Everyone needs to eat, and everyone is very pressed for time. As a result, most business people tend to try to combine meals with meetings. I’m not fond of this practice, as I don’t believe people can really multi-task, so trying to eat, drink and carry on business at the same time tends to result in sub-optimal results in at least one domain. Going for coffee is a lot simpler than a meal. But if you have to have a mealtime meeting here’s some tips to help make it more effective.
Location – be careful not to choose a place frequented by competitors, investors or others you don’t want hearing your conversation; make sure it’s not hard to get to, and there’s parking and/or public transportation, so whomever you are meeting doesn’t waste time trying to find the place or find parking when they arrive. And end up being late.
Atmosphere – Quiet, but not too quiet – just enough music and other’s people’s talking to cover your conversation.
Pre-eating – Since it’s very hard to multi-task, I recommend that whatever the meal, you considering eating it beforehand, then order very lightly or just get a drink. That way you don’t end up talking with your mouth full, spilling your drink, getting ketchup on your tie and all the other clumsy stuff I’ve done while trying to eat a restaurant meal while holding a conversation or trying to demo a product on a crowded restaurant table.
If that’s too much for you, at least get the restaurant’s menu in advance (and send it to your meeting mates) so that time spent ordering can potentially be saved.
Get a reservation and while you are at it, ask for a booth in a quiet area.
If you requested the meeting pick up the check! But consider the advice given in this blog post about always buying the small meal.