Business meetings over breakfast, lunch or dinner can be tricky. As an entrepreneur, you want to come across as suave, professional and in control. And then you find yourself with a juicy burger, trying to take a bite of the large burger without stuff dropping down on your plate or mayo dripping down your hand. And whoosh! There goes all the sophistication and any dream of creating a good impression!
There’s an art to eating at business meetings. It’s all about ordering the right food. Yes, it’s that simple! Ordering the right food will entail that you are in control. That you can conduct your business in a dignified and professional manner. That you can discuss key points without a messy goop on your plate or messy hands.
Lenny Vartanian, psychology professor at the University of South Wales and an expert on the impact of external factors on social behaviors, including eating, believes that when you make choices about food, you are trying to control how people view you. He says, “You’re communicating something specific about yourself, and a greasy burger says something very different from a salad… You might realize that if you’re eating ribs and getting sauce all over your hands and on your shirt, that’s not a good look.”
We give you some tips on what to order the next time you are at a business meeting.
If you are the guest:
Order food that is not messy. Avoid burgers, chicken legs, spaghetti or noodles. The last two are not necessarily messy, but if you haven’t mastered the art of rolling the noodles or pasta artfully onto your fork, then it’s best to give it a miss! After all, you don’t want to be chasing that stray noodle and drawing it up into your mouth as your business associate watches!
Skip the alcohol. Even if it is an evening meeting, it makes sense to order a juice or soft drink. Alcohol, especially in excessive amounts, can make you garrulous at best and make you lose control at worst. So, sip on a juice. And if your host insists that you have an alcoholic beverage then order one drink and nurse it through the evening.
If you are not comfortable using cutlery – knife, fork and spoon – then order something that will be easy for you to eat without having to navigate complex cutlery. Indian food, pizza, a sandwich (not a club sandwich) …would work well. Don’t order a succulent steak or roast chicken if you are not well-versed in using a knife. The last thing you need is for your piece of chicken to fly off the plate as you furiously try to cut it!
And skip ordering any food that gets stuck between your teeth. You don’t want to be talking to a client, customer or potential business partner with a bit of green spinach adding color to your pearly whites!
If you are the host:
You could be hosting an office lunch or taking a business associate out for a meal. Here too, it’s always better to order food that is not messy.
Let’s say your team is having lunch in the conference room. Instead of ordering burgers or salads with large pieces of lettuce that many people don’t know how to cut, keep it simple. Order sandwiches, biryani, rotis and a curry or pizza. Club sandwiches, like burgers, can be difficult to eat and present a very sloppy picture of the person consuming it. Order foods that don’t make the ones eating them look clumsy and awkward. The same applies if you are inviting a business associate to the office.
Avoid ordering food with sloppy sauces or anything that requires a lot of effort to chow down. For instance, pastas with creamy sauces or jumbo prawns in their shells.
Ultimately, it’s about ordering non-messy foods. Foods that splash, get stuck in your teeth, drip sauces or make you look plain sloppy? Give them a miss and you can enjoy a business meeting both as host and guest!