Business meals are common practice and normally carried in restaurants preferably than cafes. Since they love food, French business people do like to focus on conversations about the dishes through the meal. Wait until the desert is served to discuss business matters.
The initial courses are used to discuss your food and wine preferences. Food is very important in France and is taken very seriously, thus long meals are conventional and offer great possibilities to conduct a more open and less formal business discussion.
Be aware while ordering your meal as the portion sizes are likely smaller than in other European countries, so you would want to have several courses – a starter, main and a desert are for example. The French are pretty careful about their food and great quality is more valuable than quantity. Dining etiquette and table manners are also extremely valuable – “bon appétit” is a good phrase to use before starting to eat and show respect for the French culture and If you are dining at a party, it is rude to leave until the last person has completed their final course.
Lunchtime is from 12:30 or 13:00 and can last until 15:00. Dinners are usually from 20:30 to 23:00. Some restaurants shut between lunch and dinner service so you should phone in advance and validate their availability and reserve a table. It is important to reserve a table and if you are looking for last-minute bookings, consider a brasserie or a hotel where reservations are not necessary.
Business lunches are not supposed to be for spouses, but they are welcome to accompany business dinners. Status in an organization is important when it comes to socializing. The seating patterns are also significant with the most senior person being seated at the head of the table and the second most senior person to their left and third most senior to their right. Guests of honor are seated either to the right of the host if they are female or to the left of the hostess if they are male.