State the word business to anyone who’s spent their life outside of the American capitalist complex and the images that swim to mind are easy to predict: Sharp suits and high heels, offices thrumming with an energetic, if silent, efficiency, conference rooms packed with well-groomed experts conducting the economic future of the world. But to those of us who have been privileged to foray into the professional life, these images are, if epic, a little overly-formal. One thing immediately apparent to me as I bridged the chasm from service work to a more professional metier was that informal environments sometimes produced some of the most satisfying synergy, that a shocking number of savvy strategies and grand shifts in marketing policy are more often formatted over plates and carafes than spreadsheets and smartscreens.
Intent that our readership have a base knowledge of business lunch etiquette, and having been the perpetrator of more than a few gaffes, I want to ensure that the next time you’re invited to a meal with an entourage of industrial magnates, you’ll know just how to move.
Always remember that initial impressions always set the tone for any professional encounter. At a formal business lunch, try to arrive quietly (no initial long-winded stories about your day), and make sure you are properly introduced to everyone present. Second, study the menu beforehand if you’re especially particular or have any food sensitivities. While one or two questions about a dish are acceptable, excessively grilling the waitstaff on preparation methods will seem obnoxious and a sign of inflexibility to your colleagues. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, although it is of course sometimes advisable in the professional world to showcase individual flare, it never hurts to follow the host’s lead over a luncheon. Certainly don’t be the first to order alcohol, and avoid any hard liquor or mixed drinks unless everyone at the table orders the same. Hungry as you might be settling into the meal, one should also limit the density of one’s meal choice to the host as well; in short, if the CEO’s having a salad, don’t opt for the prime rib. Follow these three simple rules and your stock will likely rise high with whatever interest you’re intent on ascending!
Unknown perhaps even to buffs of revolutionary American history, did you know that perhaps the location of our nation’s capital was negotiated over fine wines and a spread of French-influenced delights? Destined to be contentious rivals and subjects for one of our country’s most famous hip-hoperas, it was a more optimistic Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton who met at Jefferson’s New York City residence. There were decided a few monumental pieces of American domestic policy: To consolidate power into the federal government (and Hamilton’s hands); all state’s debts would be paid directly to the national government as opposed to foreign banks; and the capital of the U.S. should be located closer to Jefferson’s native Virginia than the assumed Pennsylvania. While the menu is unfortunately lost to us, clues in Jefferson’s character mean that most likely the selection was a number of French imports and fine wines, prepared, incidentally, by classically trained slave James Hemmings, brother to Sally, assumed to be Jefferson’s lifelong mistress.