Q: When taking a client out to lunch or dinner, what’s the rule of thumb regarding when it’s appropriate to start talking business?
A: Business meals have two important components: One involves conducting any business the host wants to address; the other involves an opportunity to build a relationship. It’s important to leave time for both.
At business lunches or power breakfasts, the service tends to be faster and the meals typically have fewer courses — therefore, “getting down to business” occurs sooner. At these meals, it’s usually acceptable to start talking business once the waiter has taken your order.
At a dinner, where the pace is slower, business talk usually commences after the main course. In either case, the host should always initiate any discussion of business matters.