Punch Up Your Power Lunch with the Food Network

By Jason Brill
Assistant editor Jason Brill sits down with Colleen Harding, founder of the Cleveland School of Etiquette and Corporate Protocol, to discuss how to punch up your power lunch.

Hodge’s, Downtown Cleveland

The waiter comes over.

Waiter: Hello. How are you doing?

CH: Good, thanks.

Waiter: Are we doing drinks to start beside water?

CH: I’ll stay with water.

JB: Water’s good.

The waiter goes over the specials and leaves.

JB: Should you not do alcohol at a business lunch?

CH: Follow the lead of your guest. You don’t always have to go with alcohol. If they order a glass of wine, you should order a drink. If you are at lunch and they know you well enough, it’s not terrible [to order alcohol]. But remember, when we consume alcohol, everything seems like a good idea. If you aren’t able to maintain yourself, you should stay far away from alcohol at lunch.

The waiter comes back to take the order.

JB: I ordered a sandwich and soup. Probably not the best idea, is it?

CH: Always order food that has the least chance of being messy. You have to look good eating it. That sounds kind of funny, but don’t order spaghetti because if you’re slurping it up or it’s going all over you, it doesn’t go well. No wings. No ribs. It’s better to have a salad that you have control over or a piece of grilled fish or chicken. Something that you can eat neatly.

JB: Sometimes I have trouble balancing talking business and eating.

CH: When you have a business lunch, you always have the small talk first. The level of small talk depends on the relationship. If you know this person very well, and they know why you’re here, they are going to wait for you to jump into business relatively quickly. But if you don’t know this person and you jump into business without gaining their rapport, you could kill the deal in the very beginning. Use the lunch as small talk. “Do you play golf?” “Do you have a family?” “Do you do the orchestra?” Neutral things. No religion. No politics.

The waiter arrives with lunch. Small talk ensues.

JB: Do you have any additional tips or tricks for a successful business lunch?

CH: First thing you do always when you have a business lunch is to confirm how much time they have allowed for the lunch. There are all kinds of tricks to a power lunch. For example, don’t ever let your guest face the room. If they get bored, they will scan. And if they are not looking at you, they are not paying attention. It’s important to keep them engaged.

The check arrives.

JB: OK. What do we do now?

CH: You invited me. You get the check.

Colleen Harding is a certified etiquette and protocol instructor and the founder of the Cleveland School of Etiquette and Corporate Protocol. Programs and packages available for children and businesses.