Wow your lunch guest in 7 easy steps. Who is your guest? A potential client? A faithful customer? A possible mentor? A new friend? Whoever it may be, you’ll make a great impression by following these 7 easy steps:
1. Make it clear that you will host the lunch.
I prefer to make lunch invitations over the phone. It’s quicker and easier than exchanging a dozen e-mails or text messages. Instead of, “Could we get together for lunch next week?” I make it clear that I will be the host: “I enjoyed meeting you at the networking event and I have some mutually-beneficial ideas I’d like to run past you. May I take you to lunch next week?”
2. Offer choices about the day and location.
“Would Tuesday or Thursday work for you?” If you ask your guest to name some dates, you might need to say no, and that would be awkward for both of you.
Also, be the one to suggest two locations. If you simply say, “Where would you like to go?” that puts your guest in an uncomfortable position. He/she doesn’t know what you have in mind and doesn’t want to guess incorrectly.
“How about Tango or Panya at Ward Village?” Suggest restaurants with easy parking, outdoor seating, and a variety of food options. A burger joint might not sit well if your guest is a vegetarian.
3. Let your guest choose where to sit.
I used to assume that my guests would prefer the scenic view, so I would guide them to those seats. I later learned that some people prefer to face the room, not the ocean view. Now, as we approach the table, I open my hands and gesture toward the entire table, saying, “Please, wherever you’re comfortable.”
4. Guide your guest through the menu.
The minute your guest picks up the menu, he/she wonders what to order. You need to provide guidance. “There are a couple of appetizers I recommend,” or, “The entrees are very generous. I suggest the _______ or the _______.”
Both of these statements serve to guide your guest and puts others at ease. You should also guide when it comes to the question of dessert. “You must try the brownie a la mode,” or, Now that the table is cleared, let me show you my ideas.”
When your guest orders an entree, you would win a point if you said, “Oh, that sounds like a great choice! Make that two.” This is much safer than ordering rare steak if your guest orders vegetarian lasagna.
5. Match (and lead) your guest in conversation topics.
Etiquette experts advise that we wait until the entree plates have been removed before embarking on the purpose of the meeting. But your guest might say, “Now that we’ve ordered, I’m curious to know what you wanted to discuss.”
It would be impolite to say, “Whoa! What’s the rush?” Instead, you must match your guest’s enthusiasm. “Thanks for asking. Let’s see how far we can get before our meals arrive. Afterward, I have some items to show you.” This is called “matching and leading.”
During the meal, learn more about you guest: family, hobbies, career path, travel, music, art.
6. Use visual aids after the table has been cleared.
Depending on your purpose, you will have brought diagrams, an outline, or props, depending on your purpose. You don’t want to show these on a cluttered table as your guest is trying to eat. Separate these two activities. The food deserves attention and so do your mutually-beneficial ideas.
7. Solidify your call for action.
You might say, “Let’s do this. Share these ideas with your team, and let’s connect in a week so I can get their feedback. Shall I phone you at 10:00 next Tuesday?” Make a definite plan so that YOU are in control of moving the relationship forward.