Whenever I think of negotiating or trying to broker a deal, I think of an old episode of The Office. In this one particular episode, the characters Jan and Michael are planning to meet with a client. The original meeting location was to take place at a hotel. However, Michael changes the location to a Chili's, much to Jan's chagrin. Michael and the client bond over food and drinks, and in the end the deal is closed.
What is it about food that helps with meetings? In an interesting study conducted by Lakshmi Balachandra, an assistant professor of entrepreneurship at Babson College and a fellow at the Women and Public Policy Program at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, it was found that "eating while deciding important matters offers profitable, measurable benefits through mutually productive discussions."
"There may be biological factors at work," Balachandra wrote on the Harvard Business Review blog. "When the negotiators in my first two studies ate, they immediately increased their glucose levels. Research has shown that the consumption of glucose enhances complex brain activities, bolstering self-control and regulating prejudice and aggressive behaviors. Other research has shown that unconscious mimicking behaviors of others leads to increased pro-social behaviors; when individuals eat together they enact the same movements. This unconscious mimicking of each other may induce positive feelings towards both the other party and the matter under discussion."
Please check out Balachandra's blog entry for more details of the study. And remember, lunch with another may just be the best business or career move you could make for yourself.