There is an art to winning at the business lunch table. Here are some tips.
Its a well worn phrase... "There's no such thing as free lunch". People are either after information, business or both. Certainly they are looking for an advantage for them.
Never go to lunch without a preconceived plan. If you do, it becomes a social occasion where somebody else may be able to "work you". If invited by others, pre-think the reasons from their perspective and rehearse some comments that will allow you to put any contentious issues on "ice" for later evaluation.
If at all possible, be in a position to control the time frame, the restaurant, the table site, the speed at which the meals will be brought, the alcohol consumption. This will generally mean having to pay the bill.
Plan the luncheon in advance, make your guest / s feel comfortable by taking their "whims and fancies" into consideration. If they don't necessarily agree with you, find ways of nullifying your disadvantage. For example, if your business guest is a heavy drinker, arrange for the waiter to bring intermittent non-alcoholic drinks without fuss or fanfare. If you require special meals, arrange in advance.
Watch seating arrangments... make sure you are not in a glare or other distraction... ensure you can address all parties without having to swivel in your chair. In this way you can always read the body language of the others. Speaking of body language, be conscious of the signals you are sending out. If possible, it's best to have "one on one" lunches. This eliminates the possibility of the other party lapsing into "office talk" or worse, frustrating your purpose by agreeing amongst themselves.
When it comes to talking business, a winning strategy is to play your cards slowly. Let them see your position card by card... the trick is to get them to talk (and for you to listen). The ultimate goal is for them to study your proposal step by step and arrive at your most favorable conclusion by themselves... almost as if it was their idea. In this way they feel more committed.
Interperse the conversation with social issues on the fringe of your relationship... prehaps people known to both of you... issues peripheral to your industry. Certainly talk "sport" for a period of time but never lose sight of your objective. Get them to talk about themselves, their business, their goals and aspirations.
Take a note pad for jotting down important issues... make sure you have your business cards and product brochures if necessary.
After the luncheon, immediately "pen" a letter of appreciation and make diary notes on the outcome of the meeting including dates for future deadlines..