneficial to both parties when discussing projects or propositions, even if you’re a young entrepreneur on a tight budget.

However, lunch meetings can also add a certain pressure of maintaining appearances, getting caught up in non-business related discussion and maybe ordering too little or too much food. However, it is possible to have a successful lunch meeting when you come prepared and know the unwritten rules.

To combat the negative stigma and adhere to widely accepted business etiquette, consider below the five rules to live by for a successful lunch meeting.


  1. The meeting organizer leads the conversation.

    When sitting down to eat, don’t rush straight to business, take the time to get to know the other party and socialize. A good rule of thumb is to socialize until the food arrives, or after you initially order your main course. Chances are you two have more in common than you mean think.

    You may find that it’s beneficial to network with like-minded business owners. That way you can combat being solely business or solely personal. Remember: you’re in control of the situation and make the transition as natural as possible.

  2. Consider food ordering etiquette.

    Don’t come to lunch hungry, remember you are here first and foremost to pitch or discuss business with the client. Depending on the formality of the meeting, decided whether to go or forgo appetizers and desserts before sitting down at the restaurant. By sticking to a plan, it will eliminate any awkwardness of ordering.

    When ordering, pick food that is easy to consume, like a salad or something easy to eat with a fork. Resist a juicy hamburger/chicken strips or bowl full of spaghetti and stick with something that won’t stay on your face. Basically, pick a dish where you can consume with the best manners. And the obvious, no alcohol should be ordered at a business meeting. Keep it professional.

  3. Stick to the agenda and be organized.

    Before picking out the restaurant, it’s vital to be well prepared on what points you will discuss. By doing your research beforehand, the meeting will go smoother and make you more polished to who you are presenting to. When your food comes, get down to business.

    Also, the other half to a great business lunch is listening to your client. You don’t want to talk them to death or scare them away. A good rule of thumb is to talk as much as you listen. Engage with your client and know their ideas and concerns.

  4. Mind your manners.

    Being cordial is one thing, and talking with your mouth full is another. You don’t want a client to turn down a proposal because they were disgusted with your manners and not your pitch. As mentioned before, learn proper eating etiquette. Not sure? Catch up on your manners.

  5. The meeting organizer generally picks up the check.

    As the meeting organizer, it’s your job to pick up the check. On the rare occasion when your guest is insisting on paying, don’t argue—let them have the satisfaction of paying. Though this signifies the end of the lunch date, know how to close the right and polite way, maybe by stating what the next step is for both parties.

There you have it. Now you know the vital five laws to guarantee a good and successful lunch meeting. What else would you add to this list?


This article has been edited and condensed.

Super nerd turned digital marketer, P.J. Howland is passionate about cutting-edge digital marketing tactics. Within his menagerie of skills; SEO, content marketing and digital analytics stand out. PJ currently lives in Salt Lake City with his beautiful wife, working at a digital marketing agency. Connect with @askPJHowland on Twitter.


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