Whether it’s a celebration or a networking opportunity, the business lunch should be treated like a meeting

Career expert and speaker Tom O'Neil has seen the business lunch change over the decades.

"Back in the 1980s and 1990s, long lunches were 'de rigueur' with executives all around town keeping the restaurants in town going.

"Attitudes were changing in the late 1990s in terms of lunch lasting all day and alcohol in abundance, especially in terms of the agreed social cost and stigma of drink driving.

"I think the GFC also killed off many expense accounts in the late 2000s.


"Today I don't think we link success with indulgence as much, and therefore we as a whole are more responsible in terms of these types of events."

He says lunch is a great opportunity to mix business with pleasure, allowing your brain to take mini breaks while discussing intense information and findings — but avoid the alcohol.

"Personally I would stay away if I was making any hard or fast decisions on behalf of my business or my employer.

"Alcohol can only get in the way of good analytical and ethical decision-making.

"On the other hand, if I was celebrating a business success with a client, no problems.

"I would just make sure I had properly planned taxis and adequate food for all involved to stop any messy incidents."

And, yes, business does get done — but just how much will vary depending on the industry.

"Anything based around high level sales is always easier to discuss over a meal than in a stuffy boardroom. Watch out for any alcohol intake though, as this could turn your meeting into a disaster.


"The history of business is littered with bad decisions made under the influence."

The price of business

Though price isn't such a problem if the company is picking up the tab, the cost of lunching continues to rise - with Wellington clocking in at the 19th most expensive capital city according to the Smunch International Business Lunch Index, which examines the affordability of business lunches around the world. The survey calculated Wellington had an average price of NZ$38.58 per business lunch.

The survey analysed the average salary, living costs and CBD lunch prices for the 35 capital cities of OECD countries.

Mexico City is the cheapest, with an average business lunch costing just $11.75 while the single most expensive lunch price was found to be in Bern, Switzerland, which averaged $106.54 per meal.

But because of Switzerland's higher income levels, employees can still afford the equivalent of eight business lunches per week.

Business lunch tips

Agree on the goal of the business lunch.

Start the lunch with some small talk — leave the business part until after the meal.

Dress appropriately for the venue. Don't drink alcohol — try to stick to non-alcoholic beer or a mocktail.

Put your phone away — texting or answering calls is insulting to the people you're with.

Approach it like an interview — watch your table manners.

If you're hosting the lunch arrive early and of course you pick up the bill.

Don't choose things that are difficult to eat.

Forgo the spaghetti or plate of ribs.

After the meal follow up with a quick thank you email.