Business Etiquette for an RSVP for a Business Lunch

Reserve your spot early as a professional courtesy.
i Jochen Sand/Photodisc/Getty Images

Due in part to the instant, informal communication provided by text messages, email, and social networking, the art of the RSVP is rapidly becoming lost -- which is unfortunate, because just like handshakes and high heels, formal business etiquette will never go out of style. If your business lunch invitation requires a response, send your answer immediately to keep your professional reputation intact.

Respondez, Si Vous Plait

    The letters RSVP aren’t random characters your host's baby accidentally banged on the keyboard just before the invites went to the printer. RSVP stands for the French words Respondez S'il Vous Plait, which translates to "Please Reply." In other words, check your calendar to confirm your availability and then get back to your host by the date indicated, so she knows how many chicken wings and chocolate cakes to order. Failing to follow instructions can have dastardly results; if you intend to come but wait too late to reserve your spot, you might get turned away. On the other hand, if you don’t make it clear that you aren’t coming but your host assumes you are, you’ll get the professional side eye from now on for squandering resources. Avoid the drama and be considerate. Respond right away -- are you in or are you out?

Honor Your Word

    Maybe your best friend is coming to town for one day only, or your hubby wants to whisk you away for a romantic meal on the same afternoon as your business lunch. Either way, it doesn’t matter. Barring illness or dire circumstances, you’ve got to honor your word and show up. If you don’t show, you'll be wasting your host’s time and money, which will send the message that you don’t respect her time and money, which means she now has two very good reasons to never do business with you again.

Plus One?

    There is one very important unwritten rule for business lunches: By invitation only. If the invitation doesn’t specify that you can bring guests, you can’t. Even if you're nervous you'll have no one to talk to, it’s bad etiquette to show up to a business lunch with extra mouths to feed. Unless the invitation specifically asks if you’re bringing someone else, and you specifically write back, “Yes, I am,” then you’re going to have to fly solo.


    If you RSVP’d but you have a good reason to cancel (and it better be a good reason!), alert your host immediately. Perhaps she still has time to slide a last-minute guest into your spot. Thank her for the invite, explain your emergency and apologize profusely.

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