RIP The Business Lunch

I’m sure you’ll have read that restaurateurs have concluded that the corporate power lunch is toast, if you know what I mean!

Covid and working from home have proved to be the final nails in the coffin of the expense account, prestige, one o’clock booking in a glamorous eaterie, apparently, but in truth, the business lunch was waning well before that.

I can remember one of my bosses (a former Fleet Street advertising director who had strayed into professional publishing) in the early 1980s regularly taking me out to lunch to discuss business. He’d start with ‘two fingers’ of whisky, then consume the better part of a bottle of Rioja, before following up with a port and a cigar. Phew! We’d then go back to review the monthly management figures!

What has changed to spell doom for such occasions? Well, the lunchtime drinking culture for a start – that’s out of fashion, for sure. Then there’s the inconvenience of travel and the associated time problems of simply getting to restaurants, particularly in London. Who wants to get stuck in traffic, then be stuffed with food and drink only to get presented with an enormous bill at the end with only the promise that your lunch companion might go away and think about your proposals and discuss them with the board.

As an alternative to the business lunch, the Americans, some time back, gamely tried to get the world interested in business breakfasts – but who really does those now?

I tried, rather successfully as it happens, to introduce the world (well my bit of it anyway) to the concept of a business afternoon tea. Don’t laugh! It meant that instead of those I met being preoccupied with what their day held (a curse on the business breakfast) or annoyed about their day being interrupted (the blight on the business lunch) my guests would arrange their day so that tea in a swanky hotel with me was the last thing they would do before going home. Drinking alcohol wasn’t an issue and they would be relaxed and receptive, usually agreeing to the deal we then discussed. (Afternoon tea is still my favourite meal, btw!).

As a slight footnote, to this, I’ve also read that Greene King, the brewer, is trying to lure workers in the City back into its pubs with a programme of ‘expensable lunches’ – for £19.99 you get a main course with a drink and to listen to a 45-minute training session on a range of subjects, including building a social media plan and mastering the art of public speaking.

You get to leave with a certificate and a VAT receipt. A bold idea. But, what next – deductible darts and a pint to learn how 301 can improve numeracy skills and improve the bottom line?

Neil Thomas, July 2022 


Published on Jul 25, 2022 by Neil Thomas