Business Lunch English: All the Common Phrases for Invitation, Small Talk, Starting Conversations, Ending the Lunch

Let’s talk Business Lunch English

Business Lunch English
What is your favorite cuisine?

Business Lunch English is the type of English you speak at a business lunch. Obvious, right? So, imagine you have a power business lunch scheduled with a business colleague, business partner or potential business partner.  Whether you are the host or the guest, if your first language is not English you are bound to be a little bit nervous. There is no need to be. In many ways, meeting for a business lunch is easier than, say, taking a conference call in English when you are not face to face with the person.

In this post, you will find a lot of helpful phrases for inviting someone to the meal, conversations during lunch, and follow up emails. Keep in mind that these  are the bare minimum. There are innumerable ways to discuss business over lunch in English.

If you are the one to invite the person to lunch, be sure to ensure that the restaurant you choose – if you choose the restaurant – is appropriate to the occasion. You don’t want a place that is too packed or too loud if you intend to have an actual conversation during the lunch or dinner.

In some circumstances, it may be appropriate to make it clear if you will be paying. Say “it’s my treat.” If you don’t intend to pay, then just don’t say anything. You would never say to the person “you will have to pay for yourself,” as this is obviously rude.

Another thing to do just to be on the safe side is find out if the person has any preferences for the lunch or any allergies and things like that because the last thing you need is to schedule a business lunch where the person can’t eat because they are allergic or because they hate the cuisine you picked.

Business Lunch English
What are you going to have?

The key to a successful business lunch is to relax, enjoy your guest and your meal and throw in a little business with the pleasure. It is literally the one time when mixing business and pleasure is expected and allowed. However, one caveat: It probably is not a good idea to have alcohol during lunch unless you are very sure that you can handle your liquor with class and finesse at that time of the day. Even so, it is usually better not to drink at lunchtime and especially not during a business lunch.



  • Are you free Friday around lunchtime for lunch?
  • Would you like to have lunch next Tuesday to discuss this?
  • Any plans for lunch tomorrow? Would you like to meet?
  • I will be in your neck of the woods next week and wondered if you would like to join me for lunch?
  • Let’s make a lunch date.
  • Let’s do lunch soon. When are you free?
  • Would you like to grab a salad with me tomorrow around lunchtime?
  • Let’s have lunch!
  • We need to get together over lunch and hash this out. Are you free this Thursday?
  • There’s a great Italian restaurant near my office would you like to join me for lunch there sometime?



  • Are there any types of food or cuisine you absolutely don’t want to eat?
  • Do you have any preferences as far as cuisine?
  • Is there a particular place you would like to go?
  • Would you like me to pick the place or shall we play it by ear?
  • Are there any types of food that you are allergic to or anything like that
  • Would you care to try the new Trinidadian restaurant that just opened up?
  • What do you like to eat?
  • Would you like to pick the restaurant?
  • Any particular place you would like to go?
  • Are you vegan or vegetarian or anything like that?


When you talk to a wait person in a restaurant, you will be using a lot of modal verbs such as “may” “could” “should”  “would”  “will” and “going to”

You might say TO THE WAITER:
  • May I have another glass of water?
  • Could I have another fork, please?
  • Would you please point me to the restroom?
  • I will have the grilled steak.
  • I think I’m going to pass on dessert. But I would like some coffee please.

    Business lunch English
    Would you like some coffee?
  • I would like another glass of wine, please (although, as noted previously, drinking during your business lunch is probably best avoided.)
You might say to your lunch partner (or they to you)
  • What are you going to have?
  • May I ask you to explain what this is?
  • Do you think I should order the beet salad?
  • Will we have time for dessert?
  • Could you pass the salt, please

Business Lunch English Conversation and small talk


  • Your English is quite excellent, where is the accent from?
  • Is the weather any better in your neck of the woods than what we have going on here?
  • Anything good planned for the weekend?
  • Did you watch the football game last night?
  • Have you seen the latest exhibit at the Tate?
  • How are you adjusting in this new city? Do you miss home?
  • Is this your first time in New York?
  • How do you like Chennai?
  • Why did you decide to become an art dealer?


  • So how long have you actually been with the company?
  • How much decision-making authority do you actually have in this company?
  • Tell me more about this proposal you and I have been discussing. Sell me on the idea.
  • What do you think would be the greatest challenge as far as getting this project to completion?
  • How far along are you as far as getting the necessary financing?
  • What are the next steps?


  • Wow, look at the time! I really must be heading back to the office now.
  • This was lovely, we should try to do this again soon.
  • Thanks for a very pleasant meal but I have to get going.
  • I’m sorry but I’ve got to bolt, I have a meeting in half hour back at the firm. I hope you don’t mind?
  • It’s time to head back to the office, I’m afraid. But this was really nice.

So, these Business Lunch English phrases are just a few of the ones you can use to invite someone to lunch or to converse with someone and have small talk over lunch (or dinner).  Remember the list here is not exhaustive. It is not meant to be a script. The key is to act naturally and to be attentive to your guest and to enjoy  your meal while remaining professional.

Don’t forget to send a follow up email after. It can be the same day or a few days later but not more than seven days later. Some key phrases you could use:

  • It was a pleasure to have met you on Friday for lunch
  • I think we had a very constructive discussion over lunch yesterday and I would very much like to follow up with a meeting with my boss next week.
  • Glad we finally had a chance to meet and talk. We should do that again soon.
  • I hope you enjoyed our lunch as much as I did. You have shed a lot of light on a few things for me and I really do appreciate it immensely.


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