Breaking bread with key contacts is good business, according to a recent survey of CFOs.

More than a third (36 percent) of executives surveyed said their most successful business meeting outside the office was conducted over a meal. The survey, by Robert Half Management Resources, polled 1,400 CFOs from U.S. companies with 20 or more employees.

CFOs were asked, “Other than in the office, what was the location of your most successful business meeting ever?” While 36 percent cited restaurants as the most successful meeting venue, 25 percent prefer trade shows or conferences. Four percent recommended sporting events, 3 percent prefer the golf course, 1 percent cited cars, and 1 percent indicated a plane or a trip was the best place.

“A well-chosen restaurant can offer a neutral, more relaxed environment than the office, often with fewer distractions,” said Paul McDonald, executive director of Robert Half Management Resources, in a statement. “Sharing a meal with clients or colleagues puts all parties more at ease and helps to establish rapport.”

McDonald offers the following tips to ensure a successful business meeting outside the office:

Choose the right location. If you’re planning on a restaurant, select one that is quiet, easy-to-find and provides excellent food and service. Make sure the menu has enough variety to accommodate anyone with dietary restrictions.

Arrive early. Plan on getting to the meeting before your guests so you can select a comfortable spot and be there to greet them.

Stay on schedule. While you want to postpone talking shop until after you’ve ordered, don’t let the meal go on too long if your client has told you he or she has limited time to meet. On the other hand, if things are going well, avoid rushing to get your bill.

Give them your undivided attention. Never take cell phone calls or check e-mail at the table. As the host, it’s your job to make sure the meeting is productive and on topic.

Practice good manners. Always treat the restaurant or facility staff with courtesy and respect.  

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