Your Step-by-Step Guide to Hosting A Meeting Over A Meal

Hosting a business meeting over a meal gives you the opportunity to be creative while discussing important concepts pertaining to the company. Use this guide when spearheading the event to ensure a smooth and productive meetup.

Step #1: Select the right restaurant

If you’re hosting a meeting over a meal, it is important for you to select a restaurant that is conducive to the meeting at hand. Check with the person or persons you’re inviting first to see if they have any dietary concerns or restrictions. You certainly don’t want to invite someone out to a seafood specialty restaurant if that particular person is allergic to seafood! So check first to see if they have any dietary concerns.


Step #2: Go with the familiar

It’s best to not choose restaurants that you haven’t eaten at before. This is not necessarily the time for you to try out something new unless you’ve heard really rave reviews about it or you have a good, solid recommendation. Other than that, you really want your focus to be on the meeting and not trying to navigate your way through an entirely new environment. Pick a restaurant you frequent often and request your favorite server to wait on your table. This makes the dining experience flow more smoothly as they know you and vice versa.


Step #3: Make reservations

It’s a good idea to call ahead and make reservations. Even if the restaurant doesn’t normally take reservations, it’s still a good idea to call ahead and let someone know that you are coming. This way you can start and stop on time. It’ll just make for an easier transition If the maitre d’ and hostess are expecting you. During your initial conversation, you can let them know that you will be taking a business meeting so that they can perhaps seat you in a quieter area in the restaurant. You can also just let your server know that you’ll be conducting a meeting.


Step #4: Check for perks

One of the things that I advise the host to do is check with any professional organizations or affiliations that they may be members of, and see if there are nearby restaurants that such affiliations are partnered with. There’s a few things that can happen in these instances:

1.     You may end up at the front of the line for service if you go to a restaurant that partners with your affiliation.

2.     There may be a number of other perks associated with the partnership of which you can reap from such as discounts or frequent patron plans.


Step #5: Remind first impression staff and the server that you are conducting a business meeting

Once you arrive to the restaurant, just give the hostess or maitre d’ a reminder that you’ll be conducting a meeting during the meal. The feedback that I’ve gotten from servers is that they appreciate it when the patrons let them know in advance whether or not they want to be hurried along or if they prefer to take their time. They want to know this because it really helps them do their job better. So if you are in a bit of a hurry and maybe you have another meeting, or it’s a quick stop before you have to go somewhere else, let them know. If you do have extra time then say, “We’ll be having a meeting, so you won’t have to attend to us as frequently. Thanks!”


Step #6: Choose credit over cash

Always pay with a credit card. Avoid paying with cash as doing so almost makes the other person feel that they have to contribute. If you pay with a credit card, then you know everything is completely taken care of, and guests don’t feel like they have to pull out cash to add to a tip.


Step #7: Stay within time constraints

When setting aside time for a business meeting over a meal, follow this guide:

Setting                                     Maximum Time

Breakfast                                  1.5 hours

Lunch                                       2 hours

Dinner                                      3 hours


As the host, it is your responsibility to wrap up the meeting. You can’t expect guests to tie the meeting up. Keep in mind that you’re at the wheel of the time frame in terms of stopping the meeting. A trick that I give hosts who have time constraints and really want to get out on time is to give the server your credit card in advance and ask them to bring the bill in exactly one hour. This tactic works extremely well when you go to a restaurant you frequent often. You can have a sense of peace while giving your favorite server the credit card one or two hours before the actual check is needed.


Step #8: Set the tone well

Remember that you, as the host, really set the tone for the meeting. People are already nervous, especially if it’s a job interview, so it’s important to do what you can to put the other person at ease. Etiquette really is about putting the other person at ease and this is the time for you to display some consideration towards the other person’s feelings.