Skip to main content

How to Follow Proper Business Lunch Etiquette

You know not to talk with your mouth full or slurp your soup. But pay attention to the expectations peculiar to the business lunch, and it may pay dividends later.


  • Step 1: Arrive early Arrive early. Take something to read to pass the time. It's better to arrive first than to run late and rush in at the last minute.
  • Step 2: Turn off phone Turn off your cellphone, or put it on vibrate, before going into the restaurant. Nothing is more obnoxious than a phone interrupting a meal -- or an intense business discussion.
  • Step 3: Stand to shake hands Stand to shake hands as people come in, regardless of your gender. Make it firm and friendly, and make eye contact.
  • TIP: If you have come to a business lunch as a guest of your spouse, remain seated and let your spouse stand to greet everyone.
  • Step 4: Use utensils and napkin correctly Put your napkin in your lap right away. Pass salt and pepper together even if only one is requested. When you're done eating, lunch etiquette dictates that your knife and fork go on your plate, and your napkin goes to the left side of your plate.
  • Step 5: Choose your words Prepare a genial greeting. Concentrate on making a favorable impression, and make your lunch companions feel comfortable by engaging in small talk.
  • Step 6: Stay focused Control the urge to glance around the room, even when conversation is boring. Stay focused and look interested.
  • TIP: When your eyes wander, you give the impression that you're looking around for something more interesting.
  • Step 7: Follow the boss Follow the senior person's lead when ordering food by getting something in the same price range even if you're encouraged to order whatever you want.
  • Step 8: Split the check or pay it Take the initiative to settle the check right away instead of waiting and looking like you're trying to dodge the issue. Others will appreciate your initiative.
  • Step 9: Follow up with a note Write your host a thank you note or e-mail. If you derived a business benefit, send a small token of appreciation.
  • FACT: Although business lunches were once 100 percent write-offs, a 1986 tax code change changed the rule to 80 percent, and in the '90s, business could only write off half the expense of a business lunch.

You Will Need

  • Reading material
  • Firm handshake
  • Eye contact
  • Greeting
  • Conversational skills
  • Focus
  • Thank you note
  • Small token

Popular Categories