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The perfect business lunch (it’s more than just food)

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Business Spotlight - epaper ⋅ Ausgabe 8/2022 vom 27.07.2022


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Style, grace, humour and timing all help to make your business lunch a success (spaghetti laces optional)


Management guru Peter Drucker once said: “More business decisions occur over lunch and dinner than at any other time, yet no MBA courses are given on the subject.” Sharing food is one of the oldest forms of networking. Robin Jay, author of The Art of the Business Lunch, hosted more than 4,000 lunches during a 20-year career in advertising. Jay begins her seminars with a question: “I ask the audience: ‘Who here was made to feel really special in the last week?’ About two per cent of hands go up. Then I say: ‘Your client is in the same boat.’ A business lunch is a chance to make them feel special.”

When clients feel special, they spend (time and money) with you. More than 90 per cent of British people say they’re more likely to make a deal in person than on a video call — especially with a sirloin and a glass of Malbec (the most successful menu choice, according to UK ...

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... professionals).

It’s not just lunch, however. Nearly 65 per cent of Londoners prefer a business breakfast, as many feel more clear-headed and able to make decisions at the start of the day. “You can accomplish the same business goals at a breakfast,” agrees Jay. “But people start to get anxious. Their day is waiting for them. A business lunch is more relaxed.”

Hosting a business lunch is an essential skill — and practice makes perfect. “It helps to have a sense of humour,” says Jay. And lunch should be enjoyable. As Winnie the Pooh said: “It’s more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words, like: ‘What about lunch?’”

Robin Jay’s business lunch guide

1. The host always pays

“You can make almost any upscale restaurant your private country club. You get there early and you tell your server: ‘I have an important client joining me.’ They’ll come to you for the signals. Are you ready to order yet? Did you want a cocktail? You slide them your credit card and they know what you mean.”

2. Small talk or business talk?

“How is your client fixed for time? In a rush? Then suggest that you go through what you want to discuss while waiting for your order, then relax over food. No rush? Enjoy lunch and save business for later. People are more agreeable on a full stomach! You want to be natural, personable. Be interested in them; become their confidante, their friend. Don’t overshare or be indiscreet. If you’re uncomfortable discussing personal matters, start a conversation about the industry. Share data they’ll find useful. Being in the know was very important for me. You’re keeping your client updated, becoming an asset. They’re going to go to their meeting and spout whatever facts you told them, and they’re going to look like a genius to their boss.”

3. To drink or not to drink?

“You never drink if your client isn’t drinking. If you’re all getting sloppy together, it’s okay. But you still have to be careful what you say. It’s a problem if you don’t want to drink, but you want your client to be comfortable. Arrive early and tell the waiter, when you order a gin and tonic to bring a club soda with lime.”

4. Make good choices

“Order something you’re not going to end up wearing (long noodles or pasta). If your client is on a food plan or diet, don’t order a hot-fudge sundae; be considerate. People get intimidated ordering wine, so they let their client pick, and of course, they pick the most expensive. So ask: ‘Would you like some wine with dinner? Red or white?’ Pick out two in your budget. When your waiter comes, say: ‘Which of these would you recommend?’ The waiter will say: ‘This one is light, this one is heavier.’ Ask your guest: ‘What do you think?’ They say: ‘The heavier sounds better.’ You say: ‘Okay, one of those.’ You’ve given your client a chance to weigh in but you’ve kept control of the wine list.”

5. Turn off your phone

“It’s the rudest, worst behaviour at a lunch. The only exception to turning off your phone would be if you have kids / adog / an elderly parent with a medical situation, and so you say: ‘I’m waiting for a call from the doctor / vet / my mum. Would you mind if I pick up?’ Always be very respectful of someone else’s time.”

“More business deals occur over lunch than at any other time”


1960s: Madison Avenue ad execs popularize the idea of the “threemartini lunch” — indulgent meals that went on into the evening.

1987: In the film Wall Street, Gordon Gecko famously says: “Lunch is for wimps.” A global recession and more health consciousness make lunches more simple.

2002: A group of bankers lose their jobs after spending £44,000 (over €50,000) on lunch at Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant in London.

A taste of London

There are over 15,500 food-serving establishments in London — one for every 373 employees in the city, making the British capital a hotspot for business lunches. Three industry professionals tell us what makes their restaurant perfect for a working lunch.

The power lunch

At 306 metres, The Shard is London’s tallest building. On a working day, business people go up to the 31st floor to enjoy modern British cuisine and a spectacular view

The set menu has as many vegan options as meat. “A lot of people are making the decision to go plantbased, so there’s a much bigger demand,” says head chef Anthony Garlando. “I embrace changes like that — whatever the guest’s preference, the food has to match the iconic building and the view. It all has to be pretty special.”

What’s also on the menu is a chat with the head chef himself. “I walk through the floor and talk to guests,” says Garlando. Make eye contact if your table would like a visit.

• Find out more at www.aquashard.co.uk

Traditional elegance

During his 40-year career, Franco Becci has waited on pop stars and politicians. The maître d’ at the Michelin-starred Galvin La Chapelle says the key to his success is an excellent memory. “It’s one of the most important skills in our industry,” he says.

If Becci has looked after you once, he’ll remember your preference for sparkling water over still, and where you sat. On your next visit, he’ll return you to the same table. “Recognizing people and making sure they get their regular spot makes them feel very important,” he says. “That will also impress whoever you bring with you. Who doesn’t want to be well known in a place like La Chapelle?”

• Find out more at www.galvinrestaurants.com

German style

In 1865, the German Gymnastics Society built England’s first proper gymnasium, for the indoor Olympic Games. Today, this building is a Grand Café.

“We’re between two major train stations [King’s Cross St Pancras and Euston], so it’s always busy,” says general manager Olga Gay. “Customers usually tell us if they’re here for business and they want lunch (one or even two courses) in under an hour.”

Some ingredients come from Germany, others are local. Business is focused on sustainability, so choosing a restaurant that minimizes its effect on the environment also sends a message to your lunch partner.

• Find out more at www.germangymnasium.com

“People are more agreeable on a full stomach”


Inviting and suggesting

● We’re going out for lunch. Would you care to join us?

● Would you mind if we went somewhere that has vegetarian food?

● Shall we try out that Indian place? Or would you prefer Italian?


● Oh, that’s very kind of you. Thank you.

● Sounds terrific. I look forward to it.

● I’d love to! Now that you mention it, I’m starving!


● What would you recommend?

● Ican recommend the Thai curry. It’s excellent.

● They also do a very good quiche here.

Saying no

● Seafood isn’t really my cup of tea. I think I’ll have the pasta.

● It’s very tempting, but I couldn’t eat another bite.

● I’d rather not have wine or I’ll be no use for the rest of the day.

Talking about the food

● How’s your steak? You look like you’re enjoying it.

● This was a good tip. It’s delicious.

● It’s very nice, but I’ll never manage all this.