Top Business English phrases to use at a business lunch, including 3 you definitely didn’t know!

Cafe and restaurant phrases are some of the first things you learn in English.  However, small-talk at a business lunch can be very difficult to navigate!  Of course, if you are going for a business lunch you want to impress.  So I have put together my favourite simple phrases to make those business lunches a whole lot easier!

Business lunch small-talk

Naturally, during a business lunch or dinner, there will always be a few minutes of small talk before you start to discuss business. Of course, food and drink is quite a natural small talk topic for this environment!

When you are hosting the business lunch:

‘Let’s sit over there by the window’

‘Let’s sit over there where it’s a little bit quieter so we can talk’

‘It’s a nice restaurant/cafe here. I come here quite often, the staff are friendly and the food is great.’

‘Have you ever been to any restaurants/cafes around here? There are quite a few in this area’

‘I will ask for an English menu for you’

‘If you like…food, the … is very good here?’

‘Have you managed to try any of the local food while you have been here?’

‘If you want to try some of the local food, … is quite traditional, it is … with … and …’

When someone else is hosting the business lunch:

‘It is a very nice place here, I like the atmosphere’

‘Is there anything on the menu that you would recommend?’

‘I haven’t had a chance to try any of the local food while i have been here, is there anything that I should try before the end of the business trip?’

‘I have tried some British food before, I quite like…’


Ordering food and drinks

‘I’ll have / I’ll take..’ 

The best way to order food and drinks in a restaurant or cafe is to say ‘I’ll have…’

I’ll have an espresso, please’

‘I’ll have the steak, please’

Many phrasebooks use the phrase ‘I would like…’ for ordering in a restaurant.  This isn’t wrong, but it isn’t really used.  Another alternative is ‘Could I have…?’

Could I have the soup of the day, please?’

For ordering extras, we also use ‘Could I get…?’

Could I get some extra fries with that, please?’


Paying for food and drinks

‘Shall we pay the bill?’

This is a great phrase to suggest that you are ready to pay the bill. The word shall is probably the best way to make a suggestion in English.  If you want to suggest ordering something extra on the menu, you can also use these phrases with shall. 

‘Shall we get starters?’

‘Shall we get some extra fries’

For more information about shall, check out my recent article!

‘Can we get the bill, please?’

The best way to ask the waiter / waitress for the bill. You probably knew this one already!

‘The meal is on me’

This is a very useful phrase. If the meal or drinks are ‘on me’, ‘on the company’, ‘on my boss’, it means that this person is going to pay for the meal.

‘The drinks are on me’  I will pay for the drinks

‘The bill is on the company’ – The company will pay the bill

‘The champagne is on us’ – We will pay for the champagne

Leaving early

‘I’m sorry, I must head off..’

If you need to leave the business lunch early, this is the best phrase to use to excuse yourself.

I’m sorry I must head off because I have a meeting in 10 minutes

The phrasal verb head off is better than the verb leave here.  It just sounds a little bit better and not as serious as leave.

Here is another example of head off:

‘We enjoyed the party, but we had to head off early to avoid the traffic’


If you would like to have any of these words explained further, or if you would like to see some more examples, feel free to email me at [email protected], or message me on Skype at live:fluencyspace! Also if you have any other questions about English I’m happy to answer your emails or I will write a post about it.  For more vocabulary, check out some other great phrases here.


 David Cox

 Fluency Space

 Make the world your fluency space. Business English for career and life success

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