The lunch busi­ness

Breach­ing eti­quette dur­ing a cor­po­rate lunch can be a deal­breaker.

The National - News - Arts & Life - - Front Page - Kaveeta Pun­jabi.

Dou­glas, in the 1987 film Wall Street – but not any­more ac­cord­ing to chefs in the UAE.

“Cus­tomers are really driv­ing the pop­u­lar­ity of busi­ness lunches right now,” says Francesco Guar­ra­cino, ex­ec­u­tive chef at Roberto’s Abu Dhabi. “Why? Be­cause they know they’ll get a light, quick of­fer­ing that is good value for money. With two cour­ses cost­ing Dh85, I think it’s bril­liant value.” Guar­ra­cino’s evening menu fo­cuses on bold Ital­ian flavours with fine-din­ing ex­e­cu­tion. His ex­press cor­po­rate-lunch menu, in con­trast, fea­tures del­i­cate, eas­ily palat­able op­tions such as soup, salad, fish and pasta.

“The em­pha­sis is still on grandma’s home-cooked food with a twist, but lighter,” he says. “I change the menu weekly, and I’m jeal­ous of my guests at 12 o’clock each day be­cause I know the qual­ity of the pro­duce they’re get­ting for the price. I want to sit where they are.”

While most din­ers are fa­mil­iar with the con­ven­tion of hold­ing a knife cor­rectly and not talk­ing with their mouths full, they might not know there are also spe­cific food rules to fol­low for busi­ness lunches.

“If you’re invit­ing some­one for lunch it’s im­por­tant to take po­ten­tial di­etary re­quire­ments into con­sid­er­a­tion,” says Pun­jabi. “Find out if they are a veg­e­tar­ian, for ex­am­ple. It’s also best to avoid com­pli­cated or messy dishes like spaghetti. While din­ing eti­quette in­volves a lot of fi­nesse, a busi­ness lunch is never elab­o­rate, and whichever restau­rant you’re in must be quiet enough for you both to talk.”

Hav­ing to sit through long-winded pitches or a cor­po­rate tête-à-tête with no goal or ob­jec­tive can be frus­trat­ing. The gen­eral rule is to keep things short and sweet, says Dubai-based de­signer Lat­ifa Al Gurg of the la­bel Twisted Roots.

“As a gen­eral guide­line I’d al­lo­cate an hour to one-and-a-half hours, max­i­mum,” she says. “It really de­pends on the busi­ness re­la­tion­ship. If it’s an in­tro­duc­tion, a cof­fee is bet­ter and then a meet­ing might fol­low. If both par­ties have a spe­cific busi­ness agenda then it’s much bet­ter to have lunch.”

As for the po­ten­tially awk­ward is­sue of who should pay, never pre­sume you are be­ing treated, even when you are the in­vi­tee.

“I al­ways of­fer to pay, even if I’ve been in­vited,” says Al Gurg. “Whether they let me, de­pends. We live in a very cos­mopoli­tan so­ci­ety.”

While some so­cial cus­toms are flex­i­ble, oth­ers are not, says the Emi­rati-Dan­ish en­tre­pre­neur.

“For me, shaking hands at the start and end of the meal is fine,” she says. “But I know many women who, cul­tur­ally, would ei­ther pre­fer not to or at least have the op­tion with men. So if un­sure, a man should wait for a lady to ex­tend her hand first. And if she doesn’t want to shake hands, sim­ply putting his hand on his chest is a good way to ac­knowl­edge that.”

Ser­vice of busi­ness lunches com­monly ends by 2pm, so there is a proper way to wrap things up and fol­low up with your fel­low diner the next day. “I’d rec­om­mend send­ing an email and make it a short thankyou note,” says Pun­jabi. “If you’ve cracked a par­tic­u­larly big deal over lunch then a small to­ken of ap­pre­ci­a­tion is fine. Never flow­ers but, in­stead, an im­per­sonal and cor­po­rate gift will do.”

rd­u­ane@then­ational.ae

Jef­frey E Biteng / The Na­tional; courtesy Roberto’s Abu Dhabi

Left, Francesco Guar­ra­cino, ex­ec­u­tive chef at Roberto’s Abu Dhabi, pre­pares Wagyu beef tartare. Above, Lat­ifa Al Gurg of Twisted Roots.

Courtesy KGPiee Eti­quette En­hancers

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