Don’t do lunch


Spend your time right.

In his book The Seven-Day Weekend, Ricardo Semler described how he stopped having business lunches with clients to instead spend time working on how to deliver even better value to his customers.

To ‘do lunch’ is to have a lunch meeting with someone, usually for a business purpose. To ‘have lunch’ is to eat food. We all need to eat food in order to survive, but we can all quite happily survive without useless meetings. Don’t get me wrong, building business relationships over a good meal can be both pleasant and valuable business-wise. But if you fall into the habit of having frequent business lunches, you must ask yourself why. Most people don’t ‘do lunch’, they just take a lunch break and eat with their colleagues, or by their desk. However, the networking Entrepreneur, the ever-administrating Manager or the relationship- building Leader often gets suggestions for a lunch meeting. The idea is that you can meet in somewhat more informal and intimate circumstances than a meeting room or office. It’s supposed to be nice to spend time together while indulging in good food. Finally, most people assume that you are busy most of the time, but since you have to eat, you might have time to meet during the lunch break. The lunch has become a void in the middle of the day when people think it is OK to suggest meetings. They say, ‘What about lunch some day?’ It’s a trap, I think.

Your lunch is not an empty slot that is waiting to be filled, your lunch is a precious space in the middle of the day that you can do valuable things with. Personally, I like to go to the gym in the lunch break and get something healthy and quick to eat after the work-out. Sometimes I bring my lunch date to the gym and we can discuss our business on the running machine or while lifting weights. It gives you energy, changes the setting and actually provides something useful for us all. Other days I simply work through lunch to get things done so that I can be home early to spend time with my family. Still, you have to eat and eat well. Skipping meals is a very bad idea.

Now, telling people that you don’t do lunch can be perceived as rude. If you say, ‘I don’t do lunch as a rule, I work or go to the gym’, you will even come across as difficult. What you must do, however, is to assess the purpose of the lunch. If it is only about a casual catch-up with an acquaintance, you might just as well suggest a coffee around the corner and get it done in 15 minutes, if you have to do it at all. If the point is to strengthen the relationship with an important client it might be worth the effort, but the client might still appreciate it more if you spent that hour at the office working on how to provide more client value instead of buying a lunch for company money. If the lunch is with a co-worker who would like some of your time in an out-of- the-office setting, take it! As a leader, it’s always right to spend face time with your colleagues. But as a casual habit, don’t do lunch. Don’t spend your time on useless things: challenge convention.