Let’s Not Do Lunch: Alternatives to Meeting Over a Meal

After meeting someone for the first time, it is common to follow up over lunch. But is it really a good use of time to meet over a meal?

Problems with Lunch Meetings

Lunch meetings are time-consuming. First, there is the time spent planning. You might think planning a lunch meeting only takes a few minutes of exchanging emails. But if you are located some distance away from each other, it can take a while to agree on a mutually convenient location. This can get worse if you or your guest have dietary restrictions. Then there is the time spent going to the location and waiting for a table, which can be long during peak hours at a good restaurant. Finally, in most cases, one of you will be fashionably late.

Lunch meetings can also be inconvenient. Most people eat when they’re hungry, which is seldom at noon for a number of reasons. You may end up going to a lunch meeting when you’re not hungry. This has two consequences:

  1. You may not finish your meal and throw it away.
  2. You may overeat and end up with carb coma leaving you tired for the remainder of the day.

Another problem is the cost, especially if you go out to eat frequently. In addition to the cost of the food, drinks, and tip, there is the cost of parking, gas, and travel time. All of this adds up and will be painfully obvious on the next credit card bill. And the cost of the meal is not always tax deductible.

Finally, lunch meetings can get boring and awkward. Sometimes, you just don’t connect. When that happens, it will be hard to beat a hasty retreat.

Of course, most lunch meetings turn out fine. But it makes sense try getting to know people in other wasy than meeting over a meal. Here are a few suggestions:

Meet at a Coffee Shop

Experiment with meeting clients and business contacts over coffee rather than lunch. It is easier to locate a mutually convenient coffee shop. Also, meetings can be quicker (if needed) because it takes less time to find a table and order drinks. Finally, since you are not ordering a full meal, it is cheaper and gives you more flexibility when choosing meeting times.

The drawback is that chain coffee shops like Starbucks can get crowded and noisy, especially when students are studying for exams. Look for privately owned coffee shops. While they tend to be a bit more expensive, they are generally less crowded, better decorated, quieter, and provide better service.

Meet in Their Office

If you are not in the mood to eat or drink coffee, try meeting at the office instead. When you meet someone at their office, it gives you the opportunity to check out their operations, meet their staff, and meet their officemates. If someone works out of their home, meet when their children are in school or elsewhere.

Do Something Fun Together

A lot of times, the best way to get to know someone is to have fun together. When I was doing contract work at a prestigious boutique tax controversy firm, the managing partner occasionally offered free sports tickets to the attorneys. When it was my turn to accept them, I invited two referral sources and a mentor who has helped me over the years.

Try to find an an activity both of you will enjoy. I prefer golf. Most courses are cheaper and almost empty on weekdays. If you play fairly well, you can finish a nine-hole course in two hours while having a productive chat. And you can eat while you are playing.

Meet for Drinks

Occasionally consider meeting clients, referral sources, or other business friends at a bar. While bars tend to be crowded and loud, many have separate dining areas that are quieter. A glass of wine or a beer can loosen people up after a long day.  But be sure to drink responsibly. Excessive drinking can lead to boorishness, unnecessary gossiping, or disclosing privileged information.

Meeting over a meal shouldn’t be the only way to get to know people. These are just a few alternatives. Let us know your preference in the comments!

Featured image: “Man with tablet computer reading news at morning in cafe shop” from Shutterstock.

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  • Hey Steven, long time since we last talked! This was a good article and ironically, is the same advice that could be given when you meet someone of interest in a dating scenario. I find a lot of similarities in both situations with only the expected outcome differing. :)