The opportunity has finally arrived. You’ve attended business meals with your boss and with clients, but you haven’t hosted one yourself. This is your chance to shine.
But it can also be your chance to flame out. You might choose a restaurant that is so noisy you can’t hear or you might try that new place in town only to discover that the food is only adequate at best. What can you do to make sure your business meal comes off without a hitch? Here are seven tips:
- Know your guest. What kind of food does he or she like? The best way to find out is to ask your guest or an assistant when you call. If asking directly feels too awkward, you can suggest two or three different types of restaurants and ask the guest which she prefers.
- Choose a restaurant you know. You should always check out a restaurant first. Poor food will quickly put a damper on any event. Food quality and noise levels are important. But so, too, are comfortable chairs and at least some spacing between tables to allow for confidential conversation. Location matters as well: Choose a place that is relatively convenient for your guest.
- Invite in advance. Last minute invites stand a much greater chance of being turned down—one week’s notice at a minimum.
- Who’s paying? Traditionally, the person dong the asking is the host and is the person doing the paying. You should be prepared to pay the bill, so choose a restaurant that’s within your budget. If you can do it, arrange to pay the bill ahead of time so a check never even comes to the table. That way your focus remains on your guest and not on checking the bill and figuring the tip.
- Establish the “Why”. Let your guest know the purpose of your getting together so he can bring pertinent materials with him. Or, it may simply be a friendly meal, an opportunity to get to know each other better. As the host, it’s your decision as to whether any business will be discussed during the meal.
- Reserve ahead of time. It should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. Make a reservation, and make it early. Arriving without one is a sure-fire way to end up embarrassed.
- Reconfirm. That means check with your guest again on the morning of a lunch or dinner event. For a breakfast meeting, check the afternoon before. And while you’re at it, check with the restaurant, too, just to be sure your reservation is in order.
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Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.
Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.
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Peter Post is the author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business." Email questions about business etiquette to him directly here.
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