Gone are the days of a business lunch being only for top executives. In today’s busy world, more and more people are taking advantage of meal times to meet with clients and vendors, as well as with other managers or employees. Here are seven ways to make a business lunch meeting count.

  1. Make a Plan
    You wouldn’t go into your office conference room without goals for your meeting, make sure you have them ready for your encounter over a meal. It’s especially easy to get distracted in a more informal setting.
  2. Stay Away from Alcoholic Beverages
    Since it’s a more relaxed atmosphere and you’re out of the office, it’s tempting to have a glass of wine or a cocktail. But even a beer can make you get off point and be less productive than you’d planned.

  3. Stick to Business
    Keep the conversation on business and stay away from being overly personal. If you talk about something deeply personal, it should only be if it helps your goals.

  4. Be Polite
    This is not the time to take the last piece of bread or ask to have a bite of someone’s food. It’s also not the time to use slang or off-color words. Be aware of your table manners in general, such as eating too fast.

  5. Any Meal Will Do
    Although we talk about the business lunch because it’s the traditional meal to share with a business associate, in today’s on-the-go world, it is no longer just about lunch. The meal you meet for could be breakfast, dinner, or even a cup of coffee.

  6. Be a Good Listener
    Really hear what the other person is saying to you, and find ways to keep the conversation moving. Asking relevant questions makes the person feel heard and builds confidence.

  7. Grab the Bill
    The person who requested the meeting is the one who should pick up the bill, but allow the other person to pay half if they insist. Remember that they don’t owe you anything for paying for their meal, and it is rude to make mention of it. If you have not gotten all of the items on your agenda taken care of, bring them up now if it’s a natural flow.

A business lunch, breakfast, dinner, or coffee break is a great way to have a meeting. Following the tips laid out here, it can be every bit as productive as an office meeting and, if handled properly, can actually help you fit more into your workday.