Business Meetings: 7 Alternatives to the Working Lunch

Working lunch alternativeAround the globe, there is pressure to shorten business meetings and deliver content in less time. In North America, the working lunch is frequently used for group dining to speed up lunch service.  In Asia, the Middle East , Europe, and the Caribbean, lunch is seen as a time to relax and network. Working lunches in the meeting room are rare. Here are some effective alternatives to the working lunch that I have picked up while facilitating team building and workshops in 13 countries for companies from 17 countries around the world.

The Middle East


  • Pre-ordered Lunch
    Some hotels distribute lunch menus in the morning. During the morning break, menu selections are collected. At lunchtime, service in the restaurant is speedy. I have also seen this practice used in Asia.
  • Modified Buffet
    Jumeirah Zabeel Saray speeded up lunch service for one of my team building clients. Participants selected their appetizers and dessert from the buffet. Entrees were selected from a menu distributed in the morning and collected during morning break).

The Caribbean

Dominica PatioIn the Caribbean, lunch is sometimes served on a patio or verandah adjoining the meeting room. Participants get a break from the meeting room and service is fast.

Even in winter locations, book early and reserve meeting rooms near dining establishments to save time. Some hotels have restaurants with picture windows. Glasshouses and greenhouses are great in the winter for business meetings that require close and fast lunch service.


  • Jerk (Chicken, Fish, or Pork)
    Jerk stands are a quick way to pick up lunch. Some are casual by the roadside. Others are located on the beach at hotels or upscale venues. Now that many major cities have sizeable Jamaican populations, jerk chicken is available in places like London, New York, Miami, Chicago, and Toronto. You may not even have to leave your hotel. Jamaicans are working in food and beverage departments at many hotels in North America and Europe. Alternatively, engage a Jamaican caterer or select a meeting venue near a Jamaican restaurant. (Be sure to release the group early for lunch and you can avoid line-ups.)



  • Pre-paid Lunch Menu Cards
    Last year, when I conducted a workshop in Kuala Lumpur, I was impressed by the system in use at the Feast Village in Starhill Gallery. Starhill Gallery provided JW Marriott and the Ritz-Carlton that adjoined it with pre-paid, pre-set menus that they could offer as part of their meeting packages. Participating restaurants offered a menu that included a beverage, a choice of appetizer or soup, 4 entree options (meat, chicken, fish, vegetarian), and choice of dessert, coffee or tea. The items on each menu were tasty, affordable and fast to prepare.


  • Bento
    Bento boxes usually include sushi or tempura, rice, vegetables, and a choice of hot meat chicken, seafood or fish. Miso soup and green tea are often part of the package. Bento boxes can be pre-ordered for extra speedy service.
  • Teppanyaki
    Diners sit around a hot cooking table. Diners have a choice of shrimp, tuna, chicken, beef or a strictly vegetarian option. Many chefs entertain guests with juggling and other antics. The group can pre-order the protein. Cards or tickets can be provided for diners to give to the chef.

    Restaurants: Benihana (Many international locations)
  • Kaiten-zushi (Conveyor Belts)
    Diners sit around a large table. In the center, chefs prepare sushi and a variety of other dishes. They place them on the conveyor belt. Diners pick up their selections as they roll by.

    Restaurants: Sushein (New York), Fune (Toronto), Itsu Sushi (London), Yo! Sushi (Dubai)

To ensure speedy lunch service, select hotels and meeting venues that will work with you to offer flexible options or choose venues that are close to where alternative formats are available. Take the best ideas from around the world and modify them to fit what works in your environment.

Photo Credits: Luxury Corporate Events, Executive Oasis International

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