Business Lunches: Not Good For Business


March 15, 2012

The economy must be getting better because I went for a couple years without many lunch invitations from vendors and now it seems like there are too many to accept.  I should disclose that I loathe doing them.  Why, do you ask?  Business lunches are not conducive to great first meetings.   If I am meeting a business professional for the first time, my preference is to do that in the work environment.  A conference room or executive office works just fine.  I’m even game for a cup of coffee in the building cafe.  When you throw lunch into the mix though, now I have to worry about other factors like:

  • Timing-  I don’t know about you, but my job is busy.  I really can’t break away for a couple hours of relaxing lunch chatter without my mind being on all that I need to be doing with my leaders.
  • Location-  It’s a challenge to find a good place to meet for a lunch meeting.  Many restaurants are so packed at that time that it is nearly impossible to hear the other person.  Add to that trying to squeeze a portfolio or even notepad onto a table filled with plates and glasses and it does not make for an efficient use of meeting time.
  • Food–  Here is where the fun begins.  Deciding what to order is what I like least.  You have to try to find something that you don’t eat with your hands or that won’t be messy.  Then, once the food arrives, I don’t want to have to try to politely answer questions while my mouth is full.  I also do NOT want to see you talk with your mouth full.  By the end of the meal, I am also thinking about whether or not I have anything stuck in my teeth.
  • The male/female dilemma-  For some reason, most lunch offers come from members of the opposite sex.  As a female, I really have no interest in going on a one-on-one lunch “date” with a man I don’t know well.  It’s awkward and more often than not, quite uncomfortable.  Again, if there is business to conduct, let’s do that in the workplace.
  • Alcohol-  I am always amazed at how many people over the years start drinking alcohol at a business lunch.  Again, if I am with someone I know well or a friend, that is different.  If we have never met or are just starting into a business relationships, nix the drinks at midday.

The key message to vendors is that if you are trying to sell a product or build a relationship, ask the person how they like to communicate and build relationships and do that.  If you know that someone would rather meet in their office or yours, or if they prefer getting to know you over the phone or via social platforms, do that.  As a compromise, coffee is a great way to go because it creates a meeting opportunity that is short and respects the time available of both participants.  It also means there is no chewing going on so both people can talk.

What do you think?  Do you still feel the need to be schmoozed over lunch, or are you like me and want to just get down to business without all the fuss?  Tell me in the comments. 


  • This is one of those times where I thought maybe I was anti-social or was the only one who “truly” felt this way. Glad to see I am not alone. Terrific article.

  • I couldn’t agree more with you on this topic. I have even told particular vendors my views on the business lunch and most of them persist on doing them. I belive it’s in their DNA.

    As for the male/female dilemma, it is just as awkward for a man too. Unless, I know the female well, I really don’t feel comfortable going to a business lunch in a 1:1 setting. Not sure why, just don’t. Same goes with a male. Basically, if I don’t know the business purpose of the lunch beforehand, it gets uncomfortable until I understand why we are meeting.

  • I admit that I used “business” lunches to get some action if there was an opportunity to lunch with a hottie. Okay, not really, I just wanted to say something outrageous for the heck of it.

    I am pretty much one who sees lunch as a solitary activity. I eat energy bars for lunch, so a traditional “lunch” makes me feel sloggy. Heck, I don’t really like people seeing me eat, as I smack my lips and chew with my mouth open. (NOT) Weird, eh?

    Yep, I guess I really am in your camp. I will say that staff meetings should ALWAYS include food provided at the employer’s expense, especially if the meeting is held during off-hours.

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About Trish

A former HR executive and HCM product leader with over 20 years of experience.


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