It is reasonably common to be invited out for lunch by a business contact in the UK, but more unusual to be asked to go for dinner.
Business lunches are often seen as an extension of the meeting and it is usually acceptable to discuss business matters over the food. If in doubt over this matter, follow the lead of your host. The person who invites will invariably pay and there is no real need to offer to contribute to the cost. If you have invited a guest and they offer to contribute, they are probably doing so out of politeness and do not necessarily expect to be taken up on their offer.
Lunches can vary in style from a very informal pub meal to a much more elaborate formal meal at an expensive restaurant. The choice of venue can depend on a number of factors such as location, importance placed on the business opportunity (or guest), market sectors etc. If you are unsure where to take somebody it is best to err on the side of caution and go to a good quality restaurant.
Alcohol will usually be offered at lunch and some British business people will accept whilst others prefer to stick to soft drinks — this is an entirely personal decision and you will not be under pressure to drink alcohol in this situation. It is much more common for larger amounts of alcohol to be drunk at dinner and on these occasions you may find that you are placed under a small amount of pressure to join in the drinking culture.
Most restaurants add a service charge to the bill automatically, but it is still customary to give an additional tip of around 10% directly to the waiter.
Written and Produced by Keith Warburton
The United Kingdom remains one of the largest, most competitive markets in the world. It is a global centre of excellence across a wide range of business sectors as well as being a world-leader in higher education. The City of London, along with New York, continues to dominate international finance and UK-based legal firms retain their pre-eminence as global players.
Despite these massive positive factors, the UK faces a number of challenges going forward. How will the UK cope with a post-Brexit world as it navigates its way through the Brexit negotiations and looks to forge new partnerships outside it traditional markets within the EU? Will the UK be able to improve its notoriously poor productivity levels and will the City of London be able to retain its leadership role in global finance?
All of these questions will be answered in the coming decade but in the intervening period the UK remains open for business and the prospects for doing successful business in the UK remain positive. The UK actively seeks overseas companies who see the country as an attractive market and world-class incentives are in place to help you take advantage of a sophisticated consumer base and a highly educated workforce.
If you are considering doing business in the UK, you need to consider the cultural issues you are likely to encounter. Put simply, the British are quick to take offence. Your communication style might be viewed as aggressive, when you thought you were merely being helpfully direct or your negotiating style could appear confrontational when you thought you were offering useful alternatives. Study the UK approach to business in advance – it will pay dividends.
This country profile provides an overview of some of the key aspects of business culture in the UK in a concise, easy to follow-format. The document includes information on: